Most business owners have encountered a “traditional” business plan at some point, perhaps in school, with a previous employer or in their own business. And while a traditional business plan can be helpful in certain situations, in my experience such a business plan is a colossal waste of time for a small business.

Far more valuable than a fifty-page long document full of occasionally relevant data is a short, focused strategy statement. I regularly work with my clients to help them create a “one page business plan” which focuses on the practical steps they need to take in order to achieve their goals. This type of business plan becomes a helpful tool for the business owner – helping them focus on important matters and guiding their efforts so that they’re always working towards their ultimate goals.

If you don’t have a one-page business plan, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to create one. If you’d like help, contact me. Today, I’m challenging you to take this concept to the next level: to create a short strategy statement, no more than a sentence or two, which sums up your key business focus. There are two essential questions that must be answered in this statement:

What makes your products or services different? We all face competition. Whether it is a local competitor directly across the street or a business in a different state that competes for your customers via the internet, you face competition. That’s why one of the keys to growing your business is differentiating yourself. Why should customers purchase from you instead of the competition? Do you offer higher quality products? Are you more convenient and easy to work with? Is your customer service second to none? Whatever these differentiating factors are, it’s important that maintaining and improving them is a major focus at all times.

Who are you selling your products or services to? Define your target market. In order to grow your business, you need a precise and clearly defined target – and you need to remain mindful of your target market all day, every day. Every time you make a decision, it should be run through the filter of “will this make my business more appealing to our target market?”

Key pieces you want to include are:

  1. Your Vision for the future. I generally suggest a three year planning horizon.
  2. A short strategy statement that summarizes what makes your business different and who is your ideal customer.
  3. Your “half dozen” key objectives for the next 12 months. These should be Specific, Measurable and Attainable with some effort.
  4. Then your 90 day action plans to hit those objectives – you will update each 90 day period over the year.