Writing a business plan is an important step in starting a business. You might think of a business plan as a long, hefty document. Perhaps thinking of all that work discourages you? It shouldn't keep you from starting your business. There are alternatives to traditional business plans.

A business plan can be as short as one page or it can even be something more visual, like a chart. Different business plans serve different purposes but they contain a lot of similar information. What's important is that it contains information essential to a business plan. Keep your plan useful. Useful information could include:

  • A clear vision. What will you do and how will you be different from any competitors. What value proposition does your business offer?
  • A mission. Give an idea of what your business looks like when it's operating. How will your business model look in action?
  • Some goals. These should be measurable achievements, consistent with your mission, bringing you towards your vision.
  • A strategy. This can be both a map to meeting your goals and a place to take stock of your situation. What are your target markets, resources, costs and revenues? How do you reach out to customers and partners? What needs improvement?

Your answers don't have to be long but they should be thought out, and a business plan, long or short, never goes unchanged. It should adapt to the situation.

Shorter business plans can be useful for planning and pitching your business. But, it's not always appropriate. For example, if you're speaking with investors or a loan officer, they may want a traditional business plan as well. They will want more details to ensure you have considered the potential challenges that may arise while starting your business.

Writing a traditional business plan doesn't have to be your first move. You can start with a short plan. It helps you think through the challenges of your business and to see if your ideas will turn a profit. Once you've started your business, your plan can help you stay organized, focused, and it'll help you identify your next moves.