Some business advisers advocate and actively promote the 1-page Business Plan. The internet is rife with 1-page business plan templates and blog articles about how to write a business plan in a matter of minutes.
These advisers are charlatans! And as far as I’m concerned, the 1-page Business Plan is ridiculous and is not worth the page it’s written on. In this article, I’ll explain why.
Let’s start with the obvious.
1. You can’t fit anything on one page
Let’s face it. By the time you’ve written your business name and described your product or service, you’ve probably already hit half a page. Just describing your target market may add another half page. There’s your one page with no sign of any planning at all.
One page for anything is simply not realistic. Unless you reduce your font size to something illegible, which is obviously ridiculous.
“…these advisers are charlatans! And as far as I’m concerned, the 1-page Business Plan is ridiculous and is not worth the page it’s written on.”
2. It’s a gimmick
In this new world of information overload where the “top 10 ways to…” or “fast-track your way to…” are among the highest Google search terms, it’s not surprising that 1-page Business Plans are popular. We are all so time poor that we are often attracted to these quick fix measures.
Sure, the 2-step method to cleaning your oven is a good idea. How to make dinner in 10 minutes is perfect. How to plan your business on 1 page is not!
In essence, it’s a gimmick. Plain and simple. And frankly if you’re looking for a shortcut to your business planning, you’re probably not cut out to be a business owner.
3. It’s an excuse not to do your research
A 1-page Business Plan cannot possibly cover all the aspects of your business that you need to research. At best it may include descriptions (albeit short) about your product/service, your target customer, the benefit they’ll derive from your product/service, how your product/service differs from your competitors and maybe something about your funding needs.
No doubt these are important and should be researched and documented in your plan, however there are many more aspects to your business you need to be clear on. For instance, who’s your team and how will they run the business, who are your suppliers and how will you manage them, do you need special licenses or insurances before you start operating, what is your financial summary?
“Sure, the 2-step method to cleaning your oven is a good idea. How to make dinner in 10 minutes is perfect. How to plan your business on 1 page is not!”
And that’s just the “now” stuff. What about the planning bit? This is a business PLAN, remember? What are your business goals and objectives? What will you do to achieve them? What is your marketing and sales strategy? How will you advertise and distribute/deliver your product or service?
A 1-page Business Plan doesn’t incentivise you to do your proper research and misleads you into thinking you’ve done your homework when you’ve only captured the most basic aspects of your business.
4. The focus is all wrong
The focus of a 1-page Business Plan is on brevity. It has to be short. It defeats the entire purpose of creating a business plan… to plan! The benefit of a comprehensive business plan is the research and planning process itself. The physical Business Plan document is the output of that process.
Not only that but the Business Plan document acts as a baseline summary of your business today that you can then use to track your future business progress against. Decent measurement and tracking on an overall business level would be very difficult, if not impossible, if you didn’t have a documented baseline.
5. A good Business Plan doesn’t have to be an encyclopedia
The whole reason the 1-page Business Plan became popular was the assumption that “normal” Business Plans were nothing but paperweights. A good Business Plan doesn’t have to be 100 pages long, it doesn’t have to take six months to prepare and it doesn’t have to be 100% complete (initially).
Or it can if that’s what you want. It just depends on you and your business needs.
“A 1-page Business Plan doesn’t incentivise you to do your proper research and misleads you into thinking you’ve done your homework when you’ve only captured the most basic aspects of your business.”
When I prepare a business plan for my clients, I usually start by going through a Business Planning Checklist with the client, which covers all the elements of a Business Plan. The checklist helps me gauge how complete the client’s research and planning to date has been and provides me with a first round of information.
Equally as important, walking through this checklist helps the client, with my guidance, decide which aspects of the Business Plan are not important or relevant for them right now. The question I ask them (which you should ask yourself in your business planning process) is:
“Does this aspect matter to you or your business, i.e. will it impact your clients, your reputation, your finances or your legal obligations?”
If the answer is yes, then it should be in your plan. If the answer is no, then you can decide to leave it out altogether or revisit it at a specified point in the future, e.g. in 6 months or next year.
Do you want a free copy of my Business Planning Checklist? Sign up to my email list and it’s yours.
Cases where a 1-pager is acceptable
Whilst it’s clear that I’m against the 1-page Business Plan, I have no problem with a 1-page Business Plan Summary or Excerpt.
“A good Business Plan doesn’t have to be 100 pages long, it doesn’t have to take six months to prepare and it doesn’t have to be 100% complete (initially).”
To explain further:
- A business plan summary could be an Executive Summary of the comprehensive Business Plan and include the core areas we discussed earlier, or perhaps it could simply summarise the key actions or focus areas of the business in the next year. In any case, it’s good practice to include a 1-page Executive Summary at the front of your comprehensive Business Plan.
- A business plan excerpt is a summary of a particular aspect or aspects of the Business Plan for a specific purpose. A good example is if the business was applying for a bank loan. In this case, the excerpt may be 1-3 pages long and include only the information that is relevant for the bank to decide whether to grant your loan.
These 1-pagers are perfectly acceptable and might even be necessary.
Taking a shortcut with your business planning by writing a 1-page Business Plan could mean you miss important aspects in your business research and therefore cause unnecessary risk for you and your business.
Good business planning is focussed on the planning process itself. The business plan document should be seen as the output of this planning process as well as your way of keeping track of your business progress over time.
And don’t forget to sign up to the Peer Business Consulting e-list to get your FREE copy of my Business Planning Checklist.
* Feature image sourced from Death to the Stock Photo.
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About the Author: Angeline Zaghloul is an expert in business strategy, client management and business processes, and is the Principal of Peer Business Consulting, a Sydney-based consultancy providing strategy and operations support to startups and small businesses.
* Portrait by Markus Jaaskelainen.