Here is a quick overview of three common types of plans:
One-page business plan
A one-page business plan is exactly what it sounds like: a quick summary of your business delivered on a single page. No, this doesn’t mean a very small font size and cramming tons of information onto a single page—it means that the business is described in very concise language that is direct and to-the-point.
A one-page business plan can serve two purposes. First, it can be a great tool to introduce the business to outsiders, such as potential investors. Since investors have very little time to read detailed business plans, a simple one-page plan is often a better approach to get that first meeting. Later in the process, a more detailed plan will be needed, but the one-page plan is great for getting in the door.
This simple plan format is also great for early-stage companies that just want to sketch out their idea in broad strokes. Think of the one-page business plan as an expanded version of jotting your idea down on a napkin. Keeping the business idea on one page makes it easy to see the entire concept at a glance and quickly refine concepts as new ideas come up.
The Lean Business Plan
A Lean Plan is more detailed than a one-page plan and includes more financial information, but it’s not as long as a traditional business plan. Lean Plans are more likely to be used internally as tools for strategic planning and growth.
The Lean Business Plan dispenses with the formalities that are needed when presenting a plan externally for a loan or investment and focuses almost exclusively on business strategy, tactics, milestones, metrics, budgets, and forecasts.
These lean business plans skip sections like company history and management team since everyone in the company almost certainly knows this information. You don’t do an exit strategy section of your business plan if you’re not writing for investors and therefore you aren’t concerned with an exit.
The simplest lean business plan uses bullet points to define strategy, tactics, concrete specific dates and tasks, and essential numbers including projected sales, spending, and cash flow. It’s just five to 10 pages when printed. And few Lean Plans need printing. Leave them on the computer. Review and revise them at least once a month. The first Lean Plan takes just a few hours to do (or less), and a monthly review and revision can take only an hour or two per month.
Lean business plans are management tools used to guide the growth of both startups and existing businesses. They help business owners think through strategic decisions and measure progress towards goals.
External business plan (a.k.a the standard business plan document)
External business plans, the formal business plan documents, are designed to be read by outsiders to provide information about a business. The most common use of a full business plan is to convince investors to fund a business, and the second most common is to support a loan application. Occasionally this type of business plan is also used to recruit or train or absorb key employees, but that is much less common.
A formal business plan document is an extension of the internal business plan, or the Lean Plan. It’s mostly a snapshot of the internal plan as it existed at a certain time. But while the an internal plan is short on polish and formality, a formal business plan document should be very well-presented, with more attention to detail in the language and format.
In addition, an external plan details how potential funds are going to be used. Investors don’t just hand over cash with no strings attached—they want to understand how their funds will be used and what the expected return on their investment is.
Finally, external plans put a strong emphasis on the team that is building the company. Investors invest in people rather than ideas, so it’s critical to include biographies of key team members and how their background and experience is going to help grow the company.