Think writing a business plan is hard? I sympathize – I promise. After writing hundreds of them over the years, I’ve developed a process to write them better and write them fast – and I’d like to share it with you.
Why would I share the exact techniques I charge thousands of dollars to implement for my clients? Because, in all honesty, even if you think writing a business plan is a task you just can’t handle, you can.
While for a lot of people it makes sense to hire me to write a business plan – especially if they need help with their strategy, and they are looking for $200,000 in financing or more – a lot more people will benefit more from the process of doing it themselves.
Writing a business plan teaches you a lot about business. Especially about YOUR business. So for those who don’t need a ton of external financing, or are funding the business themselves, you should use these hacks (and this framework) instead of hiring a consultant. At least for now.
You’ll save thousands. You can thank me later (Riesling is my favorite wine…just sayin’).
Here are the hacks:
Hack #1: Toss the Template
Templates are rigid, linear, and sequential. Your business isn’t. So stop trying to put it into that form right off the bat, and brainstorm the heck out of your planning process first.
Hack #2: Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
Struggling to decide on your operating hours? Trying to decide between a food truck or a retail space? Don’t know what business policies to create? Answer these questions from your best potential customer’s perspective. Think about what they’d want, or what would provide the best experience for them. Whenever you’re struggling with a business question, remember that your ideal customers can probably provide the answer.
Hack #3: Budget High
Everything costs more than you think it does. Everything. Overbudget and cut later.
Hack #4: Visit Your Competitors
Don’t be afraid…go in, sample the wares, ask questions. Even if you disclose that you’re planning to open a similar business, you’d be surprised how often your “competitors” are willing to help. Chances are, your business is different enough that competition won’t get ugly. If it does, well…don’t blame me. 😉
Hack #5: Cap Your Research
You can research data and statistics for days and days. Include only what matters to your ideal customer. If you are selling handmade earrings to thirty-something women, it doesn’t matter how many fifty-year-olds live nearby – EVEN if they might buy from you too. Focus your research on your primary customers.
Hack #6: Write the Executive Summary Last
It boggles my mind how many people try to write a summary of their plan before they’ve written the plan. Seriously. Don’t do that. It’s backwards.
Hack #7: Look Ahead. No, Further
What does your business look like 3 years from now? Five? Ten? Of course, you can’t know for sure, but the clearer your vision is for what you want to create, the easier it is to outline the steps to getting there.
Hack #8: Be Transparent
If you do decide to look for a loan or an investment to help you start your business, you better be sure you have a spending plan for their money. Would you loan your cousin ten grand for “school” without knowing what he specifically needs the money for, and without a plan to pay it back?
Nope. Well, I hope not, anyway. So your business plan needs to show very clearly how you will be spending someone else’s cash, as well as when and how they’ll get it back (ideally, with interest!).
Next time you sit down to work on your business plan, apply these hacks and see if they don’t move you along just a little bit faster.
Got more questions? Pop them into the comments below and tell me what you need.