PSU Insight

Writing Your Business Plan

Your Business Plan Status Summary

Because your business plan is ultimately going to be a rather large document, developed over a considerable period of time, the first thing I recommend you do is set up a plan status summary.

As I mentioned before, formal business plans have a predefined structure that they are expected to conform to. But working business plans have no such predefined structure… and that lack of definition is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

The advantage is rather obvious. Because no one except you (and possibly your closest confidants) will see your working business plan, you have complete freedom to be as creative as you like. There’s no defined outline, no rules or requirements, no standards that you need to meet.

On the other hand, all that freedom can be disconcerting. Sometimes it’s nice to have a guide, something to point the way. And that’s what I’m about to suggest.

But it’s important that you recognize that the following suggestions are just that — suggestions. I’ll give you some recommendations of the sort of plan you should make, and I’ll also make some suggestions of the order in which you develop the various parts of your plan.

But in the end, it is your plan — and that means you need to be able to deviate from what I outline to meet your own particular needs.

That said, here are my suggestions —

First, develop your plans on your computer using your favorite word processor. (You probably planned on doing it this way anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to suggest it.) You’re going to be doing regular modifications to your business plan, and it’s very difficult to update your plan if you write it out by hand. (However, there’s a lot of merit to actually developing your plan by hand, then typing it up when you’re done. That’s the way I do it, but that’s because it works for me. You should find the system that works best for you.)

You can either keep your business plan in a single file, or you can create a separate folder for your business plan, and then save each part of your overall plan in a separate file. Either approach works; again, do whatever is more comfortable for you.

Because your business plan is ultimately going to be a rather large document, developed over a considerable period of time, the first thing I recommend you do is set up a plan status summary. In your summary, list the different sections of your plan, and note the current status of each section. This serves several valuable functions.

First, it will give you a convenient way to see the status of your overall business plan with a single glance. Your working business plan may eventually grow to a huge number of pages, and it can be difficult to keep track of the different parts — especially for a one-person business owner. Your status summary will help you to handle all the details while keeping track of the “big picture.”

Also, it’s vital that you update your business plan on a regular basis. By noting the “completion date” on each section of your plan, you can easily spot when a section is due for a review (and possible update).

It’s up to you to determine what information you include in your status summary. For example, several weeks into the development of your business plan, your status summary might resemble something like —

Section Status Completion Date
Business Summary Completed; but there are some gaping holes that I need to go back and fill January 7
Company History completed January 18
Management and Organization about half-done — I need to check with my lawyer before proceeding any further  
Products and Services not started  
Marketing Plan about 1 page written; I need to do a lot more thinking on this before I proceed  
Financial Plan Annual budget done; need cashflow analysis and marketing materials project budget  
Action Plans Not started — I need an action plan for my overall business, another AP for my book, and another for my CD album  

Of course, this table is just an example. Your status summary is for you to use, so design it in whatever way helps you to organize your plan better and keep track of your plan development activities.