Sorry folks, but in my opinion the idea of a one-page business plan is nonsense. Promoting that simplistic approach may be great for selling books or getting people to read a blog post. However, as far as business planning goes, it goes against everything good planning is about.
If you are at all serious about starting a business or taking an existing business to the next level, the one-page approach is a crock. It encourages rushing through the process, guesswork, wishful thinking, and jumping to conclusions, rather than thoughtful planning.
A one-pager may be sufficient as an executive summary or to capture your initial ideas about your business, before you start developing the business plan. However, for thinking through all facets of what it’s going to take to make your business successful, and documenting this, it simply won’t do.
Business Planning Takes Time
There’s just too much to think about: market analysis, identifying your target market, what products and services to sell, at what price, how to stand out from the competition, how to create awareness and generate leads. You also need to think about operations, create sales forecasts, estimate startup costs, develop pro-forma financials, build a management team, and develop a hiring plan for new employees – just to name a few topics.
For an existing business, it may also be worthwhile reviewing the markets you’re and considering exiting a market that lacks growth potential or discontinuing an unprofitable product line.
Writing down your thoughts, analyzing “what-if” scenarios, and documenting your decisions on any of these topics can take a number of pages. A one-page summary with your final decisions, supported by 50 pages of all kinds of appendices with figures, charts, etc., can hardly be called a one-page business plan.
Thorough business planning is not a “fill-in-the-blanks” exercise using a business plan template downloaded from the web. Sure, you’ll end up with some kind of document. But will it pass the scrutiny of a serious investor, potential business partner, or bank executive?
The one-page business plan template approach also implies that you can create a business plan in just a couple of hours. Even for a small business, you need to take the time to think through your capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, the competitive landscape, your differentiation, and so on. It will take a couple of iterations before you get it right. Good luck doing that on the back of a napkin.
As the saying goes, it’s all about the planning, not the plan.
Planning prepares you for the future
Will everything go according to the plan? Certainly not. However, going through the planning process forces you to think about all aspects of the business. You’ll be thinking about the future, taking different perspectives, evaluating “what-if” scenarios, and developing contingencies for what may go wrong.
Just to be clear, I’m most certainly not advocating that business planning should take a year and produce a 50-page “thesis”. That said though, taking short cuts and fast-tracking the process will come back to haunt you. Bad planning can be worse than not doing it at all.
The most important aspect is the quality and depth of your thinking about the business venture and the key success factors. You need to conduct a thorough evaluation of what it’s going to take to give your firm the best possible start.
Obviously, you need to set clear targets for completing the business plan. Otherwise, you’ll go through endless tweaks and iterations. On the other hand, you want to give yourself the time to do it right. Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you have to in order to make the right decisions based on facts and hard data, not hunches or guesswork.
One-Page Business Plan? Don’t Think So!
That one-page business plan template approach? Doesn’t work, in my opinion. Good planning is just too important to rush through. Keep in mind, it’s your business we’re talking about.
So much for my two pennies. Looking forward to your comments.