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It’s Time to Write Your Business Plan. Here's How to Make It Easier.

by
Deborah Gallant
June 25, 2024

You’ve been meaning to write a business plan, right? I’ve got great news for you: now is the perfect time to write a business plan for your small business. That holds true whether you’re reading this in January or July, and whether you’ve been in business for nine years or are just starting to kick the tires on the idea.

Actually, I have better news too: creating your business plan doesn’t have to be painful. The reality is that a 50-page document with every detail imaginable about your business is not what you want for all situations. In fact, the business plan you need could be just a page or two. 

We talk about business plans in Entrepreneurs Forever peer groups (if you’re thinking of joining, know that we talk about other topics too). So we asked one of our Pittsburgh-area facilitators, Doogie Levine, to give us the rundown on business plans. You can watch his entire presentation in the video above. We’ve also listed some key info from the presentation below.

Here's what Doogie told us:

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is basically a tool, and with any tool you have to know what your intent is before you use it. Just like a screwdriver can't perform the same function as a hammer, a pitch deck won’t get you bank financing. This is why different types of business plans — and the one you create — are extremely important.

4 Business Plans for Small Businesses

Rather than give you a laundry list of business plan types, I prefer to focus on just four main ones that are most helpful to small businesses.

  1. Traditional business plan. We've all seen these business plans — massive documents, 40-50 pages long, a detailed, comprehensive document that includes everything. If your business is less than 10 years old, you probably don’t need a traditional business plan, unless you’re seeking traditional bank funding. And check with your bank first: some are moving away from the traditional business plan requirement and using their own application instead.
  2. Operational business plan. Consider this your day-to-day tool. It’s the how-to manual for running your business and focuses on product development, employee management, budget, and business structure. If you create a system or a process for delivering something, a product or service, a way you want your employees to do it, document it. Having an operational business plan will also help if you ever need to create a traditional business plan. 
  3. Pitch deck. Think Shark Tank. A pitch deck is a pretty light business plan with a couple of important purposes: to present an idea to someone when seeking non-traditional financing; or as part of your sales process. Pitch decks are highly adaptive and frequently used by tech startups for non-traditional funding. The format is designed to invoke a conversation rather than answer every question someone might have. 
  4. Lean canvas / business model canvas. A business model canvas is designed for ideation. It’s a one page summary that typically takes between 10 minutes and an hour to fill in. Business plans like these are highly adaptive and frequently used by early-stage businesses. They also help guide deeper analysis. BTW, the business model canvas is where I recommend all small business owners start. Because even if you even really want to create a traditional business plan, by creating a business model canvas first, you’ll spend time thinking about key details of your business and surface potentially important issues you need to address.

Doogie goes into more detail on the types of business plans and answers questions about each, too, in his Forever Forward presentation, It’s Not Too Late to Write a Business Plan. Watch now and please make plans to attend future Forever Forward presentations too. We present one each month, and every Forever Forward workshop is free to any business owners, even if you’re not a member of an Entrepreneurs Forever peer group (although we’d love to talk to you about changing that – and membership is FREE too!).

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