The first questions to ask yourself is why you are writing one in the first place. If it is only for yourself keep it short. If it is for partners or investors, dive deeper, but depending on your business, you do not need a 20–40 page document that spells out every detail of what you are going to do before you really have any exposure to the market. No one wants to read that anyways. Plans of that length usually tend to ramble on and show no real thought. Because you don’t know what you are doing, they are probably copy and pasted from ones that you think may sound good.
The key to a great business plan is knowledge, analysis, and true understand of everything you have written and everything that is between the lines. You have to have the research, analysis, and critical thinking behind that plan to provide real depth to anyone that actually needs to see a business plan and is going to be asking you a lot of questions about it.
I have spent a lot of time analyzing and putting together a process I have used as a Special Forces (SF) soldier to understand the battlespace or environment in which my my team was going to be operating. This includes all the threats (risk) to my team both by other entities in the area, but also the environment itself. Their lives may depend on what I know or what I don’t. Business is the same. Your business depends on this knowledge. Want to hedge your risk? Know what the hell you are doing.
Here are the basics of analysis I used in SF and have adapted for business:
1. Define the borders and domain of your operational environment. What is the area in which you will be operating? What is the desired end-state? What is your area of interest (any surrounding markets that will affect your market)? What domain will you be primarily operating in, physical or cyber? Define the concept of the business using the five interrogatives: Who? What? Where? When? Why?.
9. Move forward. This means organize all these thoughts and write this all down. Basically, you are writing your business plan. All investors, and maybe customers, will want some sort of plan with the knowledge behind it to answer any questions from the top of your head. More importantly though it will give you the confidence to move forward, especially when it gets tough because you truly believe. It will be much harder to build doubt in you if you have gotten this far and still believe. Even more powerful though is when this research uncovers more weakness in the market that you will be filling and you can build that into your plan!
Now that you have that complete, apply all that knowledge to the basics of what every business does:
- What are you going to bring to market?
- What is the problem you solve for customers? (need or desire)
- How much will you charge for it (fair price) and why?
- How will you get it to your customers?
- What will you do and how to be profitable?
The plan you create can be short but the knowledge behind it will bring confidence to anyone that you know what you are doing with clear direction and confidence. If they need to see your business plan, you better know everything about it.
There is so much more to it. I am writing a book on this subject to give people a real model to follow. Hope this helps,