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B I ; I Business Plans
Social Business Plan Template
Your one page plan 3
Your service from your customer's point of view 3
Market research 3
Vision, mission and opjectives 6
What will you do? (your activities) 6
Earned income strategy 7
Your income projections in more detail 8
Your overheads 8
Financial projections - spreadsheet templates 8
Nuts and Polts 9
Legal issues 10
Sources of support 10
Added value 11
Action plan 11
This template has been produced by The Social Business to give you an idea of the
kind of things you'll probably need to consider when setting up a social enterprise.
We've tried to keep things simple - but there's no getting away from the fact that
there's a fair bit to think about when you're starting out. We believe that thinking
things through properly can make a big difference - and that's what we hope this
template will help you to do.
Some parts of the template will be more relevant to your social enterprise than
others. There are lots of other templates out there - or you might just want to write
your plan your way - but we hope that our plan is organised in a way which tells a
story - and will therefore make sense to you and anyone who reads it.
The electronic version of this plan has hyperlinks in the text, which link to useful
sources of information - particularly our social business planning site. If you're
reading a hard copy of this, and would like an electronic version, please email
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our business planning site. 1
This template isn't exhaustive - there may be things to consider in your
particular business which we haven't included here. Please use it as a
framework which stimulates you into thinking logically about your business - not as
a 1 00%-foolproof social business-planning guide. If you think of something which
should be added to this template, please get in touch with us at
This template is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-
Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. 2
2 This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0
UK: England & Wales License. To view a copy of this license, visit
Your one page plan
Also known as an executive summary, this should give us a good overview of what
you plan to do. It should be the last thing you write - but it will be the first thing
most people read. Keep it to one page or less - you may want to write a short
paragraph about each key section of the plan.
Your service from your customer's point of view
A social enterprise only makes sense if it makes sense to its customers. With that
in mind, please describe a typical "customer experience", from the moment a
customer recognises that they need or want what you offer, through to them
becoming a regular paying customer of yours.
As with an executive summary, you may find it easier to write this section once
you've written the rest of your plan - but it can be useful to include it early-on as it
gives potential investors a good overview of your service.
In this section, you explore the market that you'll be part of. Market research can
be difficult to do, partly because it's hard to know where to begin, when to finish,
and what to do in the meantime! To help you, there is some information on writing
a DIY market research plan here . 3
The questions you will probably need to answer can be organised into the following
• Your market(s)
• Your customers
• Your competitors and partners
Tell us about the market(s) that you'll be part of. What you need to find out
depends on the nature of your business, but things to think about may include:
• The size of your market - numbers of people, amount that they spend
• Any recent/up-and-coming changes/trends in your marketplace
• Any current/up-and-coming opportunities in your marketplace
Tell us about the people you will serve. You may wish to consider things like:
• Numbers of potential customers
• Relevant demographic information
• Their current buying behaviour
• Any emerging behaviour that represents an opportunity for you
You may want to do a customer segmentation - organising your customers into
groups of people who have things in common. There is more information on how
to do that here 4 .
Try to estimate how many potential customers there are for your service - and then
estimate how many of these people you would like to serve.
Have you talked with your potential customers? Have you asked them what they
would like, or involved them in the design of your service? If so, it will be worth
talking about that here.
Other customer groups
Some social enterprises have several customer groups. Sometimes one group of
customers will use a service, whilst another group pays for it. Both groups are
customers - so you need to find out about them. Similarly, some social enterprises
need to serve several customer groups as their core customer group either isn't big
enough, or isn't able/willing to pay what they need. It's worth considering these
issues in this section.
Think about who else is operating in your market. How many competitors are there
in your chosen market? What do you know about them? What do they do well?
Where are they not so good? You might want to think about things like:
• Their "offer" - what they sell
• Their prices
• What they do - and what they don't do
4 http://thesocialbusiness.typepad.corn/social_business_plans/2007/01/how_do_i_find_o_1 .html
• What they seem to be good at - and where they're not so good (You can
perhaps find this out by talking to anyone you know who is a customer of
• Who they appear to be targeting (and perhaps ignoring)
Remember - competition isn't necessarily a bad thing - particularly in a niche
market where a number of providers can stimulate a market and make it bigger for
everyone! So don't just ignore the competition - or dismiss them all as "not as
good as us." Think carefully about them - who knows, some of them may become
Who else is active in your market? Who else has an interest in serving the people
that you want to serve? Who does similar things, but in the area next door to
yours? Sometimes it's better to work with other businesses, to spread the risk,
share expertise or pool potential customers. Tell us about people you plan to work
with - either in fully-fledged partnerships, or in looser collaborations - to help your
social enterprise to succeed.
