Most of us have experienced a flash of insight that gets us excited about the possibility of a business. Some of us have taken the time to brainstorm and transform that flash of insight into a verifiable idea. Far fewer of us have turned that idea into a fleshed-out business plan.
It’s easy for your momentum to fizzle if you let your idea idle for too long. But it takes a long time to write a business plan, and do the research necessary to determine whether your idea is truly viable.
If you find yourself in the position of having a strong business idea, and you want to carry that momentum forward, you’ll want to get a first draft on paper as soon as possible. And with the right strategies and the right approach, it’s possible to create that first draft in the span of a day.
How to Create a Business Plan in a Single Day
Before you start, you need to get yourself in the right mentality, or you won’t be able to complete your draft in time. For starters, this should be your main focus for the day; while it’s certainly acceptable to complete your business plan in bits and pieces, it’s better for your momentum if you do it in one fell swoop. Clear your calendar, block out distractions, and set a timer so you never stay off task for too long.
Next, remind yourself this is merely a draft—and all first drafts are imperfect. If you spend too much time getting calculating the perfect number or trying to decide on the perfect wording for each section, you’re never going to get the work done. Instead, do the best you can within the time limits for each section, and aim to complete the draft—not perfect the draft.
Hour 1: Identify Your Needs
In the first hour, you’ll need to make an outline of your core business plan. Though you might need to add or remove some sections, depending on your industry, most business plans can use the following outline:
- The executive summary.
The executive summary may seem like the easiest part of the business plan, since it’s a high-level overview of the document, but we actually recommend saving it for last. You’ll only have an adequate view of your business after you complete the individual subsections.
- The business description.
The business description doesn’t get into details about marketing, sales, or financials, but instead provides a summary of what the business is and how it’s going to make money. Explain, briefly, who your target demographics are, where your business will be located, and how you see the business scaling in the future.
- Market analysis.
Next, you’ll need to do an analysis of the current market. Explore the current level of demand for businesses like yours, as well as what competitors already exist. You’ll need to identify both opportunities and threats, and determine how you’re going to segment the market.
- Organization and management.
Organization and management may be a difficult section to complete if you aren’t sure how you’re going to create the business from a legal standpoint, but try to do your best with it. Here, you’ll decide which business structure to use, as well as whether you’ll have any partners, and how you’ll split responsibilities.
- Sales and marketing.
Almost every business will need some kind of sales and marketing strategy—otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to increase sales. There are dozens of strategies to choose from here, so you won’t have time to research all of them. Instead, focus on high-level campaign tactics.
- Financial projections.
Financial projections will also be tough with only a few hours of dedicated research, so don’t worry about getting your calculations perfect here; instead, do some surface-level research on what kind of profit margins you can expect, and how you might scale your revenue over time.
- Funding requirements.
Last but not least, start running down the list of things you’ll need to buy or set up before your business can begin operations, and detail how much money you have to contribute. The difference between these things will tell you how big of a gap you’ll need to close with external funding.
- The executive summary.
Jot down a few key questions for each section, or subsections you want to explore.
Hour 2: Start With the Business Description
Once you have your outline completed, take an hour to write out your business description. If you’ve already spent some time thinking about what your company will be like and how it’s going to make money, you shouldn’t need to do much research for this section. Within an hour, you should be able to write a page or two, comparing the business to other businesses that already exist, explaining the core concept behind your business, and briefly describing how you’ll operate on a daily basis.
This is a good section to start with because it will force you to think through the logistics of your business’s operations, which can spark critical questions and guide research in other areas.
When you’ve finished with this, you can work on the organization and management section, since that shouldn’t take long. Review the types of business structures that exist and choose yours, as well as who you might partner with. If you don’t have all the information for this section yet, don’t worry—you can fill in the rest at a later date.
Hour 3-4: Surface-Level Research
Next, you’ll want to cover the market analysis, as well as the sales and marketing sections. These will require some research, but you don’t need to get in-depth for a first draft. Instead, cover high-level stats in the following areas:
- First, identify who your target audience is, what they’re like, why they’d be interested in your products and services, and how much they might be willing to pay. Census.gov is a great place to start—and it’s completely free.
- Next, do some digging to see what level of competition you face. A quick Google search with your company’s description should yield some good local and national results. Jot down what their key strengths and weaknesses are, where they’re operating, and how your business might be able to get a competitive advantage.
- How are you going to generate more revenue directly? For some businesses, this might mean hiring a team of salespeople to make calls and knock on doors. For others, it might mean a customer loyalty program that incentivizes positive word-of-mouth.
- Marketing and advertising. Which strategies do you think will work best for this type of company—inbound or outbound? How much money will you set aside, and how important will this be on your priority list?
Hour 5-6: Take a Deep Dive Into Financials
For the next two hours, you’ll want to dive deep into the financials. Use whatever online resources you can find to break down the cost structure for your core products and services, and use your competition to see what you should be charging your customers. From there, you’ll be able to determine a rough profit margin, and how much you’ll need to do to break even (or turn a profit).
While you’re at it, break down the startup costs you’re likely to face, and analyze how much money you’d be willing to invest in this venture. You may not be able to come up with a comprehensive financial breakdown, but you should be able to draft a loose financial projection, and come up with a rough idea for how much funding you’ll need in the near future.
Hour 7: Write the Executive Summary
After you’ve completed most, if not all, of the other sections of your business plan, you should take some time to reflect, and start drafting your executive summary. This section should be a paragraph, maybe two, explaining the high-level points of your business; what you need to get started, how you’re going to make money, key weaknesses to watch for, and how you’re going to grow.
This is the section that investors, partners, and clients will be reading first, so you’ll want to spend some extra time polishing it.
Hour 8: Prepare Follow-Up Questions
In the final hour, take a few minutes to scan each of your sections, and take notes of points of confusion that you have. Are there any sections that feel weak, or ones that you wish you had more data for? Use these notes and questions to create a list of to-do items for yourself. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, you can take your time completing these to-dos with further research, further editing, and possibly the advice of mentors, until you’re satisfied with the final document.
The time estimates for these areas are generous, so it might not even take you eight hours to complete the first draft of your business plan. From there, you can take your time, fleshing out the details and filling in the gaps, and eventually walking away with a tangible document that can help you make your idea a reality.