10 Alternatives to the Formal Business Plan

by / ⠀Startup Advice / May 5, 2013

Business PlanBook-length business plans are out…but planning isn’t a total bust. What resource(s) do you use to put together simple business plans?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. A New Business Brief

I used to think this was unnecessary, but it has been a game changer for the last two businesses I started. One day, after weeks of mulling it over in my mind, I sat down and wrote a two- to-three-page brief on the business I wanted to start. I then used that to contact potential colleagues, investors and partners. It’s not as compelling as a deck, but it takes one-tenth of the time to create.
Gagan Biyani, Growth Hackers Conference

2. Trello

We use Trello (https://trello.com/) to organize our product road maps and company strategic goals in a way that is easy to share, organize and update as things progress and change.
Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

3. Gust

Gust (http://gust.com/), a new platform for startup funding, has an excellent website user experience that can immensely help founders structure their startup plans. There is space on Gust to add a company summary, management bios, video pitches, supporting documents and more. Even better, Gust enables founders to download a consolidated executive summary, as well as share corporate information securely.
– Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

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4. Excel

If a new idea can’t be simplified into a one- to-two-page summary, then it’s probably not refined enough to be actionable. When analyzing big strategic decisions, Excel is still the best way to forecast a decision and understand the key factors to achieving success. If you’re honest with your assumptions, you will identify the key areas to focus on and then see if you can reach those milestones.
– Jeff Berger, Doostang and Universum Group

5. An Editorial Calendar

Coming from a writing background, I live and die by my editorial calendar. I need to know which marketing materials I need written at particular points — forcing me to do research to figure out financials and other details in order to make the calendar. It’s a framework that works for me, but it’s just that. Everyone needs their own framework.
Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

6. The Painted Picture

I love the book “Double Double” by Cameron Herald and its “The Painted Picture” exercise. It’s one of the most difficult exercises I’ve ever done, but it helps you envision the type of business you’re building and how you should feel about the company, even while you’re growing it.
Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool

7. Google Calendar

When making a plan, it’s essential to tie dates to deliverables — I sometimes plot out plans directly into Google Calendar. You can create a new color-coded calendar just for the project, then plug your deliverables to their due dates.
Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

8. Management Goals

We have a simple spreadsheet with management goals for every member of our team. We update this list of goals every month. In a startup, accountability is even more vital than it is in a large company. Everyone needs to pull their weight or the company fails. With everyone creating their own lists of goals, they become accountable not only to everyone in the startup, but also to themselves.
Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas

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9. MyStrategicPlan

One resource to consider is called MyStrategicPlan (http://mystrategicplan.com/). It can help with business planning on all levels and includes financial forecasting assistance as well.
Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

10. A Business Model Canvas

Alex Osterwalder has created the “Business Model Canvas” (http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/), a one-page document that forces you to clarify your business model in very little space. This resource, which you can get for free, helps entrepreneurs clarify their key activities, partners and costs. Limiting space and making the plan visual forces you to think critically about your new idea.
– Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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