Business Plans are Boring
As a business major and complete dork, I disagree. However I do know that the idea of writing a 15 paged plan isn't appealing to most people. Unless you are applying for a loan, you don't NEED a business plan, but you should make a mini one, just for yourself.
A business plan is usually a way to convince investors that you are a good investment. A business plan also puts all your ideas, goals, estimates and structure down on paper. You don't need 15 pages, but before you get serious about your business, you need your ideas mapped out.
Business plans can be boring, so I'm going to help you write a mini-business plan that keeps you focused without wasting your time.
Step 1. Questions
Before you begin writing a plan, you have to evaluate your business and answer a couple questions to really dig deep and focus on where you want to go. To help you get started, I have a couple questions you should ask yourself, feel free to add your own (and share them in the comments)!
I also made a fancy-pants worksheet for you to use if you'd prefer, download it below:
A. What is your why?
Why are you starting a business? Don't give an easy answer like "to help people" or "to make money". We're getting deep here. Why did you start THIS business?
If you wanted to make money you could become a drug dealer (don't do that), or if you want to help people, you could give up your life and go build schools in 3rd world countries (you can do that if you want).
Take a second and write down why you picked this business and why you want to do this.
B. Where do you want to be in 6 months, 1 year and 5 years?
Don't be afraid to think big on this one. If you want to make 2 million dollars every month in five years, write it down!! But also write where you'd be happy. If you'd be happy with making enough money to cover your grocery bill every month, write that too. Then write something in between that would make you brag about it to your friends.
Make dream goals, baby goals and realistic goals for each of the three steps. Work like you're after that dream goal, stay humble like you're making that baby goal and be proud when you hit your realistic one.
Keep in mind, these goals don't have to focus on money. Maybe you want to quit your job and work from home. Or maybe you want to build something you can add to a resume. Whatever your goals are, write them down.
C. Who is this for?
The most important part of this is your customer. Your audience/target market/dream client/reader - they should be the center of this mini-plan. You don't have a business without consumers, so shift your focus on them.
Who is your consumer? Is it young parents trying to go to classes and work? Is it a 40 to 45 year old woman looking to start her own business? A college-aged guy hoping to graduate early? Whoever your ideal client is, write it out.
Keep in mind a couple things as you work on this,
- What age group can afford your product/service?
- Is it a need or a want, who wants/needs it?
- What are that person's goals and how does your product/service help them reach it?
- Where are these people? Do they shop online, in stores? Do they use Twitter or only email?
Make an imaginary client, give them a name, age, look, background, hobbies and goals. This person is your ideal consumer.
D. How can you fund this business?
Will you need loans or savings to start? Are you going to be scrappy and DIY everything until you make a little cash? Will you put $100 of your own money in to start? Figure out where you'll be getting the money you need to get going. Even if you only need $10 for a domain name, figure it out right now.
Also, write down how you hope to fund your business in the future? Will you rely on credit cards for investments? Do you need to make X amount of sales before being able to pay for equipment? Figure this out now, before you NEED it later.
Step 2. Outline
Alright, by now you should have a little better understanding of your business, which means it's time to get writing. This mini-business plan can be as long as you want. If mini for you in 1 page, awesome. If "mini" is 30 pages, go grab some coffee.
As you start on the outline, keep in mind that this plan is going to need to be easily updated and accessed. Don't just write it on post-it notes, or print it out then delete the files.
I'm a huge fan of Evernote and Dropbox. I wrote my business plan in Microsoft Word, save it as a PDF, and uploaded both files to my Evernote, Dropbox and Documents folder on my laptop. I also printed a copy and keep it above my desk where I see it every day.
To help you out, I made an outline which you can download and use HERE but feel free to make your own using this general format:
- The Overview
- Your mission statement
- Your "Why"
- 6 months
- 1 year
- 5 years
- Ideal Customer
- How you'll find them
- How you'll convince them
- List your products and their price
- List the materials or tools needed
- List where you'll sell it
- Explain your business process, what are the steps you take to make your product/service
- Marketing and Sales
- What 3-4 social media channels will you focus on?
- How will you build your email list?
- What advertising methods will you use?
- How will you fund your business
- What are your financial goals for your business
- How much will it cost to start up
Step 3. Create
Now that you have your thoughts down and your outline done, you can fill in the sections. If you need help with the content, I made a video going through the outline, step by step. This video was a live webinar, so skip to 1 minute and 25 seconds to get to the beginning.
You have most of the content you need from your answers in the first step, this step is all about detailing those ideas and organizing them into categories that make it easy for you to reference later.
Step 4. Update
A business plan is not a one-time thing. Every year (every day), you and your business will change. Those changes can be good, bad, or a combination of the two - regardless, updating your business plan will keep you on track to meet your goals and help you track how your business changes.
Personally I update my business plan every 6 months or after a big change, such as a re-brand or new product launch. I update my goals and add notes about my current stats, followers and income. This is why I like using Evernote for my business plan because I can easily add PDF files, images and text to a note with my PDF plan right there.
Set an event or reminder on your phone/calendar/laptop so you remember to review your plan and update it regularly. And NEVER delete old plans. Looking back at what has changed (even if it was a negative change) will help you learn and evaluate what works.
(pssst as of Jan 6th, a new worksheet has replaced the old one. I think it's much prettier, plus it's now a fillable PDF. Woohoo!)
Do you have a business plan? What are your goals for the next 6 months of your business? Share them in the comments below!