The business plan has been the “must” for every would-be entrepreneur. When I first started out, I read all the books about how to create the perfect one before I ventured out to get funding. While everyone has their own twist on what to include, there are some typical components. They range from an executive summary, to analyzing the competition, customer profiles, marketing and the like. It took quite a bit of time and research to develop my first plan which was lengthy…you might say it was more like a thesis, but it did help me get funded.
Today it is much different and a lot of start-ups, as well as existing businesses, are rethinking the business plan. Much of this is due to the speed at which business gets done and the constantly changing landscape. There are also differing points of view on the value and need for a business plan. Some businesses have been wildly successful without one. However, having a business plan does have an impact according to a study published in Small Business Economics. The study found “entrepreneurs that take the time to create a plan for their business idea are 152% more likely to start their business.”
New online tools like HubSpot make it easy to create a plan. In fact, some tools boast a completion time of less than ten minutes. I would think making the leap to start or re-position your company should be worth more of your time and reflection.
One expert I think has it right is Ellen Rohr, the author of The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan. She has created a simple and very cool six-week process to get a great idea off the ground. Or, there is a weekend biz plan if you are really in a hurry. You don’t need to go online, create a profile, save a password, download templates…you get the idea. All you need is the book and a three-ring binder. Ellen coaches you through the process day by day.
I had the opportunity to work with Ellen recently on a video shoot and her expertise and enthusiasm for business are evident. And, we agree on a key point. Sometimes, we make business more complicated than it needs to be. As a result, it is easy to avoid tasks completely or procrastinate. By breaking down the areas of business and then addressing each in a systematic way you are more likely to get results.
A business plan should be a living document you refresh frequently, not something you create once and file away. What I like about the binder is you can update and review things without ever having to boot up a device. Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology, but sometimes leafing through papers gives you a whole different perspective than scrolling a large document. Of course, Ellen does have downloadable versions of her work.
Business plans are not just for start-ups. If you have an existing business, or are updating or refreshing, your plan is even more important. And, it won’t be based on guesses (my first plan had a lot of those) but solid information and experience to help you grow and improve.