I’ve been working a lot on the Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan book lately. I just turned in a final draft. That doesn’t do a lot for my blogging, but some of what goes into that book is directly related to getting your startup up and running.

One of the core concepts is that you start simple with your business plan and then grow it as needed.

Reminder: it’s not a document, it’s a plan. We are not talking about preparing a text here. We’re talking about the plan as knowing what’s going to happen.

So what are the fundamental key points? Here’s an idea so you can get started.

  • The heart of the plan. It might be just thoughts, spoken, written in bullet points or pictures tagging concepts. Most successful businesses start with their identity, what they do for whom and focus on key points. That’s a great beginning and, hey, maybe that’s all you need to get started.
  • What’s going to happen? What happens next? One of my favorite next steps is the review schedule, then the list of assumptions and then a milestones table showing, literally and in detail, what’s going to happen. It has dates, deadlines, responsibility assignments, related expense budgets for each activity and, where possible, a resulting sales forecast for each activity. It’s not a big document; it’s a list.
  • Basic business numbers. As soon as possible, do a sales forecast. Then an expense budget. And for startups, list your startup expenses and startup assets. Yes, you should be aware of cash flow, but if you start tracking these basic numbers, and reviewing and correcting, you’re on your way.

The complete formal business plan, as a document, has more than just the above. That’s OK, though, because in the meantime this is enough to get you going and have you enjoying the benefits of business planning–without making the plan, or not having a plan, a reason not to move forward.

Tim BerryTim Berry

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