This template can work as a model, a technique to help with the visualization of ideas.

A business will always be evolving and changing.  Keep it simple and fun.

Five-step business plan:

I.    Vision
II.   Mission
III.  Objectives
IV.  Strategies

V.   Plans


I. Vision

A.  The Vision Statement – What are you building?

  • Capture and describe the passion of the idea. 
  • Be sure to stimulate thinking, communicate passion, and paint a very graphic picture of the business.
  • Exaggerate the vision statement- write a wildly optimistic, no limits, maybe even outrageous, vision statement. 
  • Describe your dream- be free flowing, not restricting the flow of any thoughts, use powerful adjectives to describe all the characteristics, and include the personal elements of the vision.
  • Describe your vision as you see it now!


B.  Brainstorm Exercise

  • Your Vision: Create the company you want.
  • What? 
    • Products or services: or both?  How many?  Company Image: What will this company be known for?  Owner’s Role: What is your role?  How will you spend your time?
  • Where? 
    • Business: Local, regional, national or international? 
    • Customers: Where are they? 
    • What cities, states, countries? 
    • Business Operations:  Headquarters, sales offices, manufacturing, etc.?
  • Who? 
    • Customers: Who are they?  (Most businesses have several types of customers) 
    • Strategic Alliances: Who can you partner with? 
    • Advisors: Who can provide professional and strategic advice and help you grow this business properly?
  • When? 
    • Start-up: When will this business be operational? 
    • Facilities: When will office/manufacturing/distribution space be required? 
    • Systems:  When must they be selected, tested, and operational?
  • Why? 
    • Owner: Why am I creating this business? 
    • Customers:  Why will they buy these products or services?  
    • Investor/Bankers: Why will they invest/loan money to this business?
  • How? 
    • Financing: How will this business be finances? 
    • Culture: How do you want to interact with employees, suppliers, customers? 
    • Personal Beliefs: How will your personal beliefs about business impact this business?

C.  Interview Exercise

  • What is the product or service? 
  • Describe three characteristics of your product or service: 
  • Describe three things you product or service won’t do:
  • Who is the customer?
  • Describe three characteristics of your best current or potential customers or clients:
  • Describe three characteristics of clients or customers you would be better off not serving:
  • What is the business environment?
  • Describe three characteristics of successful businesses you admire and would like to emulate:
  • Describe three characteristics of businesses you would not like to emulate:


D.  Focus Exercise

Step 1.  Vision Statement (First Draft)
Within the next __ years, grow (company name) into a $(annual sales) (type or description of business) providing (description of products and/or services to) (describe your customers).

Step 2.  Rewrite the vision statement above, modifying it using your own words:

Step 3.  Write a wildly optimistic, no limits, outrageous vision statement!

An example:  Create a network of Cafes around the world that are live and cyberspace networking salons featuring educational entertainment and electronic cyber theater.  It will be a fun place where people gather for play and work; where creative people, using the marriage of art and technology learn from each other and have a forum for showcasing their work.

E.  Feedback Exercise

  • Take a few days to reflect on the three vision statements you wrote, (step 1, step 2, and step 3). 
  • Share them with a couple of friends or associates. 
  • Write the feedback from two people noting key words and phrases from the above sources and other places you would like to use in your own vision statement. 
  • Rewrite your vision statement two times.  Use your own style to describe your vision and choose words that are comfortable and meaningful to you.  Do not use too many words. 
  • Write this vision statement on a blank page.


II. Mission

A.  The Mission Statement:  Why does this business exist?

  • The mission statement describes the purpose for which your product, service, or business exists. 
    • “Why will customers buy this product or service?”  Your initial mission statement is likely to be multiple sentences, but try to keep in concise and powerful. 
  • Mission statements are also about commitments and promises. 
    • Ask yourself, "What is your company committed to providing your customers? 
  • Mission statements must reflect the owner’s passion and commitment.


B.  Brainstorm Exercise

  • Your Mission… What’s in it for the customer and you?

Step 1.  What is the product or service?  What differentiates you from the competition?

Step 2.  Describe your ideal customers.

Step 3.  Why will customers buy this product or service? What value does this product or service provide the customer?  What unique benefits does this product or service provide the customer?

Step 4.  What passions are you trying to satisfy by building the business?  What beliefs do you have about business that will impact this business?  What is the highest good that this business can achieve?  What values will drive this business?  Who will benefit from this business?


