Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Q&A: What Do I Include in a 1-Page Business Plan

I received this question overnight from my ask-me-a-question page:

I am entering a competition that is asking for a one page business plan and I am having a hard time trying to determine what to put on it and what not to include. What information is absolutely required?

To answer this well I’d need to know the criteria set up for the competition. Some are more concrete than others. Some are more about the idea, but most emphasize investment potential. I think of what I want to see as I review submissions to an angel investment group. These are essential to me:bar-charts-37107002_600W

  1. The problem you solve. This is also called “why-to-buy.” It’s a way to set a target market and potential growth in a single thought. Show the underlying need. And it doesn’t have to be all problems and needs as if your business is going to save the world. Lots of things nobody really needs make good businesses: expensive coffee, gourmet foods, perfume, and so forth.
  2. Your solution. This is your business offering, what you sell. The more new and different, the better – as long as it’s credible. Validation – users, buyers, pre-sales on Kickstarter, for example – is great if you have it
  3. Why you. What’s so special about you that makes your solution interesting. That might be technology, positioning, secret sauce, management experience, traction.
  4. Management team experience. Experience with startups is especially important, but whatever lends credibility to your ability to deliver the solution.
  5. Growth goals. Show projected annual revenue for 3-5 years, if that’s an interesting number; or projected growth in users, downloads, subscribers, unique visits or something like that, if that’s an interesting number. If you can, show it as a small bar chart.

The one page business plan is metaphor for short and simple, a business summary. It’s named incorrectly but it can still be useful. Even a 60-second elevator speech can be useful. Summarizing is a good thing. But I’d rather see a 2-5 page summary than a single page; and I’d rather take it as a summary, not a plan.

I’m biased of course but LivePlan does a great one-page summary that it calls a pitch, which shows problem, solution, market, secret sauce, milestones, revenue, and team leaders.