My new company’s business plan went from beta to final release today. I’m very proud of the final product, and am excited to circle back to to prospective investors.
In my opinion, Jeff and Rich have written the definitive "how-to" on business plan authorship. But how do you plan to write a business plan? I find it helpful to write my business plans in three phases, similar to a software model.
Alpha Release: You start with nothing, and a week or two later, you end up with your alpha plan. In those first few weeks, you should be working to answer the "defining dozen" questions as best as possible, but with a global perspective on the plan in its entirety. Your alpha plan is more of an "idea" plan than anything else.
Beta Release: You’re now ready to take your plan to others. Ideal candidates are friendly potential investors and respected business advisors. The former will tell you what is absent from they plan that they will want to see before giving you money. The latter will ask very pointed questions about your strategy, from pricing to branding to manufacturing, and chances are you won’t have thought to answer those questions yet. Your beta release is now a real "business" plan.
Final Release: Now that you’ve shown you can run the business itself, it is time to speak to industry insiders about the nuances of the market. Talk to competitors, potential partners, and people at trade publications. Industry salespeople are also phenomenal, on-the-ground information resources. Begin talking to suppliers and vendors of products and services (i.e. marketing and consulting companies). During this process, your goal is to become an industry insider ASAP. The release plan should be as much for your own awareness as it is for investors. It should answer, as best as possible, all the things that a CEO who has been running this business for a year could otherwise answer. Your final release is an "operating" plan.
Some of this should happen in parallel; ideally you are lining up industry insiders on day 1, and getting investors excited throughout the entire process. So when you have a 37-page document that is a collaboration of many smart minds with you at the lead, you know you’re ready to go out and change the world.