C.  Interview Exercise

  • Restate the answers to the following questions:
  • Why will customers buy your company’s product or service?
  • What is your company committed to providing your customers?
  • What can your company promise?
  • What passions are you trying to satisfy by building this business?


D.  Focus Exercise

Step 1.

  • Select 1-6 key words that your customer would use to describe why your company exists. 
  • Capture your competitive marketing edge or unique selling proposition. 

Step 2.

  • Repeat Step 1 two times. 

Step 3.

  • Does this mission support your vision?

An example of a high tech employment search company:  “We find the right employees to make your business successful.”


E.  Feedback Exercise

  • Refine your mission statement
  • Share it with two people
  • Receive input. 
  • Write your refined mission statement, and then rewrite it below your vision statement on the blank paper.


III. Objectives

A.  The Objectives:  What results will you measure?

  • Clarify what it is you are trying to accomplish in specific, measurable goals. 
  • For an objective to be effective, it needs to be a well-defined target with quantifiable elements that are measurable. 
    • Whereas, your vision statement is expansive and idealistic. 
  • The mission statement needs to be short, powerful, memorable, and customer oriented
  • Objectives are designed to focus your resources on achieving specific results. 
  • A well-defined objective is to cause meaningful action. 
  • Know what they want to achieve in very specific terms
  • Have targets and time frames written down
  • Become a “meaningful specific” not a “wandering generality”. 
    • There are many types of objectives and your plan should include a wide variety.  For many businesses, the two most important categories will be:
      • the financial
      • marketing objectives 
  • Tailor your objectives to cover the entire scope of your business,
  • Focus on the goals that are most critical to your success. 
    • If you have an objective for revenue, profitability, two or three for marketing, that leaves four or five to cover manufacturing, operations, personnel, and other important goals that are critical to your success. 
  • Keep your objectives meaningful by making them specific and important. 
  • Create objectives that can be measured and then measure the results throughout the year. 
  • Objectives are a prime tool for accountability. 
  • Stay focused and stay on track!


B.  Brainstorm Exercise – What accomplishments would you like to celebrate?

  • Imagine what you might say at the company celebration dinner:  Congratulations:  We successfully completed (______).  We are proud to announce the beginning of (_____).  We no longer have to deal with (_____) because we (_____).   We increased (_____) by (_____).  We decreased (_____) by (_____).
  • Where does success come from?  What will it look like?

Step 1. 

  • Where have you been successful in the past?   How can you expand upon these successes?

Step 2. 

  • What were your past mistakes?  What have you learned from these mistakes>?

Step 3.

  • What ideas have you not acted on?  Which of these ideas will you go forward with?


C.  Focus Exercise- What targets will you aim for?

1. Financial 

  • Sales Profit 
  • Gross margin 
  • Cash flow 
  • Inventory 
  • Owner compensation 
  • Debt

i.e. increase sales by 30%

2. Marketing and Sales

  • Revenue
  • Units sold 
  • # of accounts
  • # of new customers
  • # of repeat customers
  • Advertising response rates
  • Sales per employee
  • Closing rate

i.e. Improve sales per employee to $1M per year.

3. Operations

  • Job count
  • Units processed per hour
  • Service time
  • Shipping time
  • Error rates
  • Equipment downtime

i.e. Reduce customer service labor costs per order by 5% by X date.

4. Human Resources

  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Safety
  • Morale
  • Environment
  • Overtime
  • Use of contractors
  • Training hours
  • Employee turnover rate

i.e. Reduce overtime to 8% or less by X date.

5. R & D

  • # of projects completed
  • # of successful test
  • Documentation rates
  • Safety incidents
  • Environmental emissions
  • Design productivity
  • Cost reduction 

i.e. Complete 11 projects by X date.

6. Manufacturing

  • Production units/cost
  • Capacity
  • Quality
  • Dual sources %
  • Scrap rates
  • Labor efficiency
  • Downtime
  • Inventory levels

i.e. Produce X number of units by X date.

7. Personal 

  • # of vacation days taken
  • # of hours worked per week
  • Take home pay
  • Retirement
  • Education
  • Personal growth
  • Charitable contributions
  • Public speaking

i.e. Increase vacation to 3 weeks.

8. Other

  • Professional awards
  • Investors return
  • Banker covenants
  • Supplier reliability
  • Government headaches
  • Community activities

i.e. Donate 100 hours of volunteer time per quarter.

