When it comes to business plans, less can be more. Sure, if you’re making a full-blown presentation to potential investors or applying for a loan or line of credit from a bank, required documentation can dictate a hefty sheaf of papers. But paring all that information down to essentials that will fit on a single page can provide you with a concise touchstone you can use to help keep your business on track and to provide others with an accurate snapshot of who you are and what you do.
“The one-page business plan is a great way to guide partners, investors, and stakeholders about how the business creates, delivers, and captures value in a way that makes assumptions clear, says Ben Williams, founder and managing partner of Sort Sol Group, LLC, a business model design consultancy. In addition, the process of creating a one-page business plan may shine a light on new opportunities you hadn’t thought of before. “Writing a business plan is an opportunity to explore your business and its market to potentially find new and better ways to do things--without risking too much time and money,” says David Mercer, founder of SME Pals, which provides resources to start-up entrepreneurs.
At its heart, a one-page business plan is an ad for your business. “As with any ad, you’re trying to convince someone that a product or service is right for them,” says Marc Prosser, co-founder of Fit Small Business, a provider of buyer’s guides and reviews for business services. “In this case, you need to convince them your business is the right investment opportunity for them.”
Tyler Brooks, founder of boutique marketing and digital strategy firm Analytive, suggests organizing a one-page business plan under four main headings that answer specific questions:
- Fundamentals. What is the product/service? Who is going to buy it? How much does it cost? Are there other ways to make money in the business? What does success look like for this business? Who else is involved in this business, and what will they get?
- Marketing. How will people learn about the product/service? How will we know if we’re doing the right marketing?
- Execution. What tools and materials do we need? Can we get a prototype quickly? What are the biggest risks to the business?
- Finance. How many customers do we expect the first year? How much will it cost to make the product or provide the service? How much money will this give us?
Susan Naftulin, president and owner of Rehab Financial Group LP, which provides funding to real estate investors, reviews hundreds of business plans a month and encounters one glaring problem over and over again. “The vast majority do not provide clarity on what the writers are trying to do or provide any specifics on how they plan to accomplish their goals,” she says. “Not being able to succinctly and logically explain how your business will be profitable is a deal breaker.” The best one-page business plans are those presented in a format similar to a resume, with the goal clearly stated at the top and bullet points broken out into logical groups, she contends. “It is my position that it should be prepared in-house and be a reflection of the abilities and work quality of the people asking for something through the business plan.”