What Is A Business Plan And Why It Matters In Business

A business plan is a document that details key operational and financial goals for a business and how they will be achieved in the future. Essentially, a business plan is an exercise in due diligence. While no business plan can accurately predict the future, they do demonstrate and give insight into the likelihood of eventual profitability. This in turn removes some of the entrepreneurial risk associated with investing large amounts of time and capital into a new venture.

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A typical business plan structure

Business plan structure varies considerably across industries, but most incorporate these parts as a part of a 10 to 20-page document.

Business concept

What is the nature of the industry the business intends to operate in?

What is the structure of the business and what are the products or services it will offer? How will it achieve success?

Marketplace analysis

Who is the potential target audience and why are they motivated to buy? Is there an existing demand for the product or service? In this part, it’s crucial to be as detailed as possible.

Develop a target demographic and associated buyer persona through in-depth research.

Market development is a growth-centric strategy that businesses use to identify or develop new market segments for existing products. Companies utilize the market development strategy to discover new potential buyers of their products or services.

Competitive analysis

Who are the main competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Is the market saturated or impenetrable?

If the market does have established players, then strategies must be devised to acquire market share.

Direct competitors are companies that offer the same product or service and that might have the same business and financial profile. Indirect competitors, on the other hand, are companies whose products or services while different could potentially satisfy the same customer needs. Competition in the digital era has become way more fluid, thus it’s important to take into account various overlapping factors to assess the competitive landscape.

Financial plan

If financing is required, then a sound financial plan will be key in attracting capital from banks, investors, or venture capitalists.

As best as possible, develop income and cash flow statements, balance sheets, and break-even analyses.

The goal here is to convince interested parties that the business has a realistic chance of success.

Management and legal structure

How will the company be structured and who will lead it? What skills do management bring to the table and how will they contribute to success?

A sound business plan should also define the intended legal structure, whether that be incorporated, partnership, sole proprietor, or LLC.

The four main categories of business plans

Business plans usually fall under one of four main categories:

The mini-plan

Used to quickly test a concept or gauge the interest of a prospective investment partner. Mini-plans are typically short at 1-10 pages in length.

The working plan

Used to describe how a business could operate once established.

The working plan is primarily an internal document; it does not need to look attractive with supporting photography, formatting, and appendices.

The presentation plan

Or a working plan submitted to interested external parties. Industry jargon and slang should be removed in favor of standard business language.

The presentation plan should incorporate all aspects of a typical business plan structure.

Attention to detail is also a must. Figures must be correct and words free of typing errors. The plan should also be professionally bound and printed.

The electronic plan

In the digital age, many organizations find it useful to keep electronic copies of their business plans.

These are useful for savvy investors who want to delve into complex spreadsheets for analysis. They are also ideal for presentations and virtual meetings.

How to build an effective business plan according to Peter Thiel

No matter which industry you’re in. There are seven questions to answer according to Peter Thiel. If you nail all seven you’ll master fortune and succeed.

According to Pether Thiel, former CEO of PayPal and founder of the software company Palantir, there are seven questions to answer if you want to create a company that will go from Zero to One.

Those questions are critical to building a business that will be able to capture value in the long run. In fact, according to Peter Thiel the value of a business isn’t to go from 1 to but to real value is to go from Zero to One.

In short, build a company that creates new things, rather than building a business based on the existing “best practices,” which according to Peter Thiel, leads to dead ends.

This framework of going from Zero to One can be summarised in seven questions to answer if you want to have a great business plan.

In fact, you don’t need complicated Excel models or reasonings. You only need to address now these seven questions.

Indeed, that is how Peter Thiel puts it in Zero to One:

Whatever your industry, any great business plan must address every one of them.If you don’t have good answers to these questions, you’ll run into lots of “bad luck” and your business will fail. If you nail all seven you’ll master fortune and succeed.

The Engineering Question

Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements? 

The Timing Question

Is now the right time to start your particular business? 

The Monopoly Question

Are you starting with a big share of a small market? 

The People Question

Do you have the right team? 

The Distribution Question

Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?

The Durability Question

Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? 

The Secret Question

Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see? 

Key takeaways

  • A business plan is a comprehensive document that highlights the goals of a business and how it plans to achieve them.
  • A business plan is essential for new businesses where due diligence is crucial in attracting external investment or predicting long-term viability. All businesses – regardless of maturity – should use and adhere to such a plan.
  • There are four main categories of business plans, with each category suited to a particular stage of the business life cycle.

Read also: Business Strategy, Examples, Case Studies, And Tools

Read Next: Lean CanvasAgile Project ManagementScrumMVPVTDF.

The FourWeekMBA Business Strategy Toolbox

Tech Business Model Framework

A tech business model is made of four main components: value model (value propositions, missionvision), technological model (R&D management), distribution model (sales and marketing organizational structure), and financial model (revenue modeling, cost structure, profitability and cash generation/management). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build a solid tech business model.

Blockchain Business Model Framework

A Blockchain Business Model according to the FourWeekMBA framework is made of four main components: Value Model (Core Philosophy, Core Values and Value Propositions for the key stakeholders), Blockchain Model (Protocol Rules, Network Shape and Applications Layer/Ecosystem), Distribution Model (the key channels amplifying the protocol and its communities), and the Economic Model (the dynamics/incentives through which protocol players make money). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build and analyze a solid Blockchain Business Model.

Business Competition

In a business world driven by technology and digitalization, competition is much more fluid, as innovation becomes a bottom-up approach that can come from anywhere. Thus, making it much harder to define the boundaries of existing markets. Therefore, a proper business competition analysis looks at customer, technology, distribution, and financial model overlaps. While at the same time looking at future potential intersections among industries that in the short-term seem unrelated.

Technological Modeling

Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Transitional Business Models

A transitional business model is used by companies to enter a market (usually a niche) to gain initial traction and prove the idea is sound. The transitional business model helps the company secure the needed capital while having a reality check. It helps shape the long-term vision and a scalable business model.

Minimum Viable Audience

The minimum viable audience (MVA) represents the smallest possible audience that can sustain your business as you get it started from a microniche (the smallest subset of a market). The main aspect of the MVA is to zoom into existing markets to find those people which needs are unmet by existing players.

Business Scaling

Business scaling is the process of transformation of a business as the product is validated by wider and wider market segments. Business scaling is about creating traction for a product that fits a small market segment. As the product is validated it becomes critical to build a viable business model. And as the product is offered at wider and wider market segments, it’s important to align product, business model, and organizational design, to enable wider and wider scale.

Market Expansion

The market expansion consists in providing a product or service to a broader portion of an existing market or perhaps expanding that market. Or yet, market expansions can be about creating a whole new market. At each step, as a result, a company scales together with the market covered.



Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Revenue Streams

In the FourWeekMBA Revenue Streams Matrix, revenue streams are classified according to the kind of interactions the business has with its key customers. The first dimension is the “Frequency” of interaction with the key customer. As the second dimension, there is the “Ownership” of the interaction with the key customer.

Revenue Model

Revenue model patterns are a way for companies to monetize their business models. A revenue model pattern is a crucial building block of a business model because it informs how the company will generate short-term financial resources to invest back into the business. Thus, the way a company makes money will also influence its overall business model.

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