How can I write a business plan in under an hour?

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Answered by: Eva, An Expert in the Create a Business Plan Category
How can I write a business plan in under an hour?

Got an awesome idea for a brand new business? Been researching suppliers, competitors, startup costs- maybe even searching for office locations? Run your new idea by your friends and family? Chances are, you're in the honeymoon period of starting up your business. Those friends and family members likely egged you on, telling you how smart your idea is.

What they won't tell you is that you'll probably fail.

Even in parts of the world where small business infrastructure is great, the majority of new businesses fail. In the US, Forbes reports that eight out of ten new businesses fail within a year. In Australia, the ABS says 60% close within three years. Experts and industry commentators cite one main reason they fail: lack of planning.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably worked out that you need to write a business plan. Unfortunately, many of the templates and examples out there are overly complicated. Many will ask you to conduct complex analyses that require hours and hours of background research. Some have pages and pages of space for competitor research that may not be relevant if you’ve created a brand new product or service.

So where do you start? Well, to write a plan that’s efficient and effective, you need to know what it’s for. In these early stages, there are only three reasons to have a plan: to help attract financiers, to clarify your business structure, and to set goals. Remember, you can always come back and revise your plan when you’ve got more time and more information to work with.

With that in mind, here are the basic elements you need to cover in your plan. You should be able to get this done in less than an hour – and that includes polishing it up ready for presentation!

Business Name: Choose a name that’s simple, catchy, and accurately describes what you do.

Product(s)/Service(s): What are your core products or services? If you only have one (for now), that’s OK – just describe it briefly.

Key people: Who is going to be involved in the business? What are their qualifications? What relevant experience do they have? If it’s just you, provide a one-paragraph version of your CV.

Organisation: How is the business structured? For example, will there be a senior manager with area managers underneath them? Will the business simply be a platform (intermediary) for buyers and sellers?

Legal/licensing issues: What special licenses/permissions will you have to apply for? Do you need to register your business with a government authority?

Insurance: Does a regulator require you to take out compulsory insurance? Is it worthwhile taking out other business insurance?

The market: How large is the market for your product/service? Is your product/service a necessity, or a luxury? You should be able to keep this section under a paragraph.

Target audience: Who specifically do you want to target? Include as much or as little detail as you want. Think about their location, age, income, family situation etc. Basically, describe your ideal customer.

Advertising/sales: How will you advertise your product/service? How many people will you be able to reach that way? How many of those people will end up being customers? Importantly, how much will that advertising cost you?

Vision: What’s your ultimate dream for your business? For example, do you want your product to become a household name? Do you want your service to change the way a particular industry works?

Goals: What are your short, medium and long term goals? Don’t be afraid to keep these general – ‘vague’ goals actually help keep your plan flexible.

How to get there: How do you plan to reach those goals? Break down your goals in to bite sized tasks.

What to do before first sale: This is another way to phrase start-up costs. What do you need to do (and pay for) before you can open your doors/make your first sale? Write a dot point list, including things like permit applications, a website, stock, fit-outs, prototypes, and the cost of time off your job if applicable.

Projected income: How much money do you expect to make per week/month of your first year in business? Why do you think that’s a reasonable expectation? Note: banks will be particularly interested in this bit.

Other documentation: Do you have any other documentation you want to keep in mind while starting your business? For example, are there initial product sketches, service designs, market research information, published articles about your niche, etc.?

Congratulations on your new venture, and good luck – though with a smart, clear plan, you won’t need luck!

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