Your business plan is an absolutely critical document in determining the success of your business. That said, it’s probably not something you should rush. However, there are certainly times when you need to create a business plan quickly since you are so busy with other tasks. This article explains how to do just that.
You’ll first learn 3 key organizational tips and then 2 tools that will allow you to more efficiently create your business plan. You’ll then see what research to assemble before starting your plan. Finally, you’ll learn what to put in each of the 10 sections of your business plan.
The 2 Keys to Your Success
The key to successfully creating your business plan in just one day is to:
- Be highly organized
- Have the tools you need
With regards to organization, it’s very similar to having a written shopping list when going to the supermarket. Better yet, a written list organized by aisle. Since we all know that when you go to the supermarket without a list, you either waste time going to the same aisle twice or forget something (and need to go back or live without it).
With regards to having the right tools, an analogy probably isn’t needed. But remember Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Now imagine chopping down the tree if you didn’t even have the right tool; that is, you didn’t even have an axe!
With regards to organization, I suggest the following:
- Block out time to complete your plan. If you budget 8 hours for the total plan completion, I suggest four 2-hour blocks. During those blocks, you must remain 100% focused. That means no answering the phone, no checking email, no looking at social media, etc. Every time you lose focus, your productivity will suffer sorely.
- Get the input you need from others before sitting down to write your plan. For example, if you have a marketing manager and she has the key details about your marketing plan, consult her prior to writing your plan. At a minimum, you should have a consensus about the key marketing elements such as how you will promote your company.
- Assemble any business documents (e.g., incorporation papers) you have accumulated since your organization’s inception.
With regards to tools, have these handy:
- A business plan template or a business plan outline: these will ensure speed since if you already have a document with section headers and/or questions to answer, it will be much faster than starting with and completing a blank document.
- Appropriate word and spreadsheet processing software. While Microsoft Word and Excel are the standards, more and more options like Google documents are available. Use whatever word and spreadsheet processing software you are most comfortable with. Just make sure you have both as completing your plan without them will take much longer.
Finally, ideally, you can complete the key market research for your business plan before sitting down to write your business plan.
This research includes:
- Industry Research: which answers key questions such as how large your industry is and what trends, if any, are shaping it.
- Customer Research: which answers questions about your target market such as how many people comprise it, what their demographic make-up is (e.g., age, gender, socioeconomic status), etc.
- Competitive Research: which details not only who your key direct and indirect competitors are, but their strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s Get Started
Now that you’re organized and have the tools and market research you need, it’s time to get started on your plan.
Below are the 10 key elements of your business plan and how to complete them most effectively.
Section 1: Executive Summary
Your Executive Summary is the most important part of your business plan, since if it doesn’t excite readers, they’ll never get beyond it to the rest of your plan.
Complete your Executive Summary last, and have it include a brief synopsis of all the other sections of your plan. Of critical importance, you Executive Summary MUST answer why your business is unique. That is, what is it about you, your products/services, your market, your marketing plan and/or anything else that makes you extremely likely to succeed? Answering this is the cornerstone of not only a successful business plan but a successful business, so spend time on this one.
Section 2: Company Analysis
Your Company Analysis gives a snapshot of the current state of your company. If you’ve incorporated, you’ll state your type of business (e.g, C-Corp) and the date of your incorporation (remember, you pulled out this documentation in the Organization phase above).
Even if you’re just starting out, you can provide background information such as when and why your idea for the business was conceived.
Section 3: Industry Analysis
Here is where you’ll include the industry research you conducted above.
Importantly, don’t just copy/paste a research report into your business plan. Rather, the ideal research helps prove the viability of your business. For example try to show how industry trends favor your success.
Section 4: Customer Analysis
Above you identified your target customers, and conducted research into their demographic profiles. When targeting consumers, these profiles include factors such as their age, gender, and socioeconomic status as mentioned above. If targeting businesses, detail the types of businesses (e.g., size, location, industry) and the target contacts (e.g., title, function) within those businesses.
Section 5: Competitive Analysis
This is the final “research” section of your business plan, where you will detail your direct (similar offering to similar customers) and indirect competitors (similar offering to different customers OR different, but related offering to similar customers).
For your top 3-5 direct competitors, document each of their strengths and weaknesses. Then document the strengths and weaknesses of your indirect competitors as a whole.
Section 6: Marketing Plan
There are four sub-parts to your marketing plan:
1. The products and services you offer: document them
2. Your pricing strategy: tell what it is; are you the low-cost provider? The premium cost?
3. Your channel strategy: how will customers buy your products/services (e.g., sell via your website, via retailers, etc.).
4. Your promotions strategy: how will customers hear about you: pay-per-click advertising, social media, etc.
Section 7: Operations Plan
Here you will document your growth plan.
To do this, write down the next 6 months, the following 2 quarters and the following 2 years and detail the key accomplishments you plan to attain during those time periods.
For example, if today were January 1, 2020, your operations plan would look as follows:
- January 2020
- February 2020
- March 2020
- April 2020
- May 2020
- June 2020
- 3rd Quarter 2020
- 4th Quarter 2020
- Annual 2021
- Annual 2022
Once again, for each of these time periods, you would detail your key goals.
Note that the reason we start monthly and then move to quarterly and annually is that it’s much easier to determine market conditions in the short term. Longer-term there is much more uncertainty and it’s thus harder to predict what will happen.
Section 8: Management Team
In your Management Team section, write the key facts about yourself and other key members of your team. This is often written the same way as the “Management Team” or “About Us” sections of most websites.
Tell the past accomplishments of team members here. If you are planning to add key team members in the future, document the roles you will fill and the key criteria you will use to fill the roles.
Section 9: Financial Plan
The Financial Plan includes two elements.
The first element is completing, in a spreadsheet, your Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Statement. These three financial documents detail key information such as the profitability of your business and how much funding, if applicable, is needed to grow the business. Your full financial statements will appear in your Appendix.
The second element is completing the section of your word document. In this section, you will show summary/top-level figures from your financial statements such as your Revenue and Profit projections for the next five years.
You will also provide written commentary supporting your financials, such as how you will generate the sales you expect and any key assumptions you’ve made.
Section 10: Appendix
Your Appendix will include any supporting information. As mentioned above, your full financial statements will go here. But also include any other information that supports your potential future success such as references from customers, signed contracts or purchase orders, etc.
The Time is Now
You now have all the information you need to complete your business plan in just one day.
Remember, start by organizing your efforts and making sure you have the right tools. This seemingly simple first step makes a huge difference.
Then methodically make your way through the 10 business plan sections. Don’t allow yourself to be stumped in any one section. Rather, if you get stuck, move on and come back to it. This way, you’ll make lots of progress quickly, and most likely when you come back to the issue that stumped you earlier, you’ll already have conceived an answer.
How to Create a Business Plan in 1 Day Infographic
Below is an infographic of this article for quick reference.
To further help you expertly create a business plan in one day, we put together the slide presentation below to walk you through the “10 Key Elements of a Business Plan.”