Everyone who has thought of starting a business has likely heard of a business plan. Those big, fat, over 100 page documents with detailed information, plans and financial calculations. They sound so difficult that I’ve actually known people who never started their dream business because they didn’t think they could write the business plan. The main thing that those people misunderstood, though, was that you only need complicated, fact and guess-work-filled plans if you are asking for a bank loan. If you are starting your business lean and mean without outside funding, then forget all about that complicated plan.
So, what kind of business plan do most people really need? I call it the “One-Hour Business Plan.” Here’s what you need to know.
One-Hour Business Plan Method
Before you dive head first into your business, you need a very basic plan. I call it the “One-Hour Business Plan” because that is all the time you need to get a basic plan written that will get you started on your path to product launch. Yes, of course, as you grow you may need a larger, more complex plan if you plan to apply for a loan, but not now.
This plan to be a series of short questions that are designed to help you think about the steps you need to get your product business started. As you progress through your product development and launch, you can update your plan to make it more detailed and inclusive of all of the aspects of your growing business.
Following is a sample of a basic business plan that you can use to help outline your ideas. As you write your plan think about where you want your business to start and where you want your business to be in five years. You’ll see in this sample that the business plan also includes a marketing plan and checklist. Many businesses have separate plans, but when you are just getting started marketing your service or product is crucial to the initial business launch so I combine them into one.
As I said before, this initial plan is just to get your thinking about your product and can be refined as you progress. So get a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a timer. Set the timer for one hour and start writing. Force yourself to finish your first draft of your plan before the timer rings. Don’t worry if you cannot fill in each section of the plan completely. Once you start the business you will learn more and can expand your plan at a later date. A business plan is a “living” document which will evolve and grow with your company.
The One-Hour Business Plan
Owner’s Name: ________________________________________________
Company Name: ________________________________________________
Email Address: ________________________________________________
Phone Number: ________________________________________________
Website URL: ________________________________________________
Section 1: Describe your business. Include information such as the business name, address, a description of the company and your mission statement. This section can also include a summary of the regulations that apply to your business and product(s). (5 min.)
Section 2: Describe your product(s) types, estimated manufacturing costs and legal information including patents and trademarks. Also summarizes your proposed pricing strategy for each product. (10 min.)
Section 3: Discuss your marketing plan. Discuss your target market (e.g. customers), why they need your product, and how you will reach them including advertising, social media and public relations. (10 min.)
Section 4: Conduct a SWOT analysis. Describe why your customers need you (Strengths), areas you will need to improve (Weaknesses), your biggest opportunities for growth (Opportunities) and your competition (Threats). (15 min.)
Section 5: Describe your operational plan. Discuss your plan to hire employees, handle inventory control, and work with suppliers. This section should also include any legal issues with the business such as operational licenses or fees. (10 min.)
Section 6: Discuss your financial plan for the business. Describe how you will fund the start-up of your business and how you plan to manage your budget and cash flow. Include a list of all start-up and operational expenses for the first year in this section. (10 min.)
By the time you work your way through this one-hour business plan, you should have a good idea of the areas where you are ready to move forward and the areas that need a little more research or planning. If you get to the end of this exercise and feel completely lost, reach out. We are here to help you. If you feel that you need a lot of help, email me for information on our individual coaching programs. Or, consider becoming a Patron of our page at Patreon. At Patreon, you’ll get exclusive content and answers to your specific questions. You can find our Patreon page here. We look forward to chatting with you!