Business plans are dead — or are they? For many entrepreneurs, the business plan is an outmoded document that gets created mainly for the benefit of VCs and bank loan officers. Bootstrappers rarely think they need one to get by.
But the fact is that a business plan — even just a one-pager with a few financial projections — can be a valuable internal tool. A roadmap for even the smallest or earliest-stage idea. It can foster alignment, set the tone for the business and even help you craft your brand messaging.
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to figure out when (and why) a business plan is an asset, even if you’re not planning to raise one penny:
“What is one good reason to write a business plan even if you’re not going for a bank loan or venture capital?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
“Writing a business plan or putting together an investor deck allows you to think more clearly about what you’re doing and where you are going. Key point to remember though is that the minute that your business plan hits the printer it is already out of date, so don’t depend on it as your to-do list. Think of it as a roadmap.” ~ Paige Brown, BookingMarkets
2. Gain a Deep Understanding of Your Market
“Although it took several weeks and I’ve barely looked at it since, I credit my business plan for helping me understand a brand-new industry in an extremely deep way before actually entering it, and for forcing me to deeply examine how we would fit into the market and what TalentEgg’s probability of success was. As a “risk averse” entrepreneur, it was critical. “ ~ Lauren Friese, TalentEgg Inc.
“The biggest reason to write out a business plan regardless of any financing option concerns is that it can help you stay organized and remain on track. Businesses without a plan can easily get off-target, and revenues will suffer as a result. Creating a plan with expense projections, revenue forecasts, and more can help a small business remain committed to its long-term goals.” ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
4. Practice Makes Perfect
“It’s great to write one simply to throw it away. The mental gymnastics are great. The plan is basically worthless the moment you’re finished – but it will force you to think about things you might not have otherwise.” ~ Brent Beshore, AdVentures
5. Confirm the Math
“A lot of ideas sound great on paper and even in discussions. However, simple math can make or break an idea. Before we launch any new idea, we at least create a financial model to project the ROI from several realistic scenarios. You can save a lot of time and frustration thinking through the numbers, and making sure it’s possible to hit your revenue and profit goals.” ~ Phil Frost, Main Street ROI
6. Iron Out Possible Kinks
“Writing a business plan allows you to really think things through. Your plan should question the validity of your ideas, the product/service target markets and so on. It should force you to do your own proper due diligence.” ~ Nicolas Gremion, Free-Ebooks.net
7. Foster Alignment
“Writing a business plan is an ideal way to make sure that everyone on your founding team is aligned with the current and future plans for the business. In the early stages of a company, it’s imperative for founding team members to be on the same page as to how they’ll work together on moving the business forward to great success. Avoid any miscommunications by getting it all on paper early.” ~ Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
8. Hold Yourself Accountable
“A business plan is a great tool that allows founders to articulate their vision and future plans for their company. When using any business plan format, there are standard questions that force you to think & create a long term vision and strategy for your idea. Once these are down on paper, they can serve as a guide to allow you to track your progress and hold yourself accountable for the future.” ~ Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC
9. Know Your Message
“Business planning is incredibly helpful for describing what you do, understanding who your competitors are, and crafting a realistic three to five year plan. Each of these activities is crucial if you are looking to launch or expand a venture, and learning to speak concisely about your company will always be crucial no matter what stage you’re in.” ~ Garrett Neiman, CollegeSpring
10. Establish Benchmarks
“Business plans are a valuable, iterative, document that can serve as a successful benchmarking tool. Where did your business exceed expectations? In what areas did your strategy maybe fall short? While it’s fine to “pivot” your company based on what you’ve seen in the market, having something in writing puts the onus on you to be honest about your company’s performance. “ ~ Charles Bogoian, Kenai Sports, LLC
Business Plan Photo via Shutterstock