Monday, June 27, 2016

How a 1 Page Business Plan Can Help Your Startup Business or Established Company & Why Some Entrepreneurs DO NOT Need a Business Plan

Now I have written over 200 business plans for clients large and small.  Everyone from the individual entrepreneur with a startup company to the public company worth hundreds of millions.  When a client first calls or contacts me they always have a reason for why they need a business plan.  For the most part these reasons are valid, but occasionally my clients simply need guidance and since many organizations or consultants are sheep; they suggest that they "need" a business plan.

This is simply not true.

Now like I mentioned, sometimes business plans are needed.  In the case of many loans from the SBA or SCORE or other types or business associations, business plans are required.  The same goes for those attempting to attract investors whom will for the most part undoubtedly and eventually say "Can you send me a business plan?".  For these situations they are needed.  

The business plan is a working document, once it is written and finalized it should only be a matter of days or hours even until the business plan is old and stale.  After all, the business plan will outline where the business is going-which means that you should be moving in that direction.  And if you are moving then what you outlined in the business plan will be old news before the ink dries.  

If you are simply looking for guidance or a way to fully flush out your business idea or project I suggest a 1 page business plan.  This accomplishes two things.  1) It makes you write down your goals and ideas and 2) It helps develop your elevator pitch (something many clients have trouble doing--if you can not describe it simply and quickly you will have a hard time trying to convince others of your idea or startup business). 

So what should you include in your one page business plan?  The same thing that is included in a normal business plan except consolidated to one page.  This includes the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.  Some formats, like the picture in this post, include the Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Action Plan sections.  This is sufficient enough to get to what you really need to be doing: testing the market through action, talking to potential customers and selling or pre-selling your product or service.  After starting and operating many unsuccessful business and several successful businesses I can assure you one thing-things will not go exactly as planned.  As a matter of fact, they rarely go as plan and you should not restrict yourself to an outline so tight that is caused you to miss opportunities you do not know about yet.

A one page business plan can vary in form but the end result should include Action Steps or what I like to call "What Next?".  This should include more than "Get an Investor" or "Get a Loan"!!  Actually do not include that in the plan.  If the ONLY way your business venture or idea will succeed is by getting money from someone else--you failed already.  Your business goal is simple--build a self-sustaining business.  This will include something you sell for money again and again and again.  And remember, you have to make more money than you spend.  Duh!

Why Some Entrepreneurs DO NOT Need a Business Plan

If you are following me in this post then you understand that your job is to run a business not plan a business.  I have had clients from Dubai to Australia, as far as England to China and of course the USA.  Often I run into an entrepreneur that just "needs to complete a business plan to get this business off the ground."  After probing further I hear from the client that he can not make the big pitch without a pitch deck, and then a website ... "before I start I need to make sure these things are done." they say.  These people generally do not need a business plan they need a swift kick in the ass to get them moving.  Yes I repeat, these people need a swift kick in the ass to get them out of the "start phase" or "planning phase" to the phase where they are actually doing something productive--like talking to potential customers.

I have had clients who want to open an online store who spent money on pitch decks and private placement memorandums and research and then they come to me for a business plan.  By the time they get to me they already spent over $1,000 on a bunch of presentation material to tell me how great their idea is....and I always hit them with the obvious "Hey you know you probably could have already had the website up and running with the $1,000 you spent right?".  They commonly reply with "I am not ready yet."

You may think that this does not apply to you because "My idea is different" or "I can't build it without a big investment" which may be true.  Just make sure you are not the person that is constantly planning.  To decipher which side of the coin you are on listen to how you talk to people about your business.  If you are saying "I am looking to start...."  "I'm planning on starting...." "I'm thinking about starting..."  I can almost assure you that you are in the pre-work phase where nothing really happens expect dreams of success.  Most business products or services (even applications) regardless of the industry can be tested, pre-sold, sold, built or proven without a business plan.  The entrepreneur or CEO simply must commit and not be scared to actually start working as opposed to planning.  Many of these potential clients that come to me I end up working with on their "Next Actions" as opposed to a business plan.  This is because many of the times although they come to me for a business plan to delineate what needs to be done, they already know what they need to do.  They don't need a business plan they need a swift kick and the ability to self identify as someone who is "doing" rather than "planning on doing".

-Nick Coriano

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About the Author: Nicholas Coriano is a Business Consultant.  He is a graduate of The University of Connecticut Business School and the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  He has worked at Merrill Lynch, The New York Stock Exchange and is currently a partner at Cervitude Intelligent Relations, which specializes in Investor Relations for companies valued under $1 Billion USD.

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