If you’ve been putting off writing your business plan, you’re not alone. Writing a traditional business plan can seem like a daunting task, and lots of entrepreneurs avoid it for this reason.
But it doesn’t have to be. An easy way to start is with just one page.
What is a one page business plan?
The one page business plan is a simplified version of traditional operational plans that focuses on the core aspects of your business. While it may be a shorter business plan, it still follows the structure of a standard business plan template and serves as a beefed-up pitch document.
There’s really not a lot of difference between a single-page business plan, a Lean Business Plan, and a good executive summary.
The only real possible difference is that a single-page plan must absolutely fit on one page in a font (11 or 12 pt type) that most people can still read. A Lean Plan can be slightly longer but still uses summaries and bullet points, while a traditional executive summary can extend to two or three pages—and it will usually use full sentences rather than bullets.
However, by starting with a one page plan, you give yourself a minimal document to build from, making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer form business plan.
The benefits of a one page business plan
There are plenty of good reasons why having a business plan is important for your business’s success—just going through the process is proven to help businesses grow faster, for example. These same reasons extend to the one page model, but it includes a handful of additional benefits to keep in mind.
Simple presentation — Investors don’t have lots of time to read and one page can get the idea of your business across quickly and succinctly.
Approachable pitch — Having a one page plan makes it easier to share, even if you’re not pitching in front of investors. You can quickly send it as an email attachment, throw it into a slide deck and even have it printed off as an easy read for interested parties.
Focus on what’s important — It’s actually a very good exercise to trim it down to the absolute minimum, and doing so forces you to trim needless words and communicate your business idea clearly, with minimal clutter.
What to include in your one page plan
Here at Bplans, we’ve developed a formula that helps you quickly put together all the critical information that you need to define the strategy for your business.
Some people like to call this your “business model canvas,” but it’s really the same thing. Here are the eight necessary sections to include when developing your one page business plan.
Note: This is a short business plan model meaning you won’t have room for lengthy paragraphs of information. Try and keep each section limited to 1-2 sentences or 3-4 bullet points to assure you stay within one page. It’s always easier to add more later rather than cutting back from lengthy sections.
- The problem: A description of the problem or need your customers have and any relevant data that supports your claim.
- The solution: Your product or service and how it solves the problem.
- Business model: How you will make money, including the costs of production and selling, and the price that customers will pay.
- Target market: Who is your customer and how many of them are there. It’s best to define your ideal customer by starting with a broad audience and whittling down using the TAM, SAM, SOM model. This also gives investors a clear picture of your thought process and understanding of the greater consumer market.
- Competitive advantage: What makes you different from the competition and how will this lead to greater success, customer loyalty, etc.
- Management team: The management structure of your business, including currently field roles, ideal candidates and any management gaps.
- Financial summary: Key financial metrics including profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, and your sales forecast. This section may be the most difficult part to condense, so try and focus on standard business ratios to get the point across. You can always share broader financial information if requested.
- Funding required: Have what funding you need front in center to clearly display what you need from investors.
Another best practice when developing the one-pager is to focus on the strengths of your business. If you currently have a stronger market analysis or financial projections, add more to those sections. Since this will most likely serve as a pitching tool, you’ll want to lead with the winning aspects that set your business and planning apart from the pack.
How to write a simple one page business plan
If you feel like you have writer’s block, or you don’t know where to start, I have a couple of suggestions.
First, you can start with a detailed, step-by-step set of instructions for building a business plan on one page. You’ll be able to do it in under an hour.
Second, you can download our free, simple business plan template and use that as a starting point.
Third, you can try out LivePlan’s Pitch feature. Just answer the questions it asks and click “publish,” and you’ll have a professionally-designed, single-page business plan that is easy to share and covers everything an investor wants to know. Another good option is to follow my colleague Caroline Cummings’ advice and write your business plan like it’s a series of tweets (seriously, it works).
The content of your plan is by far the most important thing—don’t stress about the design. Think carefully about what you are trying to communicate. Too many companies spend time focusing on presentation and graphical display of their plans when what they are saying and how they are saying it is really the most critical aspect of it all.
Don’t get me wrong—you don’t want to have an ugly presentation. But focus on the content, because it’s more important than anything else, and visuals can be reviewed and revised at a later date.
Remember: The executive summary is usually your introductory communication with investors, so it will be your first impression. Investors will use this document to get an understanding of your communication skills as well as your ability to think critically about your business. You should spend more time on this part of your plan than on any other section.
Writing your business plan on one page will be an extremely useful tool to help you refine your business strategy quickly and easily. It might even be all the business plan that you need.
But, if you do need to expand your business plan beyond one page into a more full-fledged plan that includes more details on your company and your target market, you can follow our step-by-step guide for writing a detailed business plan, download our free business plan template, or review any of our more than 500 complete sample business plans. These resources are all free, and if you have questions, please reach out on Twitter @Bplans.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2012, and was updated in March 2020.