Turn your research into intelligence
Research for its own sake is pretty pointless. What matters is intelligence - what
you've learnt from your research - and action - what you'll do based on your
research. In this section talk about what you've learnt from your research - and
what you're planning to do differently as a result. For example there may be a
particular niche that you'll serve, or a particular service that you'll offer.
Vision, mission and objectives
You're business won't succeed or fail based on a catchy mission statement or
inspirational objectives. Nonetheless, in planning your business, working on your
vision, your mission and your key objectives can be a really useful way to clarify the
key things that you'll do, why you'll do these things, and what you'll hope to
achieve by doing them.
If your social enterprise will be run as part of an existing organisation, you'll perhaps
not develop a new vision and mission statement. Instead, it might be worth
considering how your new product or service will contribute towards achieving your
Even if your new social enterprise will run under the umbrella of a bigger
organisation, you'll probably find it useful to come up with some key objectives for
this particular service.
There's more information on one way to develop a vision, mission and objectives
here . 5 Some social entrepreneurs find it useful to organise objectives into two
categories - financial and social - or three - financial, social and environmental.
Organising objectives in this way can help you to explain to people how your
business exists for more than profit.
What will you do? (your activities)
This section is about story-telling. Talk about the basics of what your service will be
like. You've explained what you're aiming to achieve in the previous section - now
is the time to offer a bit more detail, such as:
• The services/products you will offer (and perhaps not offer)
• Who you will offer services to
• Who will deliver your service/sell your product?
• How you will charge for your service
This will be similar to the section on your service from your customer's point of
Often people find it useful to organise their activities into groups based upon their
objectives. In other words, take each objective in turn, and explain the key activities
you'll undertake to achieve each objective. Bullet points are fine - you can go into
more detail in the sections that follow.
In this section, it might be helpful to think about things like:
• How will your service be delivered?
o Staff - how many?
o Think about job descriptions and person specs
o Recruitment - timescale, budget etc.
• How will your service be managed?
o Management of staff
o Reporting on progress to your Board, and to any investors. In
particular, how will you monitor actual income targets versus budget?
o How will you encourage feedback from customers? What will you do
to ensure that your service is of a consistently high standard?
• How will your service be administered?
o Customer service, marketing, feedback, financial administration and
• How will your service be governed?
o How will strategic decisions be made? How will you ensure that your
Board/Management Committee has the necessary skills, time and
resources to manage the business strategically? Does establishing
your social enterprise give you the opportunity to attract new people -
with new skills - onto your Board?
Earned income strategy
For many social enterprises, this is the hard bit! Outline your plans for generating
earned income. Key things to think about include:
• What will your prices be? How will you arrive at these prices? If you will
have different customer groups, with different prices, outline what you will
charge each customer group.
• If you do plan to serve different customer groups, estimate as best you can
how much of your time you expect to dedicate to each customer group.
• Have you considered all possible ways to generate income? For example
are there any additional products or services you can sell to increase the
amount of money you make from each sale?
Other sources of income
It can be worth thinking creatively about other sources of income - either real or in-
kind. Sometimes social enterprises are well placed to attract sponsorship or
perhaps gifts-in-kind. As always, you need to balance the time it takes to find this
support against the actual value of the support - but it's worth thinking about.
Don't underestimate the goodwill that people can feel towards a good social
Your income projections in more detail
It can be very difficult to project how much income you will generate. Nonetheless,
it is worth thinking hard about when you expect to generate income - and how
much. We can provide you with a spreadsheet template - for a summary budget
and for a detailed cashflow. You'll need to adapt this for your particular business -
but at least it gives you a start. It will also be useful to list the assumptions that
you've made in setting your income targets.
Now, think about what you will spend in order to sell your product or deliver your
service. Where possible, base your projections on real figures - either from your
own service if you've done something similar before, from other similar businesses,
or from quotes from suppliers. It's important to be as detailed as possible at this
stage. Try your best to be realistic - many businesses struggle in the early days
because they underestimated how much things would cost. Explain how you've
arrived at your figures too.
