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business plan template gov uk

  • Society and culture
  • Community and society
  • Libraries: alternative delivery models toolkit
  • Department for Culture, Media & Sport
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Stage 7: business plan

Published 28 March 2017

business plan template gov uk

© Crown copyright 2017

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1. Overview

This section sets out the process and areas to consider when developing a business plan. Producing a business plan provides an opportunity to plan, in detail, the way in which the alternative delivery model (ADM) will operate and will be a guiding document for the new delivery model in its first few years of development.

A business plan is typically needed when the identified preferred option requires a change in delivery model to be led by the in-house team. This could be a Local Authority Trading Company (LATC), Public Service Mutual (PSM), joint venture or in-house with re-engineering.

If the preferred option is to outsource the service, the next step will not be to produce a business plan. Instead you will need to develop a service specification along with documents to support the relevant procurement process (such as a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and an Invitation to Tender).

The importance of engaging stakeholders in developing the business plan should not be underestimated. While this may take more time, it will create broader buy-in to a shared vision and smooth the journey of transition in the months to come.

2. Why develop a business plan?

The business plan is a useful document that allows stakeholders to understand what the new delivery model will do and how it will operate. The document will also serve as a future reference for the library service’s management team, enabling them to test the service’s development against the original vision. It is good practice for organisations to repeat the business planning process every 3 to 5 years. It may be helpful to link the period of your initial business plan to that of the initial contract (for example 3 or 5 years).

The process of developing a business plan is relatively fluid. Although it is a written document, the content for each section should be thought through before being documented. It can be helpful to use workshop sessions for this process, which also allow for stakeholder input. In addition to workshops, a certain level of research and desk-work is required to complete elements such as the market analysis and the financial model.

We have a 5 year business plan and annually produce a service plan for the year ahead which is shared with and approved by the council. Plans for the future include:

  • expanding and developing new and attractive services for current and new users of our existing provision in Devon and potentially expanding our reach geographically by bidding to run other library services
  • growing our technology services through expansion of our Fab Lab model into other libraries and environments, including local schools
  • expanding our local, national and international partnerships with a wide range of complementary organisations to innovate and enhance our service offer
  • increasing our reach and impact by developing libraries as spaces for high quality arts and culture
  • developing new models through research into the social value of libraries and our wide range of services
  • developing our own infrastructure as an independent organisation, we already have our own financial system and, over the medium term, will have our own payroll and HR systems and an independent IT infrastructure

Libraries Unlimited

3. business plan structure.

Typical areas covered in a business plan are outlined below. We have developed a (downloadable) business plan template (including guidance notes) that can help you to develop your business plan.

Vision and purpose

This section describes what the new delivery model wants to achieve, and how it will do this. It also helps to define the identity of the new organisation for both staff and customers.

Our business plan has also always been informed by our own ambitions and the way we align resources to deliver these. This is bigger than a business plan for divestment, and wider than the council’s vision, which was by necessity informed by its statutory duties.

It also confirmed the need for expert commissioning - a strong client for the council when agreeing the transition, and commissioning when the service is being provided independently. Suffolk Libraries IPS

This section describes the external market in which the delivery model will operate. This should be considered at a number of levels (locally, regionally and nationally) and will include aspects which you will have started to already develop during the case for change and case for externalisation. These are:

  • likely demand for the service
  • analysis of typical customers
  • competitor analysis
  • PESTLE analysis - looking at external factors that may influence the market
  • SWOT analysis - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

A clear and concise description of the services that will be intended to be delivered by the new delivery model. This may include both the initial services (delivered at the point of go-live) alongside future services to be developed. It may be helpful to describe services in terms of the way they will be experienced by different stakeholders, including library users, Friends Groups, the council and the local community.

Developing your future service profile is an important part of the business planning process. As libraries provide a wide range of service, it’s not easy to look at each service from a commercial perspective. It’s often difficult to accurately map demand for services and understand the true cost base and benefits realised by each service. This is ongoing for us as part of our overall development of the organisation.

We worked hard during set-up to determine a clear vision and purposes for our organisation and in our first year, we have become much more aware of the true costs of the different services we provide. Both these activities are helping us to make decisions about which services we should invest or disinvest in. However, we also weigh up the social value of our services when taking decisions so that we don’t inadvertently cause a negative impact on the difference our libraries make to individuals and local communities.

Organisational form

This section will consider key questions including the legal form of the new organisation, its governance and management, and how any surpluses will be used. We strongly recommend that you access expert legal advice when considering your legal form.

Consider the intended membership of your board of directors, the intended role of each director, and who from your senior management team should have a position on the board by right of their position within the delivery model (for example the ex-officio director).

