How do I start a business plan? It’s a common question. And you can find lots of definitive answers. People answer with outlines, prescriptions, and recipes. Unfortunately, most of these misunderstand how people are different, and the way they approach the business plan ought to reflect that difference.
Let me explain with some examples of how your own preferences might determine the best way to start your business plan. See if you fit with one of these general patterns:
- Mission-driven. Some people tend to build the concepts first and go from there to the specifics. So they start with a general concept like a statement of purpose, often called mission. That’s a matter of words only, but it seems to work for some. The downside of this is that these are way too often just empty promise words, vague marketing hype, in which case they are pretty much a diversion, or waste of time. For more on this:
- Problem and solution. Starting with the problem the business solves, and how it solves it, can be a useful way to get going. These two are the core of strategy and market analysis. And don’t think of that problem too narrowly either. Many successful businesses address what people want – prestige, confidence, status – more than what they really need. For more on this:
- Strategy and tactics. Strategy is focus: I recommend a simple framework that considers the interaction between your identity (unique differences, strengths, goals, etc.), your market market, and your business offering. Then add tactics to execute, aligned with the focus. For identity: . For market: . For the three factors together:
- Numbers first. I’m one of these. I prefer to develop the sales forecast first ( ). Thinking about the sales forecast helps me to imagine the whole business, and to think about what will work and what won’t work. In fact, I often to the financial forecast all the way to cash flow, before working on the words and concepts. Numbers help me to think about the whole business. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I’m also sure a lot of people prefer to do concepts first.
Conclusion: Get started. Get going. Do first whatever seems easiest, or most natural, to you.