Skip the 40-page business plan

Ignore the conventional wisdom that you absolutely must write a detailed, lengthy business plan before starting your company. Not so. It’s impossible to predict how much money you’ll be making three months from now, let alone three years from now, so don’t waste your time guessing. Similarly, if you wait until every I is dotted and every T is crossed, you’ll be stuck in planning mode forever. Create a one-pager that addresses exactly what you need to know and what you must do to get going right now.

1 – What primary product(s) or service(s) will you provide?

(When you’re just starting, keep it simple. Offer one or two specific products or services; don’t get buried in offering 30 different things since you’ll wind up being weak in all of them instead of strong in just one of them.)

2 – What will you charge for your products(s) or services(s)?

(Your pricing should not only cover your actual hard costs, but it must include a profit for you as well.)

3 – What does it cost you to deliver this product or service?

(Take into account the direct and indirect costs you’ll incur to run this business.)

4 – How many pieces must you sell or how many clients must you secure to generate the revenue you desire?

(This step is important to help you see the reality of your business. For example, let’s say you’re selling a necklace for $10 and the profit is $5 per piece. You want to make $1,000 per week in profit. That means you must sell 200 necklaces per week. If a necklace sells for $20, with a $10 profit, you’ll have to sell half as many per week to make the same profit. Lower priced products and services will require larger sales volume to reach the same profit, which doesn’t mean you should sell only expensive things, but it speaks to the importance of pricing and understanding your sales model.)

5 – Who is the target market for your product(s) or service(s)?

(What do you know about your ideal client or customer? Demographics and psychographics are equally important.)

6 – Why will they buy from you?

(What is it about your product or service that will cause your target market to want or need it? What benefits does it offer? What need does it fill? What outcomes does it deliver? Why will they buy from you over your competitors?)

7 – How exactly will you reach your target market to sell to them?

(What’s your specific marketing plan? Just getting your name “out there” won’t bring the customers “in here” where you need them. Where exactly can you find your ideal customers? Where are they online? Where can you connect with them in person? For example, if you’re selling bookkeeping services to local restaurants, you’re not going to tweet about that or post flyers in a church and expect the phone to ring. You’ll likely have to go door to door in our neighborhood during off hours to meet with owners about what you can do for them. Figure out exactly how you’ll engage in conversations with your target market.)

8 – How will you get going right now with your currently available resources? What do you absolutely need that you’ll need help with?

(You may want to invest in a fancy office, special equipment, a dedicated staff, and all kinds of other stuff, but if you don’t have the cash for that now, those aren’t options. Rethink your immediate business model to accommodate what’s possible right now given your existing resources. If there are specific things you’ll need such as a website that you’re completely uncomfortable creating on your own, how will you get this done by bartering or very low costs? Find creative solutions, not barriers or excuses.)

9 – What could stand in your way of generating sales—and how will you overcome such obstacles?

(Play devil’s advocate here to make a list of the reasons you may not be successful. This could include existing or new competitors, a fear of selling on your part, pricing or product details that are mismatched with customer needs, inadequate marketing plans, etc. How would you overcome these or other barriers that may stand in your way of success?)

10 – What benchmarks must you reach to qualify your business as a success?

(Identify exactly what success looks like to you by figuring out what must happen for you to feel confident that you have a hit on your hands. Is it a certain number of customers in the first three months? Is it a specific amount of revenue in the first three months? Your benchmarks should be measured in money whenever possible. Creating a website or printing business, while necessary elements, aren’t measures of business success on their own.)

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