We opted for a conventional legal form, a company limited by guarantee and registered charity. This allows us to have staff and community members as members, be governed by a board of trustees, and ensure 100% of any surplus generated is reinvested into library services. This form facilitates a more entrepreneurial, commercial approach but within clearly defined parameters of public benefit.

If offers transparency as a tried and tested model, well recognised by funders and partners and gives us flexibility in how we operate. It allowed us to apply for registered charity status which in turn ensures the organisation qualifies for business rates relief; and means we can access funding we may not otherwise be able to.

This section will introduce the proposed leadership team for the delivery model, and consider the staffing structure. You should also consider training needs of both the leadership team and the future workforce.

Bring in some independent commercial experience and get good HR and employment advice on all the processes your undertake. Think about:

  • which terms and conditions you might want to change - do you want to keep public sector terms on sickness and any enhanced payments?
  • whether you want to stay with the national employer negotiations, if not you can create your own with your own methods of awards and recognition

Suffolk Libraries IPS


This section will identify and prioritise a range of stakeholders that are important to the new delivery model. This could vary from council commissioners to library users. A clear engagement strategy for influencing these stakeholders should be outlined. A (downloadable) stakeholder mapping and communication planning template has been provided to support you during this process.

Quality assurance and monitoring

This section should outline the delivery model’s approach to assuring high-quality services to its customers, considering aspects such as risk management and performance management of contracts held by the delivery model.

This section should set out the practical resources that will be needed to deliver services. This section should include enabler and infrastructure elements, including:

  • premises and office space
  • equipment and resources
  • legal requirements and quality standards
  • partnerships with other agencies and/or suppliers
  • external advisors
  • supporting functions (such as IT, HR and payroll)

It should also include consideration of assets and staff.

This is a crucial section of the business plan which will come under close scrutiny if you decide to seek external or grant funding. It will need to demonstrate that you have considered how the financial management of the delivery model will work, and show that the organisation is forecasted to be financially sustainable over the medium term. The content of this section will include summary financial projections, based on your 5 year financial model.

There is a contradiction between the need for a strong financially robust business plan that convinces the council that there are both short and long term savings, whilst trying to reassure staff in relation to terms and conditions and not gambling on a windfall of external grants, donations and income generation. Our approach was to be realistic in the hard savings.

Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries

We recommend that you access specialist VAT advice to consider any VAT implications for your new delivery model.

Understand how your services’ finances will be different from being in the council. Work with external accountants as soon as possible. Be clear about where you will generate income from and be realistic about the possibilities.

York Explore

This section outlines a plan showing activities required from the sign-off of the business plan to the go-live date for the new organisation. Special consideration should be given to timescales and dependencies relating to technical aspects of the process, including the consultation process, setting up a pension scheme, transferring assets, establishing the company as a legal entity, and setting up support systems (such as IT, HR and payroll). For further information please refer to Stage 8 - Transition .

This final section should capture risks, their anticipated impact, and the actions that have been identified to mitigate and manage them.

4. Intended outcomes/outputs

Once you have developed the full business plan for the new delivery model, it should be formally signed off by the council. This ensures that key stakeholders are appropriately sighted on the vision for the new organisation and understand how it intends to operate.

5. Lessons learnt and critical success factors

The CEO’s of the current library service delivery models have identified the following learning points in relation to the business planning process:

Independent advice from a business consultancy was incredibly valuable because it was the robustness of the business plan that enabled us to give confidence to internal council decision-makers, particularly those in finance and legal departments. We learnt a whole raft of new skills that we hadn’t needed before because the wider council took care of it for us. More than anything the process showed us how important it would be to bring new skills into the organisation once it was established.

The most challenging aspect was quickly obtaining the information that we needed in order to plan effectively. You need to pull together up-to-date information from across different council departments and often this was information that hadn’t been needed before.

There was dedicated council support for us initially, but it soon became clear we needed our own and it had to be independent. Paying for it has to be part of the transition and set up process. It’s important to get independent contractual, HR and employment advice from organisations which have a strong background in charitable, public contracts or commercial ventures. Conflicts of interest will arise during your discussions with the council, so accessing independent support is crucial.

The next section covers the eighth stage of the process - planning and undertaken transition to a new model

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  • Business Plan Template

Business Plan template

What is a business plan.

A Business Plan is a written document that describes your core business objectives and how you plan to achieve them over a set period of time. It is designed to help you, and others, understand how you plan to generate money and make your business sustainable. A Business Plan often includes information about your goals, strategies, marketing and sales plans and financial forecasts. Read on below for more information about the key sections of a Business Plan.

