But, it doesn’t have to be. An easy way to start is with a one-page business plan or Lean Plan.
There’s really not much difference between a “one-page business plan, ” a Lean Plan, and a good executive summary. The only real possible difference is the that the “one-page plan” must absolutely fit on one page in a font that most people can still read, while a traditional executive summary 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.
The elements of a one-page business plan
Whether you want to call it a “one-page business plan,” an executive summary, or an elevator pitch, it should contain the following:
- Value proposition
- Market need
- Your solution
- Target market
- Sales and marketing
- Budget and sales goals
- Team summary
- Key partners
- Funding needs
A one-page business plan 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 business 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 to keep all your ideas on a single page.
Even if you’re not a startup, a one-page business plan can be an extremely helpful tool for documenting your business strategy. You can guarantee that your one-page plan will be read by your team and get everyone on the same page quickly.
Don’t forget, the content of your one-page plan is far more important than the formatting. Too many companies spend time focusing on 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.
Your one-page plan is a great jumping-off point to work on a detailed business plan. Once you have a summary of your idea figured out on one page, you’ll be ready to expand and provide more details in a more thorough business plan—if you need to write one. For some businesses, a one-page plan 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 investment, they’ll need to provide more details in a larger business plan.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2012. It was revised in 2018.