A brand new approach to writing a business plan

- September 21, 2005 2 MIN READ

A business plan is an essential documents that we are all meant to have, right? So why do so many solo professionals not have one? Here’s a new approach to writing a business plan.

The principle behind writing a business plan is to think strategically about how to grow our business, create new direction and organise our thoughts:

  • What am I going to do?
  • Why?
  • When does it all have to happen?
  • What resources will I need?
  • What could get in the way of success?
  • How can I minimise the chances of that happening?

The principal challenge with traditional business plans lies not in the content, but in their format.

The majority of business plans are static documents, comprised of lists and columns with actions and dates. There is a proportion of the population that like to manage their work in this way and they thrive on using the traditional business plan format. But the reality is that most soloists are entrepreneurial…and most entrepreneurs hate using lists! Lists don’t really reflect our way of thinking, creating or managing information.

Soloists need a process that reflects the flexible and dynamic way we approach business. It is this ability that sets us apart from our larger, slower competitors.

As an alternative, I suggest soloists try the project management approach. This method represents information in a much more flexible way, using mind maps or dynamic lists. Essentially your thinking is represented in small and large chunks, and grouped by area or ‘project’.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business plans section.

Let me demonstrate with a genuine example. I have a whiteboard which contains all of my current and planned activities split into three areas – this week, medium term and long term.

My overall aims and goals for the business are listed on the right side. These don’t change much, but they are always there in front of me to keep me focused on what is important. The middle of the board contains projects planned for the next three months or more, such as developing alliances and approaching magazines to write for articles. The left side contains the major activities to complete this week.

Every Monday, I think about what activity needs to happen to progress my medium and long term goals. These go in the weekly side of the board. I also include any other things that need to happen during the week, refreshing each list as I need to. During the week – if new things come up – they go straight up into the appropriate area.

You can use mindmaps in a similar way. Put your long term goals in the centre, your medium term goals along each arm, and the detailed activity as the final level. Then cross things off or add new ‘arms’ as things arise. You can group your activities by topic, immediacy or any other way that suits you.

The key difference with this method of managing your work is that:

a) It’s always in front of you, not locked up in a drawer;

b) it’s easy to add and subtract from the plan as you go, and

c) it’s actually practical and fun to work with.

You still need to think strategically, and be organised about your work. But you don’t need to feel guilty about not having a ‘traditional’ business plan!

If you’re not a list person, give this method a try. Chances are you’ll get a lot more out of it.