Download your copy of the Business Plan template now. The document includes a Personal Survival Budget template and a Cash Flow Forecast template, which are also required for your application:

The guide is an annotated version of the Business Plan template with notes from our Business Advisers about what type of information, examples and evidence to include in order to help us understand you and your business. While we encourage you to use this Business Plan template, it is not mandatory and you are welcome to submit your own Business Plan template provided it details similar information.

Please note, the following documents should open on any device with a document viewer and editor but for the best user experience, we recommend editing this Business Plan template on a desktop.

Why is a Business Plan important?  

There are many great reasons why it is worth your time creating a Business Plan – even if you’re not quite ready to apply for a Start Up Loan. Here are just seven:

A Business Plan:

  • Provides a structured way of organising your thoughts and clarifying your idea.
  • Helps you set out your goals and spot any potential problems in achieving these goals.
  • Gives you a clear strategy to follow when things get busy.
  • Is often essential for securing external finance for your business (and is required if you’re applying for a Start Up Loan).
  • Allows you to measure your progress as you go along.
  • Ensures all of your team are working towards the same vision.
  • Helps you plan for the future.

Key sections of a Business Plan:  

A Business Plan can include whatever information you feel is required to best convey how you are planning to make your business sustainable and, when it comes to applying for a Start Up Loan, the following are the core sections we require.

Your business and key objectives: A brief description of your business and its core products or services. This section also includes a clear and concise overview of the goals your business is trying to achieve over a set period of time. Sometimes these are broken down as short, mid and long-term goals, but it helps if they’re measurable (how will you know if you have achieved this?) and realistic (can you achieve this with the money, resources and time you have?).  

If you are applying for a Start Up Loan, you will of course also need to detail how you intend to use the money if you’re successful. Our Loan Assessment team will want to see that the Start Up Loan will support your overall business objectives.

Your skills and experience: An overview of your experience as it relates to your business. If you’ve previously worked in a similar business, or have experience running another business, this will help provide confidence that you are in a good position to start up. Even if this is all brand new to you, think about any transferable skills you’ve developed, life experiences you’ve had or training you’ve completed that may be useful.

Your target customers, market and competition: A summary of key insights that demonstrate you have a strong understanding of your customers (and how to identify them), your market (and how to position yourself within it) and your competitors (and how to differentiate yourself from them on factors like price, quality, brand etc).  

Your sales and marketing plans: This section is all about how you are planning to attract customers. You might include information about where you’ll distribute your products, what your branding and logo will be and what pricing you’ll apply. Additionally, you will need to demonstrate how you will spread the word about your product/services in order to generate demand, such as using social media, exhibiting at a trade conference or investing in online advertising.

Your operational plans: This will be different depending on your business model, but may include information on where you’ll trade (like a home office or external premises), the number of staff you’ll need to employ, what their roles will be and any equipment or tools you’ll need to run your business. You can also use this section to detail any processes that are important to your operations, as well as any industry, tax or legal regulations related to your business. It’s also good to think about any risks you may face, how you will overcome them and what you will do if things don’t go to plan.

Financials Many business plans include a financial section, which outlines how you’ll fund all of the activities you’ve outlined and what revenue you expect to generate. Because we ask you to complete a Cash Flow Forecast as part of your Start Up Loan application, we don’t require too much detail on this in your Business Plan. Rather, these two documents should be complementary.

Check out our Cash Flow Forecast guide and template >>

Writing a Business Plan – our top tips:

The tips below have been prepared by our Business Advisers and Loan Assessment team to help you understand some of the key things that will strengthen your application. For more in-depth advice, read our guidelines on how to write a Business Plan .

  • Demonstrate that you understand your market and customer. For our Loan Assessment team to feel comfortable that your business plans are viable, they will want to see that there is a market who wants and needs your product/service, that you have thought about how you’ll set yourself apart from competitors and that you know how to attract your customers. Any market research you can do, like a simple online survey, looking up industry reports or interviews with potential customers will help.
  • Use evidence and examples to back up any statements you make. It’s always more powerful when you can prove what you’re saying with hard facts, whether it’s with a strong statistic, a customer quote, examples of similar activity or other research. It doesn’t have to be detailed – sometimes it will be sufficient to include a link to further information – but it will help our loan assessment team feel more confident that your business plan is viable.
  • Make sure everything ties together by linking every strategy to your core objectives. The purpose of a Business Plan is to show what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them so remember to put your objectives at the heart of your plan. For example, if one of your goals is to generate 10 new sales per month, then in your marketing section you’ll need to think about how many sales each promotional channel needs to deliver in order to support this objective.
  • Consider any risks you face and how you will overcome them. Every business has risks so don’t shy away from referencing these in your business plan. Demonstrating that you are aware of your key risks. Having a clear plan for how to reduce or overcome these is something that will set your business plan apart and give our loan assessment team confidence that you’re ready for the challenge.  
  • Be as clear and concise as possible and avoid waffle. Remember, we’re not looking to see every single detail about how your business will operate, rather we just need to know enough information to give us confidence that you have a clear plan in place. You might like to use bullet points, graphs, tables and subheadings to help you keep your content focused and help you avoid the temptation to go into too much detail.  
  • Presentation matters: proof read, review and format your document. As with most things in life, first impressions count. Use clear headings, structure your document in a clear order and check you’ve used consistent fonts throughout. Remember, you don’t have to be a writer or a designer to prepare a professional looking document. Most importantly, double check that you haven’t made any spelling or grammatical errors. It can be a good idea to have someone proof read your work for you once you’re finished to pick up anything you might have missed.

