How To Write The Simplest Business Plan In 5 Steps
Have you ever produced a business plan? There are plenty of cookie cutter templates out there. But then again, if the production of a business plan meant success, why wouldn’t we all be spending days agonising over one?
It’s because business changes every day. Forecasts (which are effectively what business plans are) are rarely right. But they can get close to the mark if nothing major changes (a bit like weather forecasts, we know almost certainly, that somewhere on the planet it’s probably raining).
So with all that in mind here’s how to create an effective plan. It’s based on how I grew my first business to 18 or so staff and a couple of regional offices (I didn’t write this down at the time, it’s just roughly what we did).
Get Some Paper
Grab a piece of paper. The whole plan will take up considerably less than one side (don’t make it any larger or you’ll never bother reading it).
At the top, write your business name and add the words “…for the next 12 months”. You can do 3, 5 and 10 year projections, but the only use for that is to remind yourself of the bigger picture (it will probably do you more good to repeat a single sentence affirmation every morning instead “I will dominate my market and make more money than I could ever possibly want within the next decade” will do nicely).
Create the first section and call it “My Market”. Write in there exactly who your market is. If you sell to different markets, now may be the right time to concentrate on the best one. Your market is a single ideal customer. The type of person you would most want to work with. Get to know your market as well as you know yourself.
Create a second section called “My Product”. Make a list of the top 5 problems your market is facing right now. Pick the most urgent problem, research what’s currently available that fixes it, and create a better product around your research.
If you’ve already got a product, that’s fine. Compare it to your list of top problems. Does it still fit? You’re good to go if so, otherwise, maybe it’s time to create something people really want.
Create a third section called “My Message”. Write down exactly what you’d say to anyone who asked you what you do. Get it memorised and repeat it every morning and evening until you’re sick of hearing it, then keep repeating.
Your message could go something like this: “I help marketing directors of $100m leading medical supply firms by writing the highest quality copy to ensure their brand stays ahead of the market”.
If you find it impossible to get your message right, it’s because you haven’t completed the first sections properly – you must clearly identify your market and what they want first.
Now create a fourth section called “My Objectives”. An objective is just another name for what you want to achieve.
Write down the smallest list of objectives you’re comfortable with. The smaller the list the easier it will be to achieve them. Every objective must be measurable. You can call them KPI’s if you want to get all corporate.
Don’t worry too much though. Remember this is a forecast. It’s guesswork. You have NO definite control over whether your objectives can or will be achieved. Get comfortable with that (it will reduce your stress).
The fifth and final part is your strategy. Call it “My Strategy”. A strategy is the overarching mechanism describing (in the shortest possible sentence) how you’re going to carry out your business plan.
It’s not tactics, it’s a single statement. Amazon’s strategy is called “Day One”. They treat every day as though it’s the first day of business. It means everyone is excited every day. And it’s worked for them every day since they started in 1994.
Apple’s strategy (when Steve was running the place) was “Think Different”. Every tactic they used had to pass the “think different” test before it was deployed.
You’ll need channels to get your message out, but a channel is just a tactic. You’ll chop and change them as you narrow down where your audience is hiding (a marketers job is to find them and show them the message).
Your business plan is now complete and you’re ready to play. Playing involves using as many tactics that fit your strategy until you find one or more that works, then exploiting them to the max. Good luck.