Should you use a template for business planning, or is it just too complex to do with a template?

There seem to be many subscriptions for 'live' business plans, as we found out in my Entrepreneurship class. I was wondering if you still need the business coach to look at it. 

Top voted answer
Stephanie Mellick

Stephanie Mellick, Accountant, Consultant & Strategist at

This is an excellent question!  For me, and the work I do with my clients, the answer is - there has to be some template/standardised parts to it, but the 'guts' of it has to be organic and client specific.  Also, these plans need to be upated constantly.  So it has to be a living breathing document that guides the decisions of the business owners daily.  

Jennifer Lancaster

Jennifer Lancaster, Director at

Thanks for your answer, this was what I was thinking too. I am working on the planning but have to complete market research and report first.

Stephanie Mellick

Stephanie Mellick, Accountant, Consultant & Strategist at

That's great to know! If you'd ever like to do a mastermind session on it or some brainstorming together one day, very happy to do so.

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Dave Clare

Dave Clare, Chief Rockstar Executive at Prophet For Purpose

What's the purpose of the business plan? Is it for bank or financing purposes? Otherwise, if you cant fit it on one page it's too complicated. Keep the plan simple. There are simple templates like the Business Model Canvas you can use. The work I have my clients do in this space can fit their culture, strategic, tactical and performance frameworks on 2 pages.

Einstein said "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. 

Know your business plan very well.

Cheers
Dave

Jennifer Lancaster

Jennifer Lancaster, Director at

Thanks also for your reply. In this case its not for financing but for a pitch, report, and grant application. Havent found anything simple so will be starting at scratch.

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Stuart Reynolds

Stuart Reynolds, Partner at

We work with lots of startups, and as a starting point, I want to mention that it *is* important to have a business plan in some form or other. 

But as some of the other responses have mentioned, the first step is to think about why you need and/ or want one. Begin with the end in mind, as they say, and you’re much more likely to create a business plan that will effectively serve its purpose. 

Having said that, to answer your question, I do think it’s a combination of both. 

That is, a template can provide a great starting point for a business plan. But it’s unlikely to cover everything you need - this is where you’ll need to customise it. 

I’m a fan of efficiency wherever possible, so if you can (quickly) find a template that serves your needs, it will help you shortcut the process. Writing a business plan can be arduous, so anywhere you can get support and help is worthwhile, in my opinion! 

If you’re writing a business plan that needs to appeal to investors, make sure it includes the relevant info in an easily digestible format. Investors want to know your business will have a good return for them - make that your focus. 

The supporting document should be a financial model. A solid financial plan should capture as much information about the business plan as reasonably possible – the team, the value proposition and technology, the market, milestones and the competition – and translate these into measurable, financial values.

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Greg Rogers

Greg Rogers, Founder and CEO at

Hi Jennifer,

I call that a 'google search question' simply by changing the wording slightly you can get whatever answer you need!

There are plenty that say the busines plan is one of, if not the most important document in business. Others will point out that there have been many a success story of a business plan scribbled on napkin.

For me it depends on the individual, what stage the business is at and what is the plan going to be used for.

Can't see the point of writing (and spending valuable time) a full blown business plan and then never referring to it again. Conversely try getting a loan from the bank for your new venture with your brilliant idea scribbled on a Coffee Club napkin!

There is no question that having your business mapped out, in some format, with time and thought put into key areas of the business makes perfect sense, even if it just becomes a baseline document for referral. Having said that like the business itself it needs to be an organic document, cos business, like life, is full of change. Change that you can and can't control.

A template can help because it make you look at the bigger picture and understand that there are elements to a business that perhaps you haven't considered. Creative types don't tend to spend time on planning the detail, the process, the logistics. Having a template that has a section titled business processes can be a valuable aha moment. Simiraly those focused on spreadsheets, cashflows etc need to understand that markting is important to.

So, it's not a one answer fits all.

The secondary question answer is similar to the first and where I see the biggest challenge with business owners (starting, new and existing) and business coaches. What's the end game?

It would make perfect sense to have your business coach look over your busines plan, but what are you looking to get out of that and are they the right person to do that.

I guess my summation leans toward one of my favourite phrases and philosophies for business....progress not perfection.

The perfect business plan does not make for the perfect business.

Hope some of what I have said helps.

Greg





 

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Brian Dorricott

Brian Dorricott, Business Specialist at

Top 10% Startup

Hi,

There is one question I'd ask first: Who is the audience for the Business Plan?

If it is a bank, there is a specific format and style that they are looking for.
If it is for board (advisers), then a single page is the best option since it is concise and to the point.
If it is for investors, there is another style and format.

The problem with templates is that they don't help with this question at all!

One useful thing to have is a checklist of all the things you should think about so that you can quickly scan the list and see if you've covered everything you need to consider.

Brian

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