Learn new skills

Start Up Loans has partnered with the Open University to offer a range of free courses.

A Business Plan can include whatever information you feel is required to best convey how you are planning to make your business sustainable and, when it comes to applying for a Start Up Loan, the following are the core sections we require (our Business Plan template includes them).

Are you ready to kickstart your business?

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4 Free Business Plan Templates: Where to find them and what you get

Business Plan Templates to Download

1) – The ‘write a business plan’ page of the UK government’s website includes advice and a selection of different business plan templates so you can select which one is best for your business.

2)      The Prince’s Trust – Although The Prince’s Trust specialise in supporting young people their business plan template is available to anyone. At 16 pages it is substantially shorter than the one from Business Link and is less formal in tone. The Prince’s Trust plan also goes into more depth on the logistics of how the company is going to work and the reasons for starting it up.

3)      Microsoft Word – Microsoft have a start-up business template which you can download. When you open it up in word it runs to 28 pages and is full of questions, advice and points to consider. Compared to The Princes Trust and Business Link plans it is a lot more text heavy and takes some reading. It is also a lot more focussed on the financials of the company than the other two plans, concentrating on accounts payable, pricing and other financial planning considerations.

4)      Your Bank – One of the main reasons people do a business plan is because their bank asks them to. If this is your motivation then it makes sense to use a template your bank will like. Our business banking partners HSBC have a business plan tool , Natwest have an online form and Barclay’s offer plenty of advice . Many of the other main UK banks also have templates or advice online. Using the bank’s own forms should mean that you tick all of the boxes and answer all of the questions they are likely to be looking at which can only help make your meeting go more smoothly.

Whichever template you choose it is important that you invest the time to get your plan right before you try to use it. Most of these plans require you to do a considerable amount of research into your target market, customers and competitors. Don’t leave it until the night before your bank meeting to get it done!

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RP7 Business Plan Templates

10 May 2023

RP7 Business Plan  

Guidance notes and commentary:

  • RP7 Overarching Guidance Adobe PDF (212.07 KB)
  • RP7 BPT Overarching Guidance – Appendix 1 (Excel) Microsoft Excel (88.99 KB)
  • RP7 Overarching Guidance – Annex 1. Approach to Asset Maintenance Adobe PDF (177.7 KB)
  • RP7 Overarching Guidance – Annex 2. Investment in the Network Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (149.52 KB)
  • RP7 Overarching Guidance – Annex 3. Glossary Adobe PDF (284.81 KB)
  • RP7 Overarching Guidance – Annex 4. Business Plan Assessment Adobe PDF (186.57 KB)

Benchmarking & Efficiency:

  • RP7 BPT Benchmarking & Efficiency Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (395.86 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Benchmarking & Efficiency Workbook Microsoft Excel (3.33 MB)

Distribution Cost and Volumes:

  • RP7 BPT Distribution Cost and Volumes Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (345.07 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Distribution Cost and Volumes Workbook (Excel) Microsoft Excel (4.01 MB)

Financial Data:

  • RP7 BPT Financial Data Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (165.42 KB)

Financial Issues:

  • RP7 BPT Financial Issues Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (226.79 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Financial Issues Workbook (Excel) Microsoft Excel (3.37 MB)

Network Investment:

  • RP7 BPT Network Investment Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (163.92 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Network Investment Workbook (Excel) Microsoft Excel (2.7 MB)
  • RP7 BPT Pensions Guidance Notes Adobe PDF (694.41 KB)
  • RP7 BPT Pensions Commentary Template Adobe PDF (551.47 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Pensions Workbook (Excel) Microsoft Excel (905.27 KB)

Transmission Cost and Volumes:

  • RP7 BPT Transmission Cost and Volumes Adobe PDF (457.33 KB)
  • RP7 Business Plan Transmission Cost and Volumes Workbook (Excel) Microsoft Excel (2.89 MB)

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