Okay, let’s assume you’re afraid of the business plan which people are telling you that you need. It seems to be too big a job. You don’t have time.

So don’t take so much time. Start anywhere, and get going. Here are some ways to break out of that inertia and get going.

  1. Do a sales forecast. Take a spreadsheet and set up 12 months in columns and your main sales lines along the leftmost column. Estimate — don’t sweat it, it’s just an estimated guess — your unit sales first, then average price you get per unit, and then multiply price times units to get sales. Add totals on the bottom, and along the rightmost column, you get annual totals. Here’s more info:
  2. Do a SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s simple and it gets you started with strategic thinking.
  3. Tell a story. Think of it as creative writing. Invent a person who might be your ideal buyer (or decision maker if you sell to businesses) and tell the story of how this person needs or wants what you’re selling, finds you, and buys. What is the buyer problem that is solved.
  4. Create a market segmentation. Think about what kinds of people or companies you sell to. Big, small, rich, poor. Use stereotypes like you did in high school: jocks, stoners, hippies, goths?  Ask yourself which of these groups is a better target, and why.
  5. Figure out a mantra: describe your business in a single sentence, making one that would describe it uniquely, eliminating all competitors. Or go further, and do a mission statement, which includes why your business makes life better for buyers, employees, and owners.
  6. List your three most important keys to success.
  7. Define the main marketing message for your most important target market group.
  8. List your most important assumptions.

Remember, form follows function. Don’t sweat the formats, or the writing, or the tools. Just get going.  It’s planning that matters, not just the plan.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.