Noah Parsons | Bplans
A business plan is more than a document. It’s a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. It’s also a management tool that allows you to analyze results, make strategic decisions, and showcase how your business will operate, and grow. In short, if you’re thinking of starting a business or plan to pitch your business to investors, writing a business plan can improve your chances of success.
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll show you how to quickly and easily write a business plan that will get the results you want. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a business or accounting degree to put together a great business plan. This guide will show you how to get your plan done step-by-step without any of the complexity or frustration.
Why write a business plan?
Are you still unsure whether a business plan is worth the time and investment? Can’t you just jump right into starting and running your business? You could, but you’ll be missing out on some key benefits that a business plan provides. Having a business plan will help you in the following ways.
Grow your business faster
Writing a business plan is about establishing a foundation for your business. You’re not predicting the future, you’re working through the core strategy of your business that will help you grow. This initial document isn’t meant to be perfect but is designed to be reviewed and adjusted to help you identify and reach your goals.
Without a business plan as a baseline, it will be far more difficult to track your progress, make adjustments, and have historical information readily available to reference when making difficult decisions. Creating a business plan ensures that you have a roadmap that doesn’t just outline where you plan to go, but where you’ve already been.
Pitch and get funding
Investors and loan providers need to know that you have a solid understanding of the trajectory of your business. You need to prove that there is an attainable and sustainable need for your solution, that you have a strong business strategy, and that your business can be financially stable. This means having the right financial statements, forecasts, and a digestible explanation of your business model available for potential investors.
Writing your business plan helps you put all of those pieces together and create connections between them to tell a cohesive story about your business.
Make confident strategic decisions
Often the biggest decisions you’ll make for your business are amidst volatile periods of growth, decline, or even external crises. This requires you to make highly consequential decisions far more quickly than you may like. Without up-to-date planning and forecast information, these decisions may be less certain or strategic than they need to be.
By having a written business plan that you’re regularly reviewing, you can make confident decisions. You’ll have all the information necessary to know when you can hire new employees, launch a new product line or make a major purchase. At the same time, you can also plan ahead in case a decision doesn’t work out as expected, minimizing your potential risk.
5 tips to write a great business plan quickly and easily
Before you get started with your business plan, let’s talk about some “rules” that will make the whole business planning process easier. The goal is to get your business plan done so you can focus on building your business.
1. Keep it short
Business plans should be short and concise. The reasoning for that is twofold:
First, you want your business plan to be read. No one is going to read a 100-page or even 40-page business plan. Sure, you may need supporting documentation for specific sections but you can include those elements in your Appendix.
Second, your business plan should be a tool you use to run and grow your business. Something you continue to use and refine over time. An excessively long business plan is a huge hassle to revise—you’re almost guaranteed that your plan will be relegated to a desk drawer, never to be seen again.
2. Know your audience
Write your plan using language that your audience will understand.
For example, if your company is developing a complex scientific process, but your prospective investors aren’t scientists, avoid jargon, or acronyms that won’t be familiar.
Instead of this:
“Our patent-pending technology is a one-connection add-on to existing bCPAP setups. When attached to a bCPAP setup, our product provides non-invasive dual pressure ventilation.”
“Our patent-pending product is a no power, easy-to-use device that replaces traditional ventilator machines used in hospitals at 1/100th the cost.”
Accommodate your investors, and keep explanations of your product simple and direct, using terms that everyone can understand. You can always use the appendix of your plan to provide the full specs if needed.
3. Test your business idea
Working through your business plan, and starting with a one-page pitch, can help you test the viability of your business idea long before launching. As you work through everything from your branding and mission statement, to your opportunity and execution, the best thing you can do is get feedback and test different elements of your business. This can be as simple as having a mentor or partner review elements of your plan, or conducting market research and speaking directly to your potential customer base.
The more you test and review elements of your plan, the better your plan and business will be. This can save you from spending days developing a strategy that just isn’t feasible.
4. Establish goals and objectives
You should know what you want to get out of your business upfront. Are you wanting to turn a side hustle into a full-time business? Trying to expand your team or launch an additional location? Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, and having questions like these in mind, can help you develop your business plan specifically to reach these goals.
Now, you may not have every milestone or even specific steps in mind to reach your goals before starting. But that’s the beauty of working through your business plan. It will help you define metrics of success, flesh out your goals and further develop elements of your business to meet specific objectives. You just need a vision or even aspirational goals to start with to better hone in on what’s important.
5. Don’t be intimidated
Did you know that the vast majority of business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t business experts? They don’t have MBAs or accounting degrees. They’re learning as they go and finding tools and resources to help them.
Writing a business plan may seem like a big hurdle, but it doesn’t have to be. You know your business—you’re the expert on it. For that reason alone, writing a business plan and then leveraging your plan for growth won’t be nearly as challenging as you think.
And you don’t have to start with the full, detailed business plan that I’m going to describe here. In fact, it can be much easier to start with a simple, one-page business plan—what we call a Lean Plan—and then come back and build a slightly longer, more detailed business plan later.