How would you explain a business plan in 5 words or less? The blueprint of entrepreneurial success? Circa 2010, maybe, but the truth is traditional business plans aren’t nearly as important as they were 10, 15 years ago.
In this article:
- Understand the purpose of business plans
- Creating a pitch deck
- Find a mentor
- Get smarter
- Research and read
- Use creative tools
There are over a hundred businesses ideas listed on many different websites that you can create and make a success of. All without ever crunching numbers compiling many complicated financial statements with inflated projections and enchanting sales figures for the hell of it. Between our small team, we’ve compiled a respectable number of business plans and even entered one or two business plan competitions before, and unless you’re seeking funding and are hard pressed for one, you’re better off without it.
What now if not a business plan?
What you and your business need is a straightforward plan. Something realistic and unique that truly represents your business or idea. The issue with business plans, especially ones that you technically compile for yourself as a one woman show, is that you’re probably never going to read it because after spending days putting it together, you’ll find it’s boring and it’s just too much reading.
Understanding the intended purpose of a business plan
For you to create this realistic and unique ‘plan’, you must understand why you need a business plan. Startup companies usually prepare a business plan to define and describe the purpose and goals of the business, secure funding, discover direct and indirect challenges the business might face and articulate their Value Proposition and how they plan to market it.
1. The solution: A pitch deck
A pitch deck is basically a slide show/presentation that serves as an initial pitch for potential investors or business partners, or as a reference for you as your business progresses. These are a fantastic way to secure that vital second meeting or that dreadful but great ‘tell us more’ request. The good news is there are many free templates that you can draw inspiration from on the internet. Make sure you include the following in your pitch deck. This list is not exhaustive. But if you’re not familiar with business plans to begin with, we’ll create a focus article on pitch decks that will give you all the information you need.
- Vision statement
- The problem or need you’re expecting to fulfill
- Your solution
- Value proposition
- Basic financials (clear and realistic illustrations of how much you need, expenses, income and sale expectations)
- Target market and market opportunity
- Marketing strategy
Remember not to make your presentation text heavy. Include illustrations, charts and even a short videos or audio. If you’re struggling to get started, simply think of a pitch deck as a 10 to 15 slide elevator pitch where the listener keeps saying “give me more”. Each slide should be purposeful and to the point.
2. Find a good mentor
Many entrepreneurs credit their work ethic and attitude to the support and guidance of a mentor. A good mentor, usually someone who has been there and done that, will help you stay accountable and assist you in making sound decisions. Finding the right one can take time. But if you know someone who inspires you to want to pursue your dream business, they might be exactly who you need in your corner.
3. Get smarter and educate yourself
The basis of entrepreneurship is not necessarily to run in the opposite direction of education. Take some time to research and take up affordable or free online courses that will help you gain more knowledge. The most common courses startupreneurs usually opt for are content, digital and social media marketing courses, bookkeeping courses and business management programmes.
4. Research and read
You’ll probably realise as time goes on that research will always be part of your entrepreneurial journey. Familiarise yourself with the industry you’re venturing into and who your competitors are. Self-help books on topics like time management, putting together the perfect team, marketing for dummies, developing a winning mindset, etc. can be a great help and alternative to a formal course.
5. Use creative tools
This is why so many people love entrepreneurship, it’s innovation after innovation. A group of smart people have come up with many ways to help you create even smarter business plans in a quarter of the time it would take you to write a traditional business plan. These tools help you articulate your goals and form a consice overview of your business in a matter of minutes. A quick search of terms like Lean Canvas is all you need. Finding such tools will be the reward of your research. And if you are like us and Google every little thing, you’ll have no problem finding all the globally used treasures built for people like us.
When everything is said and done, a business plan, in all senses of the phrase, will remain vital to the success of many businesses. If you really think about it, the problem really doesn’t lie with a business plan in itself, the issue is style and presentation and what we choose to put in it. Aim to create a strategic plan that you’ll actually be able to use, adjust and refer to continuously. Business plans are not set in stone, few things really ever are. That is why (and thank goodness) there’s more than one way to go about it.