Our budget template will give you an idea of typical categories for overheads. It's a
basic template - and very general - but it should give you a good starting point.
Financial projections - spreadsheet templates
You (or perhaps potential funders or investors) will decide how far into the future
you need to project. It's fairly common to come up with a three-year plan, so that's
what we've offered as a template:
• A budget for the next three years
• A cashflow forecast for the next three years - to show when money will go
in and out of your business in "real-time".
The budget template have been set up so that you can add detailed information in
the yearly spreadsheets - which will automatically update the three year summary
sheet. Please email email@example.com for a copy of the budget
What do your projections suggest? Do they appear realistic? Do they show that
you have a realistic chance of developing a social enterprise which is sustainable in
the long term? Any investor will want to see that they are investing in a business -
not just funding a service which will always make a loss. It can be useful to talk
about your plans to ensure that you have a fighting chance of being sustainable in
this section, alongside your projections.
Nuts and bolts
This section covers the nitty-gritty of running your business. As it's about the nitty-
gritty, it's hard to say what you'll need to cover here - as it all depends on your
particular business. But you might want to think about things like:
• Policies and procedures: are there any that you'll need to develop?
• Logistics: how will your product get from A to B? Or where will you
deliver your service?
• Anything else: use this section to consider any other boring, yet
essential, parts to your business, such as who will collect your trade waste.
Health and Safety
In this section, explain how you will identify and manage the health and safety risks
inherent in your business.
Consider things like:
• What Health and Safety policies and procedures does your organisation
have in place/plan to develop?
• How will you ensure that these comply with relevant Health and Safety
regulations for your particular business?
• How will you ensure that staff are aware of and follow your Health and
Safety policies and procedures?
• How you will carry out risk assessments for your work and who will be
responsible for doing this?
We see marketing as building relationships with customers - both current
customers and potential customers. Marketing doesn't have to be complicated -
and you're likely to not have much to spend on marketing - but you should still
have a basic plan of how to build those relationships. In this section you should
explain what you plan to do.
You can read more about developing a DIY marketing plan here . 6
Consider what insurance you will require for your service. If you're part of an
existing organisation, don't just assume that your current insurance will cover your
Will your new service be delivered within an existing legal structure? Or will you
need to set up a separate legal structure? This will depend partly on the size of
your proposed business - and on your current constitution.
If you run the business under your existing legal structure, are there any constraints
that you need to be aware of - such as the people you can serve, the geographical
area you can cover, or the amount of income you can earn?
This is an area where it's certainly worth getting advice from someone who knows
what they're talking about. How will you get advice?
Are you aware of all relevant employment legislation?
Sources of support
No social entrepreneur, however talented, can do it all on their own. How will you
seek support - particularly in areas where perhaps you're not so strong? Consider
these issues here, and have a think about how you will get help so you can achieve
Maybe there's a local social enterprise adviser? Or is there a network for social
entrepreneurs? Perhaps you could join an online network? Or maybe it's time to
call in a few favours from friends with particular skills?
Thinking about these things might encourage you to contact friends or contacts to
ask them to offer some help. Or it might help you to identify that you need to build
up your network of contacts. Remember, if you need to pay for support, include it
in your budget.
Social businesses are about more than making money. In this section, explain
what you will do to squeeze out every last drop of social benefit from selling your
service or product - whilst also ensuring that you get the basics right. If a cafe
customer has to wait forty minutes for a coffee, the fact that it's organic, fair trade,
local and job-creating starts to pale into insignificance!
Please also tell us how you will keep an eye on how you're adding value - so you
can record what you've achieved - and identify areas where you need to improve.
Once you have completed your plan, you may wish to write an action plan - which
details the key things that need to happen in order to implement this plan, who will
do them, and by when.
And finally... Use this template as a guide which stimulates you into considering
all the things you need to think about when setting up a social business. We
promise that there will be things that YOU need to think about for YOUR social
business that we haven't included here. But we hope that this template will at the
very least give you a good starting point.
Please keep in touch. Keep an eye on our website 7 and bloq 8 , and on our social
business planning site 9 - and consider signing up for our free e-newsletter 10 . Or, of
course, just give us a call on 01 1 3 31 8 8685.
We wish you every success in your social business venture!
10 Sign up via either of the sites above
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