Business Plans

Don't have time for a traditional plan? Try a lean plan.

Every organization is the same, in the sense that it has a situation, strategy (where it chooses to play, and how it will be successful), and execution. The details of these areas are where organizations differ. The question is, are we intentionally designing our situation, strategy, and execution, or do we leave it to our environment? 

Business development is a three-part continuing process of discover, design, and deliver. This page compares the difference between a traditional and a lean plan, where to find a free business plan template, free example plans, free business consulting, and free lean plan help.

If you are thinking of starting a business, check with your state, county, and city for any specific licenses for your business. Unless you plan to just start it as a hobby, then check the IRS website for details. 

Traditional plan vs lean plan

A traditional business plan is usually a 10-50 page plan with many details. Unfortunately, many of those details will change in a year. But going through the planning process helps learn about the industry and the market. Traditional plans are usually required to get funding from a bank or lending institution.

What is a lean plan? A lean plan is a 1-3 page plan that only records bullet points to the most important parts of the organization. Some can be used in for profit and nonprofit organizations. 

Why a lean plan? It's the most convenient way to increase clarity. This makes regular planning easy with a simple review and renew process. 

Where to find a free traditional business plan template

The typical traditional business plan includes the following: An executive summary, company description, company structure, the product or service, the market, and the financials.  

You can find a traditional business plan template at the government's Small Business Administration site. 

Where to find free business plan examples

You can also find free examples of specific traditional business plans in the Business Plans Handbook. Your local library might have a copy you can look at or copy. You can find hundreds of free examples at Reference For Business and Bplans. You can search both sites for specific plans.  

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Where to find free business plan consulting 

When you do decide to start your business consider first learning about your state's specific business requirements or your industry, through your state Small Business Development Center (SBDC). You can also get free expert business consulting from your local nonprofit SBDC. Google SBDC and your state or use the SBA SBDC search. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) also offers free consulting and online courses.

Free Lean Plan Information

There are at least eight lean plans based on different books written by experts who have built successful organizations. Here are two examples... 

For the traditional or lifestyle business consider the Playbook, which is explained in the book The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. This is based on his experience with for profits and nonprofits. You can download the Playbook and many other free resources (no email necessary) at his business website, The Table Group free organizational health resources.  

For the venture business (startup) consider the Business Model Canvas, which is explained in the book Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. It is more focused on entrepreneurial startups or innovating within an organization and can be found at Strategyzer. You can download the business model canvas for your email, and they have a few online courses. One course walks you through creating a business model canvas. 

If you have not started a business yet, consider doing a feasability assessment. You can find many specific examples at the Template Lab. This will compare your idea with market research and analyze some risk, capabilities, and financials. This will also provide information for the market section of your business plan if you decide to move forward with it. 

You don't have to start an official business if you want to test an idea, you can get paid for a hobby. Check the IRS article Hobby or Business? for details. However, starting an official LLC or corporation gives you some protections. 

What's your next step?

Consider checking the Business Resources page for tools to discover more about your potential future customers and competitors.

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