Short, Simple and Sweet Business Plans

One of the most refreshing developments in the entrepreneur world is the emergence of the short business plan.

In the 80’s and 90’s it was all about the maxi plan – include everything that can possibly be calculated, and if you don’t the other guy will beat you. Our heads were filled with our SWAT analysis, and SCAN, and Strategic Plans and Mission Statements… as well as a swathe of facts and figures relating to our businesses. If you had it done for you it could cost up to $50,000. If you did it yourself, it could take months out of your life you’re not likely to get back.

A big business plan made the bank manager and investors more comfortable. The more detailed your plan, the more you had obviously thought about the venture you were about to undertake. The more possibilities and contingencies you had planned for, the more successful your new business was likely to be.

Well, in the 2000’s – as many people looked at their folders and spiral bound pages sitting on the shelf, unopened, people began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way. Something they could actually use. And so we started to see a whole bundle of short (sometimes super short) business plans.

It took Lifehacker to show many of us that it didn’t have to be this way, by drawing attention to  Wise Bread’s 4 point business plan. It is still big and messy. But it showed us that a smaller plan could still be useful. And perhaps more useful.

In How Come That Idiot’s Rich and I’m Not (which I can recommend, by the way – get it from Amazon), author Robert Shemen outlines the shortest of these I’ve found – an ultra light business plan that in 5 short stages. He says that he’s used it on every one of his successful businesses, and if it takes you more than an hour to do – you’re putting too much time into it.

These are the basic sections he thinks are important:

A Mission Statement

Robert thinks here you should put down your values, what you stand for. It is also a place for dream or vision, but importantly it is much more than about the money or ‘traditional’ success. Your values and vision will be the fuel that drives you forward – money and other things will follow.

An example:

“I want to make quality t-shirts, treat my customers well, and make an ethical profit.”

The Time Commitment

You might know where you want to go, but if you don’t get there straight away, you might quickly get disappointed. Therefore, he recommends that you write down the amount of time you will give it to succeed. Again, this will fuel you through many months of zero profit – perhaps many years. Don’t be surprised if it takes into your third year for a momentum to build – but things will start falling into your lap and you’ll be glad of the time you put to your dream.


“I’m, going to give myself 5 years to make this a success”.

Your Financial Goal

You should have some concrete financial goal – but just as importantly – a concrete method to get there.


“After three years I will be earning $60,000 through 1000 visitors a day to my online store”.

I’m pulling these numbers from the air, but you get the picture.

The Activities You Will Do

Everyone can have ideas – that’s the easy part. Translating it into and through the actual work, effort, and daily slog is where it gets tough. What will help here is a clear plan of what you will do.


“I’m going to come up with one new T-Shirt design a week. I’m going to get at least one new T-Shirt designer on my site per week. I’m going to spend a day a week publicizing my site, and selling at least twenty products per day.”

Your Schedule

This last part is so important, in the author’s view, that it is given even more detail here. A schedule can hardly be too detailed, in his mind. Robert says every ten minute block should be accounted for, but you might prefer hours or half days instead.


Personally I’d draw up a visual chart, but written it might look something like this:

One hour every evening, 11:00 – 6:00 Saturday, and 3:00 – 6:00 Friday.

For me, this way of thinking makes sense. I’d maybe juggle the order a little, putting my goal before my time commitment. And I’d flesh out the numbers if I was ever taking it to my bank manager. Also – you might want to have a good think to yourself about your plan first- for instance, in the example above, “Homemade t-shirts” are a competitive and saturated market online. But all in all, I can see myself using this much more than any other type of strategic thinking.

What essentials do you think you need in a business plan? And how lite is too lite?

One Response to “Short, Simple and Sweet Business Plans”

  1. Tom Humes says:

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

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