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Whether you build gadgets, sell software or create a non-profit organization, your starting point is a vision, which turns into a plan of action. In business, your plan is the roadmap that will help you identify the answers to some of the most important questions about your business: what are you selling? How are you going to make money? Who will buy it? How will you reach these customers?
Related: The Essential Guide to Writing a Business Plan
Writing a business plan may seem daunting, but it’s not mandatory. It can be fun! Throughout my career, I have launched dozens of successful products – and each one started with a certain level of business plan. Because I have so many things to do, I never want to invest too much time in writing these plans, preferring to devote my time to the current strategy.
So how can I write my own business plans? I hack them, and so do you. Here are my five business plan hacks:
1. Start with a business model canvas.
I highly recommend that you start with a business model outline (Steve Blank’s blog is a great resource), especially if this is the first time you’ve written a plan. It is a tool to strategically design, invent and think about your business – all on one page. The exercises will help you identify the resources you will need and define the clients to contact. It’s a cool and effective way to think about all the key considerations when starting a business.
2. Keep it simple, with chips.
Once you have completed your business model outline, you will have a much clearer vision of what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and who you are going to serve. You can then transform your canvas into a plan. The business plans are more detailed and detailed. You will need one to share with investors if you wish to raise funds.
There is a section for each main area of reflection: product description, target market, sales, marketing, operations, team, etc. You will want to address who and how each component of your business. For example: who manages our marketing activities? What channels will we use to spread the message? What activities will be carried out in each channel?
It doesn’t have to be long. Too often, entrepreneurs lose the forest for the trees, and hang on trying to write a carefully written prose. Start by putting your ideas on paper in raw form as bullets in each area. You can worry about giving them a good sound and organizing them into paragraphs later.
After writing down your ideas, solicit comments from your advisers using a bulleted form. This will save you time by incorporating suggestions before locking in a careful formulation.
Related: How Can I Create a Business Plan? (Infographics)
3. Focus on differentiation where it counts.
When writing your plan, think about what will make your business and product or service different from your competitors. You will want to capture your unique offer, and your business plan should highlight this.
The good news is that while your offering may need to be different from your competitors, many key elements of your business plan don’t have to be. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or try to be different in every area. For example: with regard to your customer acquisition strategy or your logistics platform, you can do what everyone else is doing as long as no competitive advantage is readily available.
4. Don’t overdo it on cash flow projections.
It is easy to get caught up in the weeds when you are trying to create accurate cash flow projections. The purpose of your cash flow and profitability projections is not necessarily to show exactly what is going to happen; is to show how, under reasonable and successful circumstances, your business is positioned to make money and can afford to keep the lights on.
The purpose of your projections is to help you test your profitability assumptions, not to predict the future. So you have to invest time in it, but you don’t have to go crazy trying to be perfect. Make your assumptions, declare them and continue.
5. Hire a writer.
Certain parts of your business plan cannot be outsourced. Only you can decide what to do and who you want to serve. Fortunately, writing the text of your business plan is not something you have to do yourself. Once you have finished your outline and the bullets for the main sections of your plan, consider hiring a commercial writer if you are short on time or hate writing.
These people are relatively affordable and easy to find. I recommend checking Upwork or Freelancer. You can then go back and forth with the one you rent, to get it right. This can save a lot of effort.
The hacks I detailed above are designed to help you save time and focus on what really matters, such as identifying your customer segments and understanding how your business will make money.
Once your business starts operating, things will likely change anyway, so be efficient with your time. If you treat writing as a fun brainstorm on a living document rather than a daunting exercise, your effort will be inspiring!
Related: How to Write a Business Plan