Simple business planning makes writing a plan faster and easier
A Lean Plan is faster and easier to put together than a traditional business plan, yet it provides all the value of an old-school plan. You skip all the long-form writing and instead focus on short, simple descriptions covering your strategy and tactics. To put it simply, when you’re writing a business plan for yourself, you can do things differently.
Keeps it simple and concise
For starters, you can throw out the expectations of a long, formal written document. You can skip all the formatting, complete sentences, and paragraphs of text that few people will actually read. Instead, you should put together a Lean Plan that focuses only on what you really need to know to build a successful business.
It will be a tool that is useful in the long run
A Lean Plan simplifies the entire process and makes your business plan actually useful. Instead of developing a long document, a Lean Plan focuses on distilling your business strategy into a simple, concise set of statements. It helps you set goals and then track your progress toward those goals.
Your business will be more nimble
Lean Plans are also much easier to change when your plans change—and they will. Starting a business is full of changes in direction and strategy as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. If you use the Lean Plan format, updating your plan will take minutes instead of hours.
11 steps to write a business plan in 30-minutes
When you’re putting together your Lean Plan, think in bullet points and short sentences. The goal is to keep each section as short as possible. The ideal Lean Plan will fit on a single page so you’ll end up with a one-page business plan. Here are the sections you need to include, along with examples of a bike shop plan I put together in just 27 minutes.
1. Value proposition
If you’re at a party and someone asks you what your business does, can you describe it in a single sentence? Your goal is to communicate the value you are providing to your customers in a way that is as simple and direct as possible.
2. Market need
What’s the problem you solve for your customers? Why would they go out shopping for a solution? Why does your business need to exist? If you’re not sure, try talking to your potential customers and ask them what they might like about your products or services. Why would they choose you over other alternatives?
3. Your solution
4. Target market
6. Funding needs
Nearly every business needs some money to get off the ground. Think about how much money you’ll need and how you plan on using it. Even if you’re starting your business with your own savings or using credit card debt, it’s a good idea to plan on how you will use the funds until you start making sales.
7. Sales channels
These are the places where you will sell your products. If you’re selling online, your online store is a sales channel. If you also have a physical store, that’s another sales channel.
8. Marketing activities
What will you do to market your business? If you plan on buying advertising, list the types of advertising you plan on doing here. Remember, different target markets might need different types of marketing activities to get your product in front of them.
9. Budget and sales goals
How much is it going to cost to run your business? What sales goals do you need to reach for your business to be a success? Don’t sweat the details to start and just think in broad strokes to get a rough idea of how your business will work financially. You can refine the details later.
What are the major tasks you need to accomplish to get your business up and running? This will help you stay on track and meet your goals. Make sure to assign milestones to people on your team so you have real responsibility and accountability.
Even if you’re starting out with just you, write a few quick bullets about why you’re the right person to run this business. If you need to hire key people in the future, list those positions as well, even if you don’t know who specifically will fill those positions right now.
This Lean Plan looks pretty good—one of its strong points is that it’s built to help you visualize data. I used LivePlan to put it together. But, you don’t have to do that. You can put together your Lean Plan on your own with a simple Word doc.
What is a business plan?
Let’s start by getting to grips with the key term at the centre of all of this. At a glance, it’s straightforward enough – a plan for how your business is going to work. However, in reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
As we’ll see, there are several different types of business plan out there, used for both emerging and established businesses. It’s a strategic document that outlines a business’ aims for the future, as well as how you’re hoping to achieve them.
When you write a business plan, you’re creating a roadmap for business success, focusing on areas such as finances, operational issues, and marketing. To create one, you’ll need a thorough understanding of your business aims, the landscape of the market you’re targeting, and the challenges and opportunities they present.
Business plans can vary in length, scope, and detail depending on the situation you’re going to use it for. However, they often have similar elements and cover the same key areas, no matter how long or short they are.
12 quick tips for writing a business plan
Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead.
1. Don’t be long-winded
Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders.
2. Show why you care
3. Provide supporting documents
Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging.
4. Reference data
5. Research, research, research
6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference
At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan.
7. Be objective in your research
As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency.
8. Know the purpose of your plan
It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction.
9. Identify your audience
The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders?