I have taught many courses on writing business plans for entrepreneurs. So it might surprise you that I am a believer in the Anti Business Plan.
Yes, it’s important to spend time to think through your business idea. Yes, you need to consider who is interested in buying your solution. Yes, you need to figure out how much you want to spend on your start-up costs and how much the product or service will cost you to make.
However, many people get trapped in the theoretical aspects of writing the plan and never finish the plan. So I would rather you spend less time working on the plan and more time on running the business…and going back to the plan and making revisions. The key reason to write the plan is to test and validate your business idea. You don’t need 200 pages of charts, graphs and financial projections. And you certainly don’t need to spend time researching your ideas without testing them.
So if you had limited time (or patience) and wanted to write the Anti Business plan – here are the core areas that you need to focus on.
This describes your raison d’ etre – what problem are you solving by starting this company? If you are successful in your business, what will change in the lives of the individuals or companies that use your product or service?
While it will probably considerable time to brainstorm and word smith this statement, I recommend that you keep the text under two lines. In addition, make sure your words pack a powerful competitive advantage – someone should be able to read your company’s vision and be invested on a personal level and from their pocketbooks.
This section describes the core values and philosophies of your company. It’s the sign you display in your office to remind you why you started the firm and it’s the language that will instruct employees, contractors, vendors and anyone who liaises with your firm how they could expect to be treated and how they need to behave.
Don’t worry about it being a masterpiece. Keep it simple and powerful and be willing to revise it several times until you have the final statement. Similar to the vision statement, it should be under a few lines.
Assuming that you have done your homework and identified your niche target market (and not 1% of the entire market), you will need to identify 5-7 marketing strategies for your business. How will you spend your time and money this year on telling your market that your company can help them solve their problems?
I recommend you update this section on an annual or bi-annual basis and use it as a goal setting tool for how you’ll spend your marketing time and dollars.
Consider the best ways for you to share the message about your company – social media, events, online, offline, etc – and back up your ideas with target goals and numbers. For example, if you want to increase your social media strategy, don’t share “I will use social media to create 5,000 fans”. The final number is not as important as why you need the 5,000 fans.
Instead identify how you gather the support of 500 of those 5,000 fans to help you communicate your message. It speaks volumes about your business if you are able to get people to share comments and feedback and share the messages about your company with their friends and family – rather than stacking the numbers of people who liked your Facebook Fan Page.
Be willing to refer to this section throughout your year and make adjustments where necessary.
Connected tightly with your marketing goals are sales goals. Select 5-7 sales goals over a specified time period and share how you will achieve them. Your marketing tells the world about your product/service while your sales convinces people to buy. They are two separate but closely aligned goals.
Start testing your sales goals while you are writing the plan. Many people are often weak in sales and don’t realize the amount of time and resources they will need to spend to secure each sale. For example, by using the earlier example of the Facebook friends, you might discover as you are gathering your 500 champions - it really takes 10 people to like your page, 2 who are champions and one who eventually buys your product. Ensure that you factor in the time and resource that it will take to gather that one person
As you start gathering results on your sales projections, review the information three to four times a year to see what you’ll need to revise. This makes for a much stronger Sales Goals section rather than selecting random projections that sound good.
There are many key financial statements I would recommend in a full business plan. However, the Anti-Business plan looks at three key areas
- Your anticipated revenue = how much money you will make from your sales
- Your anticipated expenses = thinking about all areas from technology to marketing to sales calls to professional fees
- Your estimated profit
This statement is really only an estimate. Include every category that you can think of and use templates to give you ideas for the categories. Spend time every six months reviewing your actual expenses and income to see how closely aligned to your projections that you are.
The entire Anti Business plan is approximately 3-5 pages long and would take only a weekend of solid writing and editing. I encourage you to get started and draft your ideas using this template.
Let me know additional questions you have as you are working!