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Yes, you should write a fucking business plan.

I know business plans aren’t in vogue. They’re not popular. Many of the startups that I talk to either don’t have one or laugh at the idea of writing one. They’ve read the Lean Startup, and all they’ve taken away from the book is “fuck planning, startups don’t need it” — which totally misses the entire point of it.

So when I ask them about their business, they’re vague. Vague, unfocused and messy. They don’t have their stories straight, or their products straight, or a clear vision for where the company is going. Each individual member of the team has a completely different concept in their heads.
A business plan isn’t necessarily what a VC firm are going to want to see — although trust me, they don’t hate them as much as startup scene kids think — but it is a pretty vital document for most young companies. Because creating a business plan puts everyone in tune.

Even lean companies still need a business plan.

I know the lean methodology, and it works extremely well for product development. In an ideal world, it would work for building a company in the exact same way. Unfortunately, a company is an organisation that does need something else to hold it together, because all it really is, is a loose collection of people who are vaguely aligned in a business sense.

That’s the purpose of a business plan, it’s to give everyone involved with a company a clear document that lets them know whether they’ve won or lost, grown or stagnated, met or missed their goals. A business plan doesn’t need to be complicated, and it could start out only being a few pages of clear language that expresses the following things:

What your product is, and what it does, and why
Your strategy for bringing that product to market
Details about your revenue model
Goals and milestones
The method you’ll use to know if you’ve failed
Your customer personas and target market
Your financial needs

Don’t stress about trying to churn out an overblown, old-school-MBA business plan that takes up 60 pages and has a complete appendix. In fact, I would try to keep your plan as short and sweet as possible. When I write a business plan, if I can’t express the whole thing in less than 10 pages, that’s my first hint that the business is too fucking complicated, or I don’t understand enough about it.

When you first write it, your founding team should all be involved. This is your chance to hash out the differences and discover whether anyone is out of sync. You can analyse their points of view, and work to define what your startup is trying to achieve in terms of product development, growth, business model and culture. Your business plan is the working blueprint that you’re going to be using to create a company together, and it’s important that everyone on the founding team has a say in it.

If you’re a sole founder, try and pull in some people you trust who can work with you on the plan to challenge your ideas and preconceptions.



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