If you’ve been putting off writing your business plan, you are not alone. Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task and an easy one to avoid.
But, it doesn’t have to be. An easy way to start is with a single-page business plan or Lean Plan.
Advantages of a one-page business plan
Narrowing down your business idea to a single page is a good exercise. It’s also a more useful way to create a viable business plan in under an hour. Still not convinced? Here are a few other benefits to starting with a single-page plan.
It’s faster to create and iterate
A one-page plan is designed to be done quickly and easily. The short format ensures that you don’t get too caught up in developing a lengthy explanation of your solution, and instead forces you to keep moving through the sections of your plan.
It’s also a plan that’s not meant to be perfect, meaning you’ll likely revisit it. Luckily, keeping everything to one-page makes it fast and easy to update or adapt specific sections or even your entire plan.
It provides the clearest picture of your business
There will be plenty of moments over the life of your business where you need to streamline your messaging. From advertisements to pitching to investors, you need to be clear and concise in order to get people on board. That can be difficult to do if you start with overly lengthy explanations of the different elements of your business.
This is why a one-page plan can be so beneficial. It encourages you to keep your descriptions brief and to think more critically about what you need to say about your business. You can always build up from there.
How does a one-page plan differ from other business plan formats?
There’s really not much difference between developing a business plan on one page, a Lean Plan, and a good executive summary. The only real possible difference is that if you set out to write a business plan on one page, it must absolutely fit on that one page and must be in a font that most people can still read. A traditional executive summary, on the other hand, can extend to two or three pages, but really should never be longer than that.
If you can condense your executive summary to one page, that’s great. Investors don’t have lots of time to read and a one-page executive summary will get the idea of your business across succinctly. It’s actually a very good exercise to trim down your executive summary to the absolute minimum. This will force you to trim needless words and communicate your business idea clearly and with minimal clutter.
In many ways, a one-page plan serves as the perfect starting point for developing a Lean Plan. Starting with one-page ensures that your points are brief, clear, and to the point. It also helps you identify what sections you need to elaborate on, whether it’s your milestones, operations strategy, or financial forecasts. Once you start expanding and iterating on those elements, you’ve transitioned from a single-page plan to a Lean Plan.
Who is a one-page business plan intended for?
Single-page business plans aren’t meant for just one type of person or business. They can actually be viable in multiple scenarios. Here are just a few business types that can benefit from starting with a simplified business plan:
Building a business plan on one page is ideal for companies that are in the early stages of figuring out how their idea might work. Instead of spending days on a detailed business plan, working through a simple, one-page plan will provide a solid overview of the business in a format that’s easy to change and adjust.
As you learn more about your business and figure out how your idea is going to work, you’re going to be making lots of changes to your plan. So it’s much better, and easier to keep all your ideas on a single page.
Startups and pre-revenue businesses
Experimentation and testing are at the core of most startup organizations. It helps keep your organization agile, innovative and reduces risk. A traditional business plan doesn’t really allow for that methodology to thrive — it’s too hard to update and takes too long to write. But starting with a single page provides the flexibility to explore multiple options for your business.
The most important thing is to discover your ideal business strategy. A one-page plan helps you do that and can easily transition into a more refined Lean Plan when you need to outline financials, milestones, and other elements in greater detail.
Even if you’re not a startup, a single-page business plan can be an extremely helpful tool for documenting your business strategy. You can guarantee that your business plan will be read by your team and get everyone on the same page quickly. Allowing you to spend more time on budgeting, forecasting, and tracking your key business numbers.
In many ways, you actually have a leg up on startups when developing a simple one-page plan. You already know your business, you have actual financial data to input, and can kickstart the process of tweaking and refining your strategy while measuring progress toward your goals.
Expanding your business is incredibly similar to starting one. You’re either launching in new locations, seeking new customers, or even launching a new product or service. And you can use your business plan to effectively plan for the expansion.
Think of it as a checklist for success. You’ve already used it once to launch your original business. With the right tweaks and focus you can use it again. Or if necessary just start fresh, after all, it’s only a single page.
How do I write a simple business plan?
When sitting down to write your business plan, there are a few things you can do to simplify the process.
Outline the elements of a single-page business plan
First, outline the elements you need to include in your plan. These are the broad buckets that should be addressed whether you want to write a business plan on one page, an executive summary, or a Lean Plan. The elements you need to cover include:
- Value proposition
- Market need
- Your solution
- Target market
- Sales and marketing
- Budget and sales goals
- Team summary
- Key partners
- Funding needs
Knowing these pieces upfront ensures that you won’t miss any key components as you write your plan. It also helps enforce how much room you actually have to work with when writing out each section. If you’ve only covered four components and almost have a full page, you may need to simplify things.
For more detailed instructions on how to fill out these sections, be sure to check out our step-by-step guide.
Stick to bullet points and short sentences
To help avoid the need for cutting material out of your plan be sure to stick to bullet points and single sentences. This is meant to be a streamlined strategy guide for yourself, your team, and any third party that needs to understand your business. So, at this point, it doesn’t need to be overly detailed, and eventually, you can elaborate on specific sections if necessary.
A good rule of thumb is to treat each section as a single tweet. How would you describe your value proposition in just 280 characters? Can you explain what marketing channels will you be using in just three bullet points? Challenge yourself here, and try to streamline your messaging as much as possible. It’s always easier to expand on something rather than having to cut elements out.
Focus on the content
Don’t forget, the content of your business plan is far more important than the formatting. Too many companies spend time focusing on the presentation and graphical display of their plans when what they are saying and how they are saying it is really the most critical aspect of your executive summary. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to have an ugly presentation, but focus on the content more than anything else.
Remember that you can always come back
If you’re in the early stages of your business you may not have exact ideas of who your larger team will be, what milestones you’ll need to hit in three years, or even an accurate expense budget. That’s perfectly ok.
This one-page plan is meant to be an exercise for you to establish the core elements of your business. It doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to have every single thing laid out. Just the general elements that can give you, and anyone else, a clear picture of what your business is and does.
Start crafting your one-page business plan
Writing a business plan on one page is a great jumping-off point to work on a more detailed business plan. Once you have a summary of your idea figured out on one page, you’ll be ready to validate, expand and provide more details in a more thorough business plan—if you need to write one.
For some businesses, a simple plan written on only one page might be enough. Especially if you’re just using it internally and don’t need to share lots of details with outsiders. For other businesses, especially those trying to get loans and investments, they’ll need to provide more details in a larger business plan.
If you need help putting together a simple business plan that you can fit on one page download our Lean Business Plan Template. Or, if you’re looking for a more modern business planning option, you may want to try out a tool like LivePlan. It will walk you through every planning step and help you develop a plan that grows with your business.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2012. It was updated for 2021.