If you want to start a business then you need a plan. It is your blueprint. It says where you are now, and where you need to be in the future.
At QuickBooks we like to help entrepreneurs. That’s why we created this pocket guide about how to write a business plan.
Type “business plan” into your favourite search engine and you will find thousands of pages telling you how to write the perfect plan in great detail. Most will tell you about the traditional approach, beloved of business schools all over the world. It looks something like this:
- Executive summary
- Business Description
- Products & services
- Competitive Analysis
- Market Strategies
- Operations & Management
- Finance Plan
This can be very overwhelming when all you want to do is get your business off the ground and gain some momentum. There will come a time when you need much more detail, but not on day one.
So we suggest a different approach, a lighter approach, which will give you the focus you need. It will fit on one piece of A4 paper.
The pocket size business plan
Ask yourself the following questions. Be honest. Answer with a paragraph for each. If anything, it will be good practice at brevity.
1. What core problem are you solving?
You are treating someone else’s pain, and your business is the medicine. What pain will you alleviate for your customers?
2. What will you sell?
This is your product or service. Does it have a name? Can you describe it in a sentence? Can you bullet point the main features and benefits?
3. Who will buy it?
Are they local, national, or all over the world. Age? Gender? Occupation? What are all the relevant tags that describe your potential customer?
4. How much will it cost?
How much do you charge per unit? Is there more than one version? Is there a clear reason for charging this much?
5. Where will it be sold?
Online? Retail? Wholesale? Over time you can add the names of specific outlets to this paragraph to remind yourself of what you have achieved so far.
6. How many can you sell?
Capacity is important. If it is a service then you have only so many man-hours available.
7. How will customers know?
This is a brief overview of how you intend to tell the market you exist. Customers won’t know you are there until you tell them. Later you will get into much more detail but for now, think where you customers are and how they should find out you exist.
8. How much do you want to sell?
Have you set yourself a target? If you haven’t, how will you measure your success?
9. Why are you different?
What is your unique selling point? Every entrepreneur should have one. It will be the reason you thought of doing this in the first place!
10. What could go wrong and what will you do about it?
This ahead. Is there a risk a competitor could do something once your cover is blown? What if sales disappoint and you run out of operating cash? What are your fallbacks?
Answer these questions. Make it as brief as possible. Then print it out, fold it up and put it in your pocket. Every now and again, when your mind is being pulled in ten different directions, take it out and read it.
It will help you focus.
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