The new business plan?

September 2013

When teaching entrepreneurs, the focus is sometimes on teaching students how to write a business plan. The general flow of many courses is to have the students generate a new idea, do some market research, then write a business plan.  Usually the sections of the plan look something like this:

1.Cover sheet
2.Table of Contents
3.Executive summary
4.Problem and solution overview
5.Market and competitive analysis
6.Product / technology
7.Business model and go-to market strategy
8.Management team
9.Current status and accomplishments to-date
10.Financial projection / use of funds
.
A very standard structure, though it has many pitfalls especially for a class project (and startups too!), since so little is known about the potential idea, the market, and the specific customer needs.
Yet while much of the current literature around the Business Model Canvas approach and lean startups dismiss the business plan outright (since a plan with so many unknowns is not a very good plan), I still think there’s a place for a business planning document, especially as many of the standard audiences for them (e.g. investors, bankers, etc.) are still looking for one.
.
So, in rethinking my classroom approach based on some of the latest thinking around using a lean-process action-based approach to starting up, I have worked with the students to consider a new business plan format that combines elements of both planning and action. Here’s my first cut at redesigning a business plan that is appropriate for a undergraduate project (and hopefully for startups):
.
1.Cover sheet
2.Product idea/vision statement
3.Business model canvas (using Osterwalder’s format)
4.Management team
5.Business model testing process (using Reis’ methodology)
6.Customer creation concepts (going on some assumptions, I want to hear how they would scale the business)
7.Company building scenarios (more of a vision of culture and processes)
8.Funding strategy
.
 Hopefully this hybrid can serve that purpose.  We’ll see how it goes in class and what changes should be made to make it a useful document.

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