Business Plans Made Easy
Posted In: Technical Skills
Posted On: 7/21/2014
Developing a business plan is easier and faster than you think, and it will help you see your path much more clearly.
NOTE: This post was originally written for Unreasonable.is. We just finished the fifth Unreasonable Institute—another year working with amazing entrepreneurs who are solving the world’s greatest problems. Our job is to provide an Unreasonable advantage, and we do that by introducing them to mentors and funders who can give them wings. This year, we also conducted a business-planning workshop at the end of the institute. This was designed to give a structure to all of their plans and provide a roadmap for the next 18 months. You might be surprised to know that many entrepreneurs, including our Unreasonable ventures, lack clear business plans. In many cases, they have lots of great goals—and myriad tactics for accomplishing them—but no cohesive plans that they can share. Why? I think it is a bit intimidating to put all the pieces in one place, because doing so shows how much work lies ahead. It also forces prioritization of efforts (and who doesn’t want to do everything!) and exposes gaps in logic. Sometimes it seems easier just to muscle through the work at hand. But developing a business plan is easier and faster than you think, and it will help you see your path much more clearly. You probably have all of the components; they just need to be put together in a way that makes sense to others. Start with a summary of your entire venture by answering these questions:
- What is the mission of your initiative? (e.g. to alleviate sexual harassment in Egypt)
- How do you achieve that? (e.g. we have patrols on college campuses and teach self-defense)
- What have you accomplished to date? (e.g. we have 600 volunteers at 30 colleges and have taught 50 self-defense courses to 1,000 young women)
- What is your goal for the next 18 months? (e.g. to reach 100 campuses and impact 10,000 women)
- What gaps are in the way of you achieving this goal? (e.g. need $100,000 in funding for salaries and office space)
- What are your strategies (overall approaches), tactics (detailed initiatives) and milestones (markers for staying on schedule and measuring progress)?
The last question can best be addressed in the form of a spreadsheet or Gantt chart. Create a timeline horizontally across the top and tactics vertically down the side. Milestones match each tactic with a date. Go into great detail, week by week, for the first six months, and then just monthly highlights for the last twelve. This will give you a detailed execution plan for the short term and a high-level view of your project for the longer term. Shoot for something between 10 and 20 pages. Shorter than that, and you’ve probably skipped some essential steps or information; longer, and you’re probably overdoing it. The web abounds with templates for and examples of good business plans, which can be a good way to gauge your own format and tone. Give it a try. It really is this easy!