Four Key Elements in an Abbreviated Business Plan

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Do you hear the phrase “business plan” and automatically groan? Me, too. There is so much pressure around business plans — whether you need one, what it needs to include, how it should be formatted, etc. Whether you’re starting a web design business or some other new venture, the term “business plan” can have a horrible connotation and instill fear and overwhelm into anyone.

I’m not going to say that business plans don’t have value because they can be one of the most powerful tools to have when you’re starting a business or new venture. But if you’re not seeking financial support, planning to incorporate, working with multiple partners or pitching a joint venture, you don’t necessarily need a formal, structured business plan.

In fact, you can get started with a business plan in the time it takes you to read this post. Grab a piece of paper and jot down some notes as you read and you’ll be on your way to creating a much less scary but possibly equally effective planning document. Here’s what your abbreviated business plan should include.

Mission Statement

A mission statement explains the purpose of your business. It should be short and to the point, and focus on the goals of your initiative. You know you have an effective mission statement if it answers the question: “Why are you starting this business or venture?”

For example, the Coca Cola Company’s mission is: to refresh the world; to inspire moments of optimism and happiness; to create value and make a difference.

Goals

You probably have goals for your new venture, but until you have them in black and white and run them through the SMART test by checking that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, it’s hard to figure out what you need to do to achieve your goals. It’s a good idea to set goals that span the short-term and the long-term (1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc.).

An example goal could be to have seven ongoing clients and make $XXXX/month by six months after the business launches.

Strategies

Strategies outline what needs to happen in order to make your goals a reality. How are you going to build your business over time so you can reach your short-term and long-term goals?

Your strategies for gaining seven clients in six months could be to send letters to contacts, execute a social media marketing plan, ask for referrals, provide an exceptional experience for your clients through high quality work and great customer service.

Money, Money, Money

Money is a big part of your business planning, and without a business budget you will likely struggle to become and stay profitable. First, you’ll want to consider the startup expenses — what will it cost to start your new venture?  Then, outline the ongoing costs of running your business. Compare these numbers to your anticipate income as well as future income streams, and figure out what you need to do to make your business profitable.

What’s missing here?

There is one huge chunk missing from this abbreviated business plan — marketing. Marketing is such a significant part of your planning process that you can’t take the same shortcuts to fit it into your short business plan. But you can follow a similar process and focus on some key elements to create a non-overwhelming and very useful marketing plan. Stay tuned for my next post which will walk you thorough an abbreviated marketing plan.

Image credit: svilen001

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  • Roxanne Ready, Ready Designs

    I found that one of the most valuable things I got out of my business plan was a sense of direction and focus. By the time I’d done the research for the viability of the sector, narrowed down my target market, enumerated my exact services and mission statement, and analyzed my financial goals, I had a clear direction. It’s become something I can look back on whenever I need to sharpen my focus.

    Choosing and analyzing my target market was a huge eye-opener for me, but I’m sure you’ll talk about that in the next segment.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    You see, this is exactly what I find wrong with business plans. Take Coca Cola’s mission statement: to refresh the world; to inspire moments of optimism and happiness; to create value and make a difference.

    What a load of b*llocks. Really? They exist ‘to refresh the world’? Of course they don’t. They exist to make money. That’s all. This ‘mission statement’ is simple marketing tosh. Wasting your time in coming up with nonsense like this when starting a business is utterly pointless.

    • http://www.apcooper.co.uk AndrewCooper

      Patrick, I agree with what you’ve said partially. I don’t think that anything is wrong with it, it should be there and it shouldn’t be “To make money” because all for profit businesses are in business to make money, but also to additionally do whatever they feel is right. Otherwise “To make money” would be in every single businesses mission statement and it would be boring, tiring to read, and silly.

      I agree that it is a load of simple marketing tosh, but it’s effective marketing tosh and it adds to the their brand. Think about their #1 product Coca-Cola and what does it do? It refreshes the World, because everyone in the World knows about Coca-Cola and has drank it at least once or will do so in the future and it most circumstances it will refresh them. Their company and their brand does inspire moments of optimism and happiness, aside from decaying teeth and hyperactivity that is what most people associate Coca-Cola with – optimism and happiness. As for the last one, I can’t explain, but you get the drift.

      The fact that most mission statements only take a matter of minutes to think of and write down says to me that for the potential of what it could achieve having one, it isn’t a waste of time. On the other hand, I know a lot of businesses that don’t have mission statements.

      To each their own.

      Andrew Cooper

  • http://p163.sg angelee

    and when the business is up and running, take note that marketing is not a department, it is everything in the business (emails, phone calls, customer service, brand, quality..etc.. everything)

  • btrivers

    Nice refresher on the basics. I’ve had my head buried in details lately and this is a good reminder to set some SMART goals for this year. Can’t wait for the marketing segment.

  • http://www.apcooper.co.uk AndrewCooper

    Great business post Alyssa! You just keep them coming don’t you! :)

    Although I agree with having goals, and goals that are SMART, I don’t create goals with the SMART method in mind because of what PatrickSamphire said in his comment in the A Really SMART Way to Set Goals post as I agree with him.

    On the other hand, thanks for the reminder about strategies, definitely an important one, although they really are all as important as each other.

    Andrew Cooper