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Business Plans Made Easy

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We just finished the fifth Unreasonable Institute—another year working with amazing entrepreneurs who are solving the world’s greatest problems. Our job is to provide an Unreasonable advantage, and we do that by introducing them to mentors and funders who can give them wings. This year, we also conducted a business-planning workshop at the end of the institute. This was designed to give a structure to all of their plans and provide a roadmap for the next 18 months.

You might be surprised to know that many entrepreneurs, including our Unreasonable ventures, lack clear business plans. In many cases, they have lots of great goals—and myriad tactics for accomplishing them—but no cohesive plans that they can share.

Creating a business plan can be intimidating, because doing so shows how much work lies ahead. Tweet This Quote

Why? I think it is a bit intimidating to put all the pieces in one place, because doing so shows how much work lies ahead. It also forces prioritization of efforts (and who doesn’t want to do everything!) and exposes gaps in logic. Sometimes it seems easier just to muscle through the work at hand. But developing a business plan is easier and faster than you think, and it will help you see your path much more clearly. You probably have all of the components; they just need to be put together in a way that makes sense to others.

Start with a summary of your entire venture by answering these questions:

  1. What is the mission of your initiative? (e.g. to alleviate sexual harassment in Egypt)
  2. How do you achieve that? (e.g. we have patrols on college campuses and teach self-defense)
  3. What have you accomplished to date? (e.g. we have 600 volunteers at 30 colleges and have taught 50 self-defense courses to 1,000 young women)
  4. What is your goal for the next 18 months? (e.g. to reach 100 campuses and impact 10,000 women)
  5. What gaps are in the way of you achieving this goal? (e.g. need $100,000 in funding for salaries and office space)
  6. What are your strategies (overall approaches), tactics (detailed initiatives) and milestones (markers for staying on schedule and measuring progress)?

The last question can best be addressed in the form of a spreadsheet or Gantt chart. Create a timeline horizontally across the top and tactics vertically down the side. Milestones match each tactic with a date. Go into great detail, week by week, for the first six months, and then just monthly highlights for the last twelve. This will give you a detailed execution plan for the short term and a high-level view of your project for the longer term.

Shoot for something between 10 and 20 pages. Shorter than that, and you’ve probably skipped some essential steps or information; longer, and you’re probably overdoing it. The web abounds with templates for and examples of good business plans, which can be a good way to gauge your own format and tone.

Give it a try. It really is this easy!

 

Jane Miller

About the author

Jane Miller is the CEO and founder of JaneKnows.com, a career advice website, and author of Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success)....

Jane Miller has written 10 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • Jane Strode Miller

    One of the best reasons to have this document in hand is this: you never know when the opportunity will arise to pitch your business to an investor or other interested party.

  • zmmarti1

    Article like this will be eye opening to many people. There are a lot of people up there thinking about starting their Business, however they do not think about the importance of planning ahead, what is really inside of the structure of a business and all the things that they should be thinking about internally, not just about the outcome. These 6 questions will help them to act correctly and have a successful business.

  • Spencer SooSeok Kang

    I strongly agree with her because when I keep thinking about my future company, there is no answer for that and it is intimidating. she mentioned in her article that “Creating business plan can be intimidating because doing so shows how much work lies ahead.” it is so true but questions that she gave me was helping me not think of negative side of my future, it just try to focus on positive sides. Great article. I like it.

  • Aarynn Bosshart

    Your article is very inspiring because it proves anyone with a great idea can see it succeed if they are dedicated to the process it takes to get there. I’ve had many big ideas that I think could help make a positive difference in this world, but my problem is I feel like I do not have the time, resources, or support that I need to make it happen. Then my ideas simply vanish away over time. I wonder how many creative world changing ideas are out there that simply have not been written down. I think it would be neat to have a college course designed to write the suggested 10-20 page document you encouraged us to write in this article.

  • Kay

    This article inspired me very mush, because before I read this article, I believed that all entrepreneur and people who success in business have clear plans for their success. I’ll definitely try to answer those questions!

  • sirussteele

    I’m glad this was posted and was clearly understandable on what to talk about and how. The plan does not just involve telling people how to get investors but it shows how to go about creating your business or solution in a effective time line.

  • altruax0

    Awesome, this article is very short but informative. This article does a good job summing up what a business plan is. I like that there is not a template specified because each business will have to answer these questions in their own way instead of following strict guidelines from a template or book.

  • Michael Diaz

    Business plans don’t need to be complicated. Simple business plans can be the most effective.

  • ReneeKirch19

    Though my focus in life is not business, I found this article to be very interesting, thank you for sharing! I think the steps that you mentioned would be quite beneficial to anyone who is interested in designing a plan. It is very important to plan ahead and create a goal regardless of what it is for. Like it was mentioned before, a plan doesn’t need to be complicated, even a simple plan with a clear set goal could be extremely effective. Do you find yourself creating plans and setting goals with most things you do?

  • Jessica White

    Starting a business can be a truly daunting task. This article breaks it down to help a new business owner really focus on their goals. Once these are established, its easier to branch off of these goals to look into the details. The 6 questions will help them stay focused and really look at the task at hand. I’ve been thinking of starting a small business myself. This gave me someplace to start to get my goals down and figure out what pieces of the puzzle I am missing.