One of the principles of the plan-as-you-go business plan is that form follows function. Your plan isn’t your plan document. It isn’t your elevator speech, or your summary memo. Those are outputs. Your plan is what you’re going to do with your business. It’s what’s going to happen, set out concretely so you can track what actually happens and compare it to what you thought would happen.

Think about how the plot of a well-known story generates different versions — the novel, the movie, the television mini-series, the comic book version, the performance by the high school drama department. All of them have the same story at their core.

Your business plan is like that too. What people traditionally think of as the plan, the document, is just an output. Other common outputs include the pitch and the summary.

This matters because people get very confused. “Don’t do a business plan,” some experts say. “Just do a presentation.” They justify that with the idea that few investors read business plans. But wait, the presentation has to describe what you’re going to do, so you’d better have a plan. And maybe, just maybe, you don’t create the plan document, just the presentation … but if so, you better know what the plan is.

In this section I’d like to look at some of the standard outputs: the business plan document, the summary (or summary memo), the elevator speech, and the pitch presentation. For all of these, you start with a plan and then create the output as needed.

And these are hardly the only business plan outputs these days. Others include websites, blogs, and more recently Twitter had a business plan contest limited to 140 characters. The plan is whatever works for you, but only as long as it works for you.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

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