A good business plan should start with answering the question, “WHY?”
That is, why are we doing this? Why am I (or we) starting this company and what do we hope to accomplish? What do we hope to give to our customers and clients? What is our unique value proposition? What moves us in a deep and personal way and how is that going to be woven into our business model? Starting and building a business is brutal. Without a firm and compelling “Why”; failure is almost a foregone conclusion. Stated differently; Steve Jobs was famous for making the point that it is a requirement of success that we pursue a venture we truly enjoy. For, if it does not move us on a deep level, we will surely quit before achieving greatness. It is imperative that we all be able to communicate our deep passions to the world around us.
A business plan for a startup company should get put together from the input of all founding members. That is, everyone should have a say in the creation of the plan, the objectives, the mission statement, the core values, ETC. The more you involve them in the creative process, the more buy-in the employees or independent contractors will have. A business is about a village. A collective. A group. A Team. The Team must have input to strategic direction in order to be truly motivated.
A good plan should include a statement of Why, a value proposition (to customers), a mission statement, a vision statement, a list of core values (could replace vision/mission if appropriate), and clear, definable objectives. You will notice that I did not start off with, “Goals”, or some sort of financial measure of success. This is very intentional. A plan that is not rooted in a deep and meaningful vision; will never have the impact of the plan which strikes a true chord.
The executive summary should explain the meaning and purpose of the company. Customers and Clients wish to connect with companies who are driven towards something. Some purpose or fulfillment. It is no longer enough to exist for the sake of profit itself. The client wants to be able to touch, feel, and understand in whom they are engaging.
Objectives should be clear, attainable, and just outside the reach of what most think is “Possible.” Focus on clarity and on specificity. A doomed plan will contain vague goals which are highly subjective and are not connected to objectives which precede or follow the goal in question.
Perhaps most importantly of all, a good plan will change and adapt. The objectives will become more specific. The mission will be clarified and refined over time. The core values will ring true to company practices. A good plan is a living, breathing, testimony.