D.  What does this business need to accomplish?

  • Describe the activity required: 
    • What will happen and when? 
    • What is the financial impact? 
    • Do this for four objectives. 
    • Example: Develop/introduce a new products, possibly a book by X date, Sales of X by X date.

E. Crafting Meaningful Objectives.

  • Now rewrite the objectives into sentences or phrases combing your responses in the four columns. 
    • i.e. Introduce a book by X date and an audio type by X date, resulting in sales of X for the year of X.
  • Objectives that work and what does not 
    • WORKS: Increases sales 20% to X million in X year. 
      • It is specific, and measurable.  
    • DOES NOT WORK: Develop a sustainable business; minimize peaks and valleys.
      • Not specific.  It does not work.

F.  Summarize 

  1. Read your vision and mission statements
  2. Rewrite your objectives below. 
  3. Ask yourself again if these objectives will accomplish your vision and mission statements. 
  4. Now write your objectives once more on the blank page under the mission statement.


IV. Strategies

A. The Strategies – How will you grow this business?

B. Strategies 

  • Set the direction, philosophy, values, and methodology for building and managing your company.
  • Establish guidelines and boundaries for evaluation important business decisions.
  • Following a predefined set of strategies in critical to keeping a business on track. 
  • One way of understanding strategies is to think of them as “industry practices.” 
    • Strategies are not secret.  In fact they are common knowledge and openly shared in every industry. 
  • Pick up an industry publication and you will know precisely what the industry’s leaders have to say about the opportunities and how to capitalize on them. 
    • These leaders will also share their current problems and their solutions.  In most industries there are four to six core strategies that the successful businesses follow. 
    • These core strategies are easy to understand, remain relatively constant over time, are used by market leaders, and result in growth and profitability.  
    • A properly constructed set of strategies will define your business and keep it focused. 
  • For example, a CPA whose vision is to build a local practice would be significantly off track to accept international clients who would take him out of the country on extended trips.  An upscale boutique targeting high-income clientele would not be wise to locate right next door to a K-Mart.  Strategies must address both internal and external influences that are affecting or may affect your business. 
  • Strategies provide the answer to the question: “What will make this business successful over time?”

C. Brainstorm Exercise – Key Elements to Building Your Business.

  • Which of the following topics are critical to growing and operating your business?  (Add some that you find left out)
    1. Market Presence
    2. Employees
    3. Distribution Channel
    4. Referrals
    5. Partners
    6. Shared Support Services
    7. Product Cost
    8. Product Uniqueness
    9. Technical Knowledge
    10. Trademarks/Patents
    11. Customer Service
    12. Board of Advisors
    13. Time Management
    14. Cash Flow
    15. Company Image
    16. Reputation
    17. Key customers
    18. Quality
    19. Other People’s Skills
    20. Capital – Trade Industry Acceptance
    21. Location
    22. Visibility
    23. Number of Accounts
    24. Technology/Equipment
    25. Family Support/Money
    26. Strategic Alliances
  • Decide Which Strategies Are Appropriate for Your Business
  • Where do you find strategies specific to your business? 
    • Trade journals,
    • Local business newspapers,
    • National business magazines are great places to start. 
    • These publications are filled with current articles on industry trends in the critical areas of marketing, finance, and operations.

D. Research Exercise

  • Review issues of your industry’s trade association journal and answer the questions below.
    1. What opportunities exist?
    2. How can we capitalize on them?
    3. What threats exist?
    4. How can we minimize the threats or turn the threats into opportunities?

E.  Examples of Industry Issues

  • Pricing
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Cost reduction
  • Environment
  • Market
  • Competition
  • Government
  • Economic
  • Technology
  • Media
  • The Public
  • Taxes
  • Import/Export Regulations

F.  Focus Exercise

  • Use the following words to help brainstorm how you will promote and sell to your customers:
    • Workshops,
    • Associations,
    • Newspapers
    • Direct Mail
    • Outplacement Agencies
    • Referrals
    • Partnerships
    • Internet
    • Local Retailers
    • Relevision
    • Radio
    • Telemarketing
    • Magazines
    • Speaking
    • Government Agencies
    • Trade Journals
  • Where/how do these customers buy your products now?
  • Where/how will they buy them in the future?
  • How do you plan to promote your products or services to these categories of customers?

