Writing a business plan – how do you actually do it without pulling your hair out?

Written by Pauline Bright on February 23rd, 2018
The Perfectly Simple Business Plan

It’s so easy NOT to do a business plan.

Initially, I didn’t do plans for lots of the businesses I owned. I wanted the “freedom” of being a lifestyle business owner, doing what I liked instead of having to commit to a set plan.

Ha – I can laugh now!

But in the back of my mind I always knew that there had to be more to running a small business than only doing the things I liked or was competent at.

I was doing the classic 3 “D”s of business plan avoidance. Maybe you recognise them?

  1. Dodge it – it’s too hard, I don’t know how to do it
  2. Deny it – I don’t need one I’ll just keep bouncing along
  3. Demonise it – will it be written in blood? What if it doesn’t work?

Once I got serious about writing a business plan, I started looking for ways to do it, but everything I came across sounded dry dusty and boring. It seemed overwhelming, and the advice I was getting was “just do it” – “But HOW do I do it?” I kept asking.  Surely this should be enjoyable? I was creating my bright future.

Finally I decided, like most things in my life, that if I was going to write a plan that made sense to me and got me excited about my business and the direction I wanted to head in, I’d just have to make my own process.

More about that in a minute.

Let’s talk about you and The 5 Necessary and 1 Optional Steps to Writing a Business Plan

Here’s the thing – you are writing a plan for YOUR future; if it’s not exciting and compelling, if it doesn’t make you jump out of bed each day eager to get at it then there’s something wrong.  Check point 2 below.

How do you tackle writing a business plan without getting overwhelmed?

Let’s ferret around in your head to flush out ideas and thoughts.

If you’re a visual kind of person capture it on paper or on a compute; can it be doodled, drawn or mind-mapped? Use this process to dump down ideas with no commitment yet to time or sequence.  You might not get to use everything.

Once you’ve got some ideas down start teasing it out into 1 to 5 year time slots. You can’t do everything at once; multitasking rarely works. You can’t predict the future, but you can make projections and educated guesses backed up with any data you have.

Begin by breaking it down to bite sized pieces so that you do one thing at a time.

Start with these five steps and then the optional step.

(OR… cut to the chase and scroll down for the shortcut)

  1. What’s the purpose, the main objective of writing a business plan? Start thinking about the lifespan of your business: why you’re in it and who you serve. Is it a long term proposition or are you cashing in on a fad? Could it be a jumping – off point for other business ideas. Will you keep it or sell it? Your ideas may change over a period of time but start with a direction.
  2. Who is the plan for? Primarily it’s for YOU to help you identify the opportunities available to you and the obstacles you could encounter. Don’t do a business plan to impress someone else, do it honestly and authentically for yourself then, if you need finance or partners, you can confidently submit it to someone because you’ve taken time to think about every aspect of your business.
  3. How long will it take to write the plan? That’s up to you and what you have the time and patience for. Don’t get too detailed but also don’t skip over important parts. Decide on a timeline for completion, set dedicated time aside and then dive into it. It could take you a few hours or a day or two.
  4. Gather your resources. Have financial reports to hand and any other information you have about your customers, marketing etc. They will help you make informed decisions about goals, targets and strategies.
  5. What should NOT be in your plan? Things will change as you implement strategies so you want your plan to be flexible enough to go with the flow. Getting into too much micro detail for the long term could trip you up. Set intentions and lean into your plan rather than make “absolute must” statements. i.e. “We must be the number 1 supplier of x product by x date” will make you stressed and overwhelmed.
  6. (Optional step) Taking action – the 90 day plan. You’ve looked into the future, now bring it closer to home. How much of your plan can you realistically accomplish in the next 90 days? Then take off your super-man/women cape and adjust the number of strategies you can work on – maybe even halve it!

Now you could try and work all this out for yourself, like I did…

BUT would you like the shortcut?

I wanted my plan to be easy to do and I wanted checkboxes and questions I could answer without having to do a business degree.

On top of that, I wanted options and I wanted it to cover all the bases and, because I found other people in business who were as confused as I had been, I started to teach my method.

I called it The Perfectly Simple Business Plan because it made sense to me and lots of the other small business owners I talked to as well.

So far I’ve taught it live and in person for many business owners and organisations including several Chambers of Commerce, business networking groups and Business Women Australia.

And every time I taught it I refined it to fit the questions I was being asked.

Doing live workshops limited my capacity to share it with more people so I created an online version of the Perfectly Simple Business Plan.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get things done effectively and efficiently – you might like my Perfectly Simple Business Plan template. CLICK HERE. You can get it half price here using the code 50OFF but only until the 18th March 2018. Then the price goes back up to $97.

Enjoy! And I welcome your feedback.