I’m often asked to help with developing a business plan and I often ask the question “what do you need the business plan for?”. We then tend to spend quite a substantial amount of time understanding what the business plan would be used for before we even decide to start a business plan.
Lets unpack that a bit, lets say you are starting or have just started a business and you find everyone talking about business plans around you.
You might be thinking that you might need to get yourself one of those – but what exactly is it that you need?
While we were looking for investment opportunities for our Venture Capital Fund, we got to see many different types of business plans – from a one pager to a hundreds of pagers. I firmly believe a business plan with the purpose of seeking investment has to be designed with the investor in mind. What can one page tell them? Will they even read 50 pages?
Ultimately the act of writing up a business plan can sometimes take triple or even more of the time that the gathering of the information.
Sometimes (again depending on who is the business plan for) the actual process of gathering information, discussing it, gaining insights, understanding risks and opportunities, costs and potential helps establish the right direction more than spending time writing up the business plan.
If the plan is only for yourself, spend more time on the gathering and discussing and turning the plan into something practical – sort of an implementation project plan and use that to track the business and bring the stakeholders on the same page.
Rather drill down into the various sections, such as developing technical documents for your product, brochures, the website and so forth – and in that process the results of the gathering and discussing that you did will come to life.
If you are developing a business plan to find investment, then you need to put everything together in a professionally presented and concise, easy to understand business plan and pitch for the investor. Make sure your summary sections highlights where your business matches what the investor is looking for – don’t let them go and search for this.
As you can see, depending on what your requirement is the type of business plan (consolidated or spread out) changes but what should never change is the need for an inclusive plan (what I like to call at the early stage implementation plan). How can you be sure if you and your team are working to create the same business if you haven’t spent the time to align yourselves, actions and costs.
How about we take these insights a step further and see how you can begin being your own “business coach” right? Lets start with 3 quick
1. Gather all the existing plans, budgets, documents that you have and your team.
2. Take a top down approach and first determine your next big outcome / trigger event. For example it could be based on your prototype release, first customer etc.
3. Then work backwards in terms of the actions that needs to be taken to get there. Once you have the actions you can assign drivers (people) to this and they can add key data like costs and what inputs they need to complete the task.
As you can see it can get quite mammoth, be careful that isn’t the point. They key is to bring about an inclusive plan that everyone contributes too and monitors. This can be used to track progress, the focal point of meetings, improve communication and help you deliver on your goals.