How to Write a One-Page Business Plan 15

businessmandrowningIf you’ve been putting off writing your business plan, you’re not alone. Writing a business plan can seem like a daunting task, and it’s an easy one to avoid.

But it doesn’t have to be. An easy way to start your business plan is with just one page.

There’s really not any difference between a “one-page business plan” and a good executive summary. The only real possible difference is the that the “one-page plan” must absolutely fit on one page in a font that most people can still read, while a traditional executive summary can extend to two or three pages.

Investors don’t have lots of time to read and one page can get the idea of your business across quickly and succinctly. It’s actually a very good exercise to trim down your business plan to the absolute minimum—it forces you to trim needless words and communicate your business idea clearly, with minimal clutter.

Whether you want to call it a one-page business plan, an executive summary, or an elevator pitch, it should contain the following:

  1. Customer Problem
  2. Your Solution
  3. Business Model (how you make money)
  4. Target Market (who is your customer and how many of them are there)
  5. Competitive Advantage
  6. Management Team
  7. Financial Summary
  8. Funding Required

If you feel like you have writer’s block, or you don’t know where to start, I have a couple of suggestions. First, LivePlan’s pitch feature: Just answer the questions it asks and click “Publish”, and you’ll have a professionally-designed, one-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 (or pitch) is by far the most important thing. 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.

Remember: The executive summary (or pitch, or one-page business plan) 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.

About the Author Noah Parsons is the COO of Palo Alto Software, makers of LivePlan, the award-winning online business planning software. Follow him on Twitter. Follow Noah on Google+ Read more »

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If you're writing a business plan, you're in luck. Online business planning software makes it easier than ever before to put together a business plan for your business.

As you'll see in a moment, LivePlan is more than just business plan software, though. It's a knowledgable guide combined with a professional designer coupled with a financial wizard. It'll help you get over the three most common business hurdles with ease.

Let's take a look at those common hurdles, and see how producing a top-notch business plan sets your business up for success.

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  • J Essary

    this is a great article to help people breakdown their business plan. At work we are constantly saying “keep it simple and skinny.” Good word.

  • BryanSullo

    “Financial Summary” seems like a big item to cover in one bullet point. What should that look like?

    • Noah Parsons

      Thanks for the comment. I should have expanded on this a bit more. I would expect to see just financial highlights:
      – Sales targets
      – Expected profits
      – Funding required

  • Sanjiv Karani

    Good list but it is missing the most imprtant element i.e.”customer or market validation”. In simpler terms, how many customers agree with your problem definition as something that keeps them up in the night, are willing to pay money to solve it (if so how much) and your unique solution (or prototype) meets their minimum needs. Once you nail this piece, everything else will falls in place.

    • Noah Parsons

      Good point, Sanjiv. Including a point on “traction” is important. Often times, proving problem/solution fit and solution/market fit is what convinces investors more than anything else.

  • Trudy

    I use a one page business plan format that is far simpler than this with startup businesses or for a strategic/marketing plan for emerging businesses.  But this outline does have validity.

    • Mike

      Hi Trudy, can you pass your format on please?

  • Michael Maguire

    Introducing the 8 points you’ve presented in a single page would indeed require a very fine focus on the part of the author – a focus which can only be achieved by undertaking a complete planning process. In your discussion you correctly note that this is an executive summary of a business plan but should it be introduced as a one page business plan?

    • Noah Parsons

      Thanks for the comment Michael. I think it’s a very good exercise to try and condense your executive summary into one page. Being succinct is indeed a challenge, but I believe it will help you better formulate your ideas and strengthen your pitch. 

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  • Jak Carroll

    Noah, can you please provide an example of what you would put under “business model in your onepage plan.

  • Mustafanoor Siddiqui

    Can u please share some format for this

  • Levi Costa

    Thanks a  lot for this article.I’e recently started work on my business plan which has been looming over my head for quite some time now. This really helps bring things into perspective.

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  • nsikan

    Hi Noah, thank you immensely for this wonderful article. I’m developing something based on your submissions and all the comments made. thank you all

  • Karl Craig-West

    I’ve often wondered whether a business plan is actually worth the effort if you’re not applying for any funding. What do you think?

  • monicall

    @karl, there are so many other reasons to develop a business plan beyond funding. Forces management to think thoroughly about every critical aspect of their business and thereby creates a document to share with other employees, new partners, vendor partners. It serves as a roadmap to ensure you keep your business on the long-term business path. It’s easy to veer off once you get in the trenches of day to day management. if you can’t or won’t do a business plan then you would be leaving blind spots and loose ends that could derail you down the road. it’s a living document so you can always adjust it as circumstances warrant.