In the first two posts in our series on starting a business,

we talked about assessing your attitudes about becoming a business owner and taking a big picture look at your business idea. Now on to another component to launching your business: the real planning — and planning’s evil twin, overplanning. Just so we are clear here:  business planning is not an intellectual activity or a contest to create the largest, most in depth business document. It is to actually get the business launched. Another common misconception, once you write a business plan, you’re done. A business plan is a working document that will and should change as your business grows. So let’s get the ball rolling on the real planning of your business:

Don’t forget to download the THS free business planner, too.

Key things all business plans should include:

  • An overview of your business that includes who you are, what you do and who your customers are.
  • A sales and marketing plan that outlines how you reach and communicate with potential customers.
  • A financial plan that includes how much money you will need to invest to get started, how much you need to make every year, and how much you will spend making it.
  • An overview of processes that covers how you make deliver, or manufacture your product.

Easy enough, right? Well why do so many people fear business planning or plan into infinity? There are many reasons but the most common fall into one of the following buckets:

Top things that will keep you in a cycle on business planning and not business exection

Fear. After the planning stage is the action stage, and let’s face it, that can be a scary.

Perfectionism, the cousin of fear. It’s when you overthink or over create in an attempt to get something perfect. Friendly reminder: it will never be perfect.

The unknown. It’s easy to get in a loop of trying to answer questions you just don’t know the answer to yet. So do some research and then take an educated guess. You can always make modifications later.

A simple plan for going from planning to launch

So how do you go from preparation to launching? Stick to a simple plan that pushes you from planning to opening the doors. Here are a few key steps.

Create a simple business plan. If your endeavor is large or you need bank funding, you’ll definitely want to create a full on business plan, but if you are launching a small business where startup costs are minimal, try a simplified approach to business planning. You can use this simple document or find another similar business plan that fits your needs.

Get help. If you are stuck on piece of the plan, you may need some help from a business planning expert. Check out your local SCORE or SBA resources, or network with others in your industry.

Assemble a focus group. Have actual target customers give feedback on the product or service with real world examples. This often will help you answer some of the unknowns in your planning.

Create a minimum viable product. Eric Ries eloquently states in his book, The Lean Start Up: “You cannot be sure you really understand any part of any business problem unless you go and see for yourself firsthand. It is unacceptable to take anything for granted or to rely on the reports of others.” Creating a minimal viable product (or service) means that you create the most basic version of your product and service with only essential features, launch quickly and the based on needs and input from customers, add and modify accordingly.

I dare say, that planning a business can actually be fun, if you keep your plan simple, know it will change and keep the launch of your business front and center. Happy planning.