In today’s episode, I’m going to step you through how to format your business plan.

Whether you’re into formatting or not, I want you to tune into this one because I’m going to break down a couple of myths and mistakes with business plan formatting, and also help you make your business plan do the best possible job it can for you.

Here for the links referenced in the show notes? 

Ask a Question:

Quarterly Planning Template:

Let’s dive in!

It still surprises me how many people ask questions about how to format their business plan…

I get questions submitted for the podcast ( if you’d like to submit one), in my planning sessions, and also on social media.

There’s still this confusion around what the right format or structure is for a business plan.

The first thing I want to say is that sometimes we can get a little bit over-focused and fixated on that exact right thing.

This perfectionism can create analysis paralysis and stop you from taking action in the first place.

That being said, I totally get it.

If you’re starting to write a business plan, and you simply have a blank page in front of you, that blinking cursor of doom that’s waiting for you to type the perfect first words can absolutely put you in a frozen state when it comes to getting really clear on what your business plan is.

Rather than say that your business plan format doesn’t matter and simply dismissing the question, I want to answer the question from a few different angles…

1. What is the role of this business plan for you?

When it comes to deciding the format of your business plan, we want to first take a step back and ask ourselves what its role is.

There’s a difference between a business plan for:

  • A large organisation with multiple teams, versus
  • Someone who’s working solo, versus
  • Someone who works with three or four team members, and they’re planning things out over a year in advance

We need to get really clear on what its job is.

As an online business owner, the first job of my business plan is that when I sit down to work on my business, I know what to work on.

Everything I do when it comes to business planning is through that lens.

There are other roles for my business plan these days…

It needs to keep my team up to date on what’s going on and where our focus is. But it also needs to help my team to make strategic decisions about how to prioritise their own work.

Another reason for my business plan is to help me see how my year is flowing and ensure that I’m not overloading myself, that I’m not jamming too much stuff in, and that I’m not setting myself up for burnout.

Before we dive into the specifics of the format and structure of your business plan, I want you to think about whether you’re clear on exactly what you want this business plan to do.

If the thing that you want the business plan to do is get your partner off your back because they’re nagging you about having a business plan, then that is a totally legitimate reason for creating a business plan.

Sometimes the people around us require us to conform to their beliefs and structures around what is required for business success (ie. having a smart business plan) in order for them to relax and trust that we’ve got it nailed.

Even if the only reason you want to have a business plan is that you want to shut your loved ones up… that’s totally cool as well.

But why not, in the process of making that business plan, also get it to do that one very sexy job of clarifying what you need to do each day in your business?

Even a one-page business plan can achieve that goal.

format business plan planner and pens on desk scaling growth

Format your business plan in a way that works for you… and get clear on its job!

In fact, for most online businesses in the early stages, all I recommend is having a one-page business plan.

This is because you need to be flexible and adaptable to what you learn and discover about your audience, your products and services, as well as your marketing strategies as you go, and continuously pivot, adjust and reorganise what that plan is going to look like.

If you’re planning two years in advance when you have no idea whether next month’s webinar is going to be a good one you want to repeat or not, then you’re going to do a lot of work that you’ll have to redo.

The shorter the term in which you’ve been in business and the shorter the term that you can predict and plan ahead in your business, the shorter the term your business plan should be.

You can see just by thinking about what the job of the plan is, how it will help you get clarity on how complex the structure needs to be, and what the business plan format might be.

2. What does your business need?

Dive deep into: What is the size of your business? What is the stage of your business? And what needs does this business plan meet for the business itself?

We’ve already figured out the role of the business plan specifically for you and the people in your business. But then there’s a role of the business plan for the business itself.

Is your business large scale with multiple team members who need the business plan in order to be able to communicate with each other and keep each other updated without you having to be part of the process?

Does this business plan need to help you get really clear on how to scale up because you’re in that intense growth period of your business, so the business plan needs to prioritise that scaling?

Or does the business plan need to help you reduce and limit your work hours because the business is actually creeping back into your personal life?

What does the business plan need to focus on? What are the priorities right now? What’s the size of the business we’re dealing with? And what stage of business are we dealing with?

The great news is that the smaller and earlier your business is, the simpler your business plan can be formatted, and the easier it is to create a simple, effective business plan that does that one crucial job.

3. What works for you?

If you love colour and structure, you might like to create your business plan as a colour-coded table.

If you love creativity and flexibility, and you’re a real wordsmith, you might do a simple Google Doc. In that word doc, you could write it all down – what you’re focused on, what your worries are, etc.

You could write your business plan as a story if that’s what works for you.

There are some amazing and really creative ways to create a business plan.

The other thing you might want to take into consideration in relation to what works for you is whether you’re someone who is inspired and ignited by a giant to-do list (#NotMe), or whether you’re someone who works better with very clear priorities and a small list of things to do.

I’m not asking whether you prefer having a giant list. I’m asking whether you work BETTER with a giant list or not. Because actually, workplace psychologists have found that the longer our to-do list, the less likely we are to do what’s important on that list.

The longer the list is, the more likely we’re going to go for the unimportant tasks on that list.

Think about what actually works for you and what is going to keep you focused on the priorities that are most important for your business right now.

Those are the three things that I want you to consider when thinking about your business plan…

1. What’s the role of this business plan for you?
2. What does your business need?
3. What works for you?

Now that you know what you need from your business plan, I have a super juicy freebie to help you get started with a format!

It’s my Plan on a Page template, which you can download for free here: CLICK ME

This is a starter template.

This quarterly planning template has the bare minimum information that you need inside your business plan for it to give you clarity on what you need to work on when you work on your business.

It also helps you keep a simple, refined and prioritised list of outputs that you are going to generate in the next quarter.

The template does come with an explainer page as well, so make sure you go check it out: CLICK ME

But wait, there’s more!

On the 27th of September 2022, I hosted a Quarterly Planning workshop.

In that workshop, I help you plan out your next quarter with clarity, simplicity, focus, and SUCCESS.

Unfortunately, the replay is no longer available for this workshop. You can find the next available quarterly Planning Party here:

Make sure to come on over to the Heart-Centred Soul-Driven Entrepreneurs Facebook group and share any questions or aha moments that you’ve had as a result of reading this episode. Just use #podcastaha and the episode number (320), and let’s keep the convo going!

In the meantime, happy planning!!

Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.

Tash Corbin Business Mentor and Strategist