Starting your business

4. Researching and business plans

Understanding key elements of your business will help it to thrive, these can include:

  • understanding your business product or service will you be offering
  • knowing who your customers are
  • knowing who your competitors are
  • fully understanding your market

Help may be available to be clear about the practical requirements of starting your particular type of businesses. Below is a list of the information sources that may be able to help.


COBRA (Complete Online Business Reference Advisor)

Ideal for anyone who is:

  • looking to start a business
  • write a business plan
  • conduct research into a new market.

It contains around 4000 factsheets, market reports, contacts, and sources of funding. This helps you refine research, market and your business idea.

This service is available free of charge online through the GM library services. All you need is your library card number. You can find more information about researching your business ideas at Ask about Business.

Industry Guides are available through the GM library services as downloadable documents for a selection of key growth sectors.


A comprehensive database of UK company and business intelligence. It includes information on companies’ financials, management and corporate structures, plus additional intelligence such as news and industry research. It's available to use in all Stockport Libraries.


A free resource providing area based population and labour market statistics. Find out about the local population and whether they fit the customer profile for your business.

How to prepare a business plan

Before you start your business it's advisable to have in place a short to medium term business plan. You should identify how you expect your business to develop and what is required in order to achieve your goals.

A business plan should be a written document that describes your business and your target market. It should also address issues such as objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts. It's essential if you're seeking funding or investment in your business. It can also help to keep your business moving in the right direction. It can be amended at any time in response to changes to your business. However, it should be prepared alongside a clearly set out financial forecast detailing your expected and required income and expenditure.

GOV.UK and Start Up Loans provide free business plan templates to help you get started.

Find out more about business plans