G.  Brainstorm Exercise – What’s working in your company?

  • Use the following words to answer the following questions.
    • Management
    • Employees
    • Business Practices
    • Facilities
    • Employee benefits
    • Overtime
    • Internal Controls
    • Product Quality
    • Manufacturing Capacity
    • Flexibility
    • Yields
    • Expense Control
    • Communication
    • Inventory management
    • Customer service
    • Safety
    • Profit Margin
    • Morale
  • What currently works well in my company?
  • How can we improve?
  • What doesn’t work well?
  • How do we solve the problems?

H. Focus Exercises

  • Select three critical issues that are limiting your company’s growth, profitability, or effectiveness. 
    • This exercise helps you differentiate between symptoms and root causes so that you can see more clearly what needs to happen to achieve a permanent and effective change.  (For established businesses only)
  • List 3 issues or symptoms:
    1. What is the root cause of this?
    2. What needs to change?
    3. How will results be measured?

    • How do we get from here to there?
    • What has made your company successful or limited its growth to date? 
    • How will you build on the successes and overcome the current limitations to achieve your vision?
  • List success factors of current business. 
    • What is your vision to improve these?
    • List the limiting factors of current business? 
    • What is your vision to correct these?
  • Crafting Meaningful Strategies
    • From the focus exercise, above, select up to five areas that are critical to building your company.  Then, draft a strategy statement for each one below.  Do these strategies describe: 
  • How the business will be built and managed?
  • How we will capitalize on market opportunities?
  • How we will solve our business’s critical problems?

Examples of Strategies
What works: Position company for strategic acquisition in 2006; build brands, identity, management team, and profits.  Sets the direction with the big picture and exit strategy.  What doesn’t work is: Make money, limit investment in business and employees, think about retirement at age 65.  Everything is wrong with this strategy.

I.  Summarize

  1. Use this summary to refine your strategies by writing them down. 
  2. Check each strategy for the following characteristics:
    • Easy to understand
    • Constant over time
    • Used by market leaders
    • Results in growth and profitability
  3. Now rewrite it on the blank page.


V.  Plan

A. The Plans – What is the work to be done?

  • Plans are the specific actions the business must implement to achieve the objectives.
  • Plan or action items should be important, significant, and contribute to the growth of your business. 
  • Each plan or action item is, in effect, a project. 
    • Ideally, each plan statement should directly relate to an objective and a strategy. 
  • Plans should be action oriented, should specify specific tasks, and should have deadlines. 
  • If your business has employees, independent contractors, or utilizes outside resources to complete tasks, the ideal plan statement will identify who is responsible for performing each function.  


B. Brainstorm Exercise:

                 Business – Building Projects

  • The exercises in this section are designed to guide you in the development and prioritization of your action plans and in relating them to specific objectives and or strategies. 
  • In preparing your plans, estimate the cost and time frame for each project. 
  • Transfer this information into your budget work sheets, calculate the impact of your to-do list on your cash follow. 
  • If you don’t know what your projects will cost, it’s quite likely you will not have enough cash to fund them. 
  • A project with no cash is like a car with no gas – it’s not going very far. 
  • Make your plans carefully. 
  • Execute them on time, within budge, and with excellence. 
  • Measure their impact routinely.
  • List six projects that would make a big difference in your business. 
  • Tie them to an objective or a strategy. 
  • Then answer the three questions for each project:
  1. What impact would completing the project have?
  2. How will you measure the results?
  3. What are the next three steps?
  • Integrating Objectives, Strategies, and Plans
    • Choose five projects form the preceding projects and complete the chart below for each.
  • Objective or strategy + Project to be completed + Person Responsible + Completion Date

C.  Focus Exercise – Crafting Meaningful Plans

  • Now rewrite the above plans into sentences or phrases, combining your responses in the four parts. 
  • Example: Hire route salesman for territory in fourth quarter.  It is a specific position; some leeway for completion.  Do no say, “Hire approximately six new employees.”

D. Summarize 

  • Use this summary to refine your plans by writing them down.  Now write your plans on the first page under the list of the others.
  • Keep the plan with you.
  • Update it with new thoughts.
  • Share it with people you trust and whose opinions you value.
  • Measure your progress at least quarterly.
  • Prepare a budget to match the plan.   (Sales, gross profit, expenses and net income)
  • (Use these categories to put together the following scenarios – Good – OK – Bad – in order to be ready for whatever comes your financial way.)