Are you running your own business or looking to start a new business? The lean business plan is an easy way to set down your strategy, tactics, milestones, and essential business numbers. Just do it for yourself and your team, with a few streamlined bullet points for strategy and tactics; plus lists of key milestones, tasks, assumptions, and performance metrics; and essential business numbers. Then review and revise it regularly and you’ll have your progress towards goals, and accountability.
Lean Business Plan in Four Steps
Strategy is focus. A lean business plan uses a few bullet points to remind yourself and your team of your focus on a well-defined target market, and how your business offering solves the problem your business solves for that target market, and how your unique business identity makes you different. Keep it in bullets, reminders you’ll use yourself.
Strategy is useless without tactics. In a lean business plan, tactics define your choices related to pricing, channels, website, mobile app, launch dates, features, benefits, messaging, media, promotion, platforms, locations, signage, financing, recruitment, bundles, and so forth. There is no reason to define all this in detail, or defend it for outsiders. Just decide and set it down as a bullet points. These are the core thoughts of marketing plan, product plan, and financial plan — but just what you need to do it. You don’t need elaborate text. Keep what you say about your tactics simple.
Three: Concrete Specifics
A lean business plan includes milestones to make your planning real. Milestones include dates, deadlines, tasks, responsibilities, and plan your budget and goals to reach specific milestones. List your important assumptions. Set dates for review and revision, plan vs. actual analysis, at least once a month. Set performance metrics you can track. Match every key task with somebody who owns it and lives with its results.
Four: Plan for Cash Flow
A lean business plan includes a sales forecast, spending budget, and cash flow. Profits don’t guarantee cash in the bank. Allow for time to wait for clients to pay, and money to buy what you have to before you sell. The purpose of forecasting is management not accurately predicting the future. Connect the dots so sales depends on drivers of sales like traffic, conversions, leads, closes, and so forth. Match sales forecast to projected spending on sales and marketing expenses.
Review and Revise Often
Always track results and review and revise often. What’s happened with the plan? Were assumptions valid? Was it executed?
Management is tracking results and revising as needed. Leadership is knowing when to stay the course and when to pivot.
Lean startup? Yes. Borrow the concept of minimum viable product and apply it to minimum business plan. Borrow the concept of small steps and frequent reviews and apply it to planning and management.
Nothing lends credibility like milestones met. Nothing says planning better than a revised fresh plan. Be a line, not a dot.
The Lean Business Plan is to Get Stuff Done
Times have changed. Don’t do a big traditional business plan but don’t throw out planning either. Do it right. Do a lean business plan. Your business deserves it. Focus, set priorities, highlight execution and specifics, manage cash. Get what you want from your business, whether that’s high-tech growth and funding or independence and peace of mind. It’s not about a plan; it’s about optimizing your life.
For more on this, I have a whole site dedicated to it at leanplan.com.