Many people consider business plans to be a necessary evil.
Startup business plans take a long time to write, they aren’t fun to read, and do you really even need it?
The answer used to be a resounding “yes,” but opinions are starting to change. So how do you decide if your startup needs a business plan?
What Is A Business Plan?
According to Investopedia, a business plan is “a document that defines in detail a company’s objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals” and it includes an executive summary, information about your product or service, a market analysis, a marketing plan, and a financial plan. Basically, they’re a fairly boring document about what your company is attempting to do and how it plans to do it.
Why You Might Want A Business Plan
Writing a business plan is a good way to force yourself to take a serious look at your startup. What are your goals? Who are your competitors? Who is your target customer? How are you going to make money? Taking the time to sit down and write all this out can give you a clearer idea of you what your startup really is.
A business plan also forces you to strategize. Who are you marketing to and how will you reach them? How fast can your startup realistically grow? How much capital do you need to get going? You need to think about all these things and more as you write your plan.
As you start to think about these things you are going to realize how realistic your business goals are – or aren’t. While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, investors are going to want something concrete and achievable.
Plus, presenting such a carefully considered plan shows potential investors that you’re really serious about your startup.
Why You Might Not Need A Business Plan
With a startup, nothing is set in stone. Your startup may undergo drastic changes in its first few years. Because of that, a business plan can be extremely limiting and may even stunt your startup’s growth.
Business plans can be lengthy documents and they take a lot of time to write. That time can seem like a waste when you realize you could have spent it pitching, networking, or developing your product. They take a while to read, too, and chances are that no one is going to read it all the way through.
Many investors don’t even want to see your business plan. They probably won’t take the time to read it. Maybe they’ll even think you wasted your time writing it when you could have improved some aspect of your product or service.
Alternatives To The Business Plan
Many investors and entrepreneurs say that you really only need a 10-slide pitch deck to explain your startup, your offering, and your market research.
Others suggest the Lean Canvas, a one-page document outlining your plan and your market analysis.
Basically any short but thorough way to explain the problem you are trying to solve, how you intend to solve it, what your market is like, and what your business is, is a decent substitute for a business plan. Certainly, they aren’t as in-depth as a normal business plan, but that can be a benefit to new startups that need to stay adaptable.
If you do choose to go the route of a traditional business plan, keep in mind that you can revise it as the market changes and you adjust your business goals. You shouldn’t be rewriting it every few months, but if you’re two years into a 3-year plan and find your startup changing directions, you’re allowed to change some or all of your business plan.
On top of all of this, a lot will depend on your industry and the investors you are trying to attract. Old-school investors are more likely to want to see a business.
Ultimately though, you are really the only one who can decide if your startup needs a business plan.