How to Write a One-Page Business Plan

Business plans can be long and complex, but they don’t have to be. In fact, a one-page business plan can often be better and more powerful than a traditional plan. Writing a one-page plan is also a useful exercise because it forces you to think critically about your business and get right to the point of what you’re doing.

Plan

Of course, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t create a standard business plan. You should. But a one-page plan does have some advantages a standard plan doesn’t have.

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The one-page business plan:

– Enables prospective investors and partners to quickly understand your business idea. Serves as a type of pitch document for your business, much like a beefed-up elevator pitch.

– Serves as a type of pitch document for your business, much like a beefed-up elevator pitch.

– Offers an approachable way to get your business plan in front of the right people in the form of a single sheet of paper, a single PowerPoint slide or a simple copy-and-paste email.

– Delivers a powerfully succinct message, enabling you to grab your audience’s attention and spur them to action.

– Forces you to condense your thoughts and explain yourself clearly. There’s no room to fudge or hide behind a torrent of words and numbers.

So, what do you need in your one-page plan? It’ll follow the same basic structure as a standard business plan but with certain aspects highlighted and others either shortened or omitted. We’ll take this piece by piece, focusing on the elements of a traditional business plan that you should also include in a one-page plan.

Market Analysis

Include a couple of sentences about:

• Primary target market segment
• Customers in target market
• Customer needs in target market

In your one-page plan, you need to focus almost exclusively on the segment of the market you plan to target. Leave the macro market information for a standard plan. Describe your market niche, keeping in mind that the more specific the target market, the better.

Also, save a few words for how you plan to differentiate your product when going after your target customer base (and note for the record that price is rarely an effective differentiator on its own).

Competitive Analysis

Write no more than two or three sentences about:

• Competitive products/services
• Opportunities
• Threats and risks

In your shorter plan, zero in on answering a few questions: Which products and services are most competitive to yours? Where will your product or service have the greatest opportunities? Where will you face the most serious threat? Remember to keep your answers short and to the point.

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Strategy

Focus a couple of sentences on:

• Key competitive capabilities
• Key competitive weaknesses

This where the brevity of a one-page plan becomes both difficult and useful. What you need to do here is crystalize why your business is going to be different from that of your competitors. It will be difficult to shave this section down into just a few sentences, but by doing so you’ll not only have a clearer idea of what you’re doing (and whether or not it makes sense), you’ll also potentially have a great elevator pitch.

Remember to focus on why your differentiation will matter to customers and to your audience. This has to be painfully clear and succinct. If it isn’t, rethink and do it again—or rethink your whole business model.

Products and Services

Write a sentence or two on:

• Positioning of products/services
• Competitive evaluation of products/services

Here again, you’ll want to lay off detailed descriptions and focus on differentiation. (That’s really a combination of “positioning” and “competitive evaluation.”) The point here is not get into deep technical detail—there’s no room for that—but to talk about what you’re bringing to market that nobody else is.

Marketing and Sales

Write a sentence or two on ONE of these, whichever is stronger:

• Marketing strategy
• Sales tactics

In your shorter plan, you’ll need to practice some discipline and focus on the one marketing or sales method that’ll be your calling card. Don’t scatter-shoot too much, even if you’re planning a multi-pronged approach; focus the bread-and-butter effort that’s going to drive the most results. Is it publicity? A top-notch sales force? Inbound marketing via the Internet? Describe what you’re going to do and—more importantly—how it’s going to generate revenue.

Operations

Write one or two sentences about ONE or TWO of the following, whichever is strongest or most relevant:

• Key personnel
• Organizational structure
• Human resources plan
• Product/service delivery
• Customer service/support
• Facilities

Take a look here at what might not necessarily be obvious. What are one or two things about your operations that will give you a competitive advantage? Great employees? Truly exceptional customer service? A state-of-the-art facility? Talk about those things. Again, play to your strengths, and stay focused. Just make sure that whatever it is will be a genuine differentiator for your business.

Six Ways to Get Your Productivity On Track

1Take a break.

Productivity

Productivity “We try to focus on the biggest task that needs to be accomplished, but if it’s not going as planned, you’re best off not spending too much time on it. Stop that process, take a step back, regain momentum, then start again.” — James Peisker, cofounder, Porter Road 

2. Dive in.

“I swim! It’s the best. When you’re underwater, you can think creatively and hear yourself think. I once designed a whole marketing program underwater — and won a not-so-shabby $25,000 cash award for it!” — Gabrielle Mullinax, franchise owner, FastSigns

3. Think small.

“I focus on travel arrangements. It’s a task that has a clear beginning and end and is easy to check off on a to-do list. Finishing even the smallest of jobs helps me clear my head. And since I do most of my business — travel planning myself, there’s always a trip that needs to be booked. If that doesn’t work, wine should!” — Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO, Artistic Tile 

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4. Breathe deep.

“I try to focus on my breathing and bring myself back to a head space where I am able to accomplish the task at hand. Listening to high-frequency music from artists like Deva Premal and David Sun also helps to lift my spirits and motivate me to get the job done.” — Holly Agassi, franchise owner, Denny’s 

5. Go with the flow.

“Unproductive days have historically been frustrating — until I realized that these are the times when my brain is unconsciously cooking up my next idea! Instead of being annoyed by my lack of concentration, I let my thoughts wander and try to feed my brain with new and exciting inputs. I trust my brain knows what it needs to do.” — Lindsay Wray, chief science officer, Eighteen B

6. Look to the past. 

“When I’m feeling unproductive, I’ll go back to old notes and brainstorm moments that I’ve kept throughout the years. Some are inspirational today, others are a laugh or a success point. But they motivate me to keep going forward.” — Charlotte Hale, founder and CEO, Plum Pretty Sugar