NAA iSeries: The one-page business plan

How much time do we waste thinking about a plan and not putting one into practice?

It sounds cliché, but a business plan is an entrepreneur’s secret weapon.

Simply put, a business plan is a written description of your business’ future. It explains your goals and outlines how you plan to achieve those goals.

When done properly, a business plan will provide a roadmap to success for your start-up or growing business. The simple act of putting pen to paper to write down your ideas and outline how the business will operate can be helpful in ensuring that you fully articulate your vision. It also helps to serve as a gauge for checking your progress as the business grows.

“We know that we ought to have a business plan, but how much time do we waste thinking about it and not actually putting it into practice?” says Sara Rose Bytnar, CAI, AARE. The third-generation auction veteran oversees all marketing efforts and customer relations at Beth Rose Real Estate & Auctions.
Creating the plan can seem downright daunting, yet Bytnar says it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need an expertly manicured or incredibly lengthy document to be successful. The best business plans are thorough and concise, which can all be accomplished in one page.

A successful one-page business plan should include the following three key elements:

● The first is the mission statement, where you summarize the organization’s purpose. Describe the values, goals, and culture of the company. Answer the questions “What business are we in?” and “What is our business for?”

● The second is the vision statement, this segment provides strategic direction and describes what you want the company to achieve in the future. What do you want to provide to the customer? These goals should be specific and straightforward while striking a balance between ambitious and achievable.

● Finally, an evaluation element should provide the framework for focusing on the strengths of your business and minimizing potential threats.

Bytnar recommends using the SWOT Analysis as your evaluation tool in your business plan. Created in the 1960s by a management consultant, the acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is a solid tool for successful long-term planning and growth.

Let’s look at each step:

Strengths – A company’s capabilities. Ask yourself what can you do well and how do you stand apart from competitors? Examples include a strong brand name or a good reputation among customers.

Weaknesses – Where can you improve? A high cost structure or poor reputation among customers would be examples of weaknesses. Try to clearly identify what your business may be lacking.

Opportunities – This is where you identify areas of potential profit and growth in your market. Are there unfulfilled customer needs or new technologies available to tap into for example. Can the perception of your business be positively improved?

Threats – Outline the changes that present a risk to the company. Has there been a shift in client taste? Types of threats can also include things like new regulations or potential competitors. Is there anything decreasing your profits?

Once you have created your working business plan, you can use it as a springboard for digging deeper. Ask for advice. Review, revise, and add as necessary. Consider expanding your business plan with Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These are measurable values that demonstrate what you can do to achieve your business goals. Take a look at your business plan at the end of the year and assess your achievements and progress.

“I challenge you to start today,” Bytnar said. “Take 15 minutes and jot some ideas down. Business planning is a long-term commitment. You’ll need to start harvesting those ideas and data so you can make good decisions.”