It’s 2015. It’s time to leave the 50-page business plan behind.
At GoFullSteam, we’re constantly scouring the internet for better ways to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. While we’ve found a lot of winners, sometimes we come across a doozy…
After stumbling upon a monstrous 7,000-word business plan template – that is, justthe outline – I decided it’s time to come out swinging: these documents have to die if we’re ever going to make it easier for businesses to get off the ground.
Supporting entrepreneurship isn’t just about funding, regulations, accelerators, and mentorship programs. It’s about understanding how entrepreneurs make decisions, as well as offering – and allowing – tools and frameworks that they’ll actually use to make smart choices along the way.
But let me be perfectly clear: novel-length business plans are not one of them.
As an entrepreneur myself, allow me to weigh in with six reasons why we need to end the tyrannical rule of the 50-page business plan.
1. They’re extremely intimidating.
In the earliest days of a new business, momentum spells the difference between speed and sputtering.
Asking entrepreneurs to fill out hefty templates does nothing but create exactly the type of to-do that prospective entrepreneurs will put off until they legitimize a reason not to do it at all. Sure, the most motivated of entrepreneurs will move forward in the face of any hurdle, but they’re not the demographic for whom we need to make business planning friendlier.
If we want incremental growth in the rate of entrepreneurship, we have to make the process accessible to more people, not just those who were going to do it anyway.
2. They’re out of date in a week.
Long-winded business plans are not the only way to help entrepreneurs plan their business; they’re just a best guess at what the future holds. And since no one can predict the future – not even our trusted Beyoracle – why do we ask entrepreneurs to write out thousands of words on what might happen?
3. They’re boring to write and boring to read.
If I wrote any more about this, we would all be bored.
4. They prioritize the academic over the practical.
Long-winded plans encourage quantity over quality. It’s time to judge entrepreneurs on the merit of their ideas and the clarity and brevity with which they communicate them.
The 50-pager doesn’t align the interests of the entrepreneur with those of his or her funders. It’s no better than asking for a 10,000-word essay when an executive summary would do.
If you’re still asking for long-winded plans, ask yourself this: If you could review an entire business plan in two pages, why would you choose to read any more?
5. A 50-page document doesn’t encourage rapid responsiveness
We’re not saying that entrepreneurs shouldn’t plan.
What we are saying is that entrepreneurs need dynamic, action-oriented frameworks to document their ideas, and implementation plans that leave room for unexpected surprises, unforeseen challenges, and fast-action responses.
6. Traditional business plans are the quintessential example of doing things the way they’ve always been done.
Why do we ask entrepreneurs to write out long-winded plans?
It’s definitely not because they’re the only way to ensure that the important details have been thought through.
We’ve made some headway. As one example, the Lean Canvas model offers a more dynamic planning approach, but SMEs – both technology-based and brick-and-mortar – need resources that combines flexibility and depth, from idea to implementation.
So where do we go from here?
We’ve reviewed countless templates and consulted with dozens of SME experts, lenders, and entrepreneurs. And we came up with a better way.
It really does take a village to raise a business, so we’ve designed a template with everyone in mind. The GoFullSteam Business Blueprint, our action-packed, two page template, blends the adaptability of the canvas approach with the fundamental building blocks of sound business planning.
Instead of broad headings, we’ve narrowed the sections down and covered each one in a 10-minute tutorial series. That’s right – 10 minutes. That’s all we needed to walk a business owner through articulating the problem they’re solving, identifying strengths and weaknesses in the founding team, describing and measuring the target market, highlighting key financial metrics, and visualizing the implementation plan in a Gantt-chart waterfall.
Not only can entrepreneurs plan and adapt more quickly, but lenders and investors can assess ideas and metrics at a glance.
We believe so strongly in this approach that we’ve made our blueprint available for free for everyone.
At GoFullSteam, we believe in action over administration, and making it easier for entrepreneurs to go from great idea to grand opening.
By: Emily Richardson