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The Different Types of Business Plans

This article is part of our Business Planning Guide—a curated list of our articles that will help you with the planning process!

Business plans go by many names: Strategic plans, operational plans, internal plans, Lean Plans, and many others.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the Lean Plan. There are also one-page business plans, although those are really more summaries. Of course, there are traditional business plans, which can also be called formal business plans, or wow-do-I-really-have-to-do-all-that business plans.

You might need different kinds of business plans depending on what you plan to use to accomplish. Like so many other things in business, the principle of form follows function applies. Different situations call for different types of business plans. An effective business plan will match its intended use. Knowing the specific use of a particular type of plan will help you build a better roadmap for the future of your business.

Let’s take a look at the types of business plans and their differences. You can click on the link to be taken directly to the section on that specific business plan if you’d like to jump ahead.

In this article, I’ll cover these different types of business plans:
The Lean Plan that every business ought to have
The standard business plan for those that need to present a plan to outsiders, such as banks or investors
One-page business plans
Business plans for startups
Feasibility plans, internal plans, operations plan, annual plans, and strategic plans

The Lean Plan: Track and grow
All businesses can use a Lean Plan to manage strategy, tactics, dates, milestones, activities, and cash flow.

The Lean Plan is faster, easier, and more efficient than a formal business plan because it doesn’t include summaries, descriptions, and background details that you and your partners or employees already know.

It’s most useful if you’re trying to grow your business and want to use it as a tool to track your financials and milestones against what you projected so you can respond to opportunity and react to challenges quickly.

A Lean Plan includes specific deadlines and milestones, and the budgets allotted for meeting them, so your team is up to speed.

A Lean Plan includes four essential elements—all of them functions of general business management:

  1. Your guiding strategy
    Use simple bullet points to define your target market, business offering, underlying business identity, and long-term goals. No additional text is needed. These serve as a reminder for owners and managers.
  2. Tactics you’ll use to execute strategy
    Use bullet points again. These include marketing decisions such as pricing, channels, website, social media, promotion, and advertising.

Product or service tactics also apply here, including pricing, launch dates, bundles, configuration, new versions, and delivery or packaging. Other tactics might define positions to recruit, training required, and so forth.

  1. Concrete specifics to measure your progress
    List of assumptions, milestones, objective measurements of performance, task responsibilities, and what numbers to track.
  2. Essential numbers
    This is your company’s basic financial plan, including your sales forecast, spending budget, and cash flow.

You can monitor each of these areas using basic excel spreadsheets, but a business dashboard that quickly and easily shows you the difference between your forecast and your actuals can save you time. Ideally, you have software that compares your plan to actual results automatically.

The value of the Lean Plan starts with the plan, but that’s just the beginning. Real management is steering your business with a Lean Plan that you review and revise regularly, tracking progress and performance, and making regular course correction.

You can download our free Lean Plan Template for a jump start on the Lean Planning process.

How to Come up with Hundreds of Business Ideas

This article is part of our Business Startup Guide—a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time! It’s also part of our Bplans guide to coming up with a great idea.

For some people, coming up with ideas is as easy as spotting chewing gum on the sidewalk. For others, it’s nearly impossible.

For me, new idea generation isn’t just easy, it’s something I’m doing all the time and often without trying. I do not believe this is an innate ability, but rather a “skill” that I’ve learned and practiced over the entire course of my life.

While this “learning” has primarily been subconscious, as I’ve run into more and more people who struggle to come up with new ideas, I’ve made an effort to become conscious of how I do it and where I do it best. The fact that research on the subjects of creativity and innovation has become so popular certainly helps too.

I fully believe that anyone who puts in enough practice and who makes a conscious effort to notice problems and identify needs can improve their ability to come up with new ideas.

A brief bit of science before we dive into how to come up with ideas:

Good ideas are networks
The brain is largely composed of neurons—about 100 billion of them. Connected together, they form a nervous system that is capable of making decisions, sensing surroundings, and issuing commands to our body.

How we think, what we think, and what we’re capable of, are largely a consequence of the connections these neurons have made with one another.

Post-Crisis Digital Trends That Will Reshape Your Business in 2020

Uncertainty is the most daunting part of entrepreneurship. That uncertainty has likely been compounded exponentially this year. But one thing is certain— in a time of crisis, innovations have assumed a head-spinning pace, rendering outdated approaches extinct and causing many companies to completely reinvent the way that they work.

The first stage in this crisis was survival. Cutting costs, revisiting forecasts, and stabilizing your business. But that can only get you so far, and you now need to be looking past COVID-19.

You’re not forgetting it or avoiding the practices that have saved your business so far. Instead, you’re maintaining your crisis plan while looking for previously non-existent opportunities to gain traction going into 2021.

Today, the analysts of McKinsey Digital agree that the crisis has led to emerging business opportunities, and the recovery from COVID-19 will be primarily digital. So what can small business leaders do to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis as winners?

Let’s explore the latest trends in information technology and 4 practical tips for how your business can leverage them during your recovery.

Tech Trends For Businesses in 2020-2021
Many technology trends that have slowly been making traction, have seen an unprecedented boost in the past year. You’ve likely noticed a few of them as you’ve transitioned your team to working remotely or explored launching an eCommerce platform. But here are a few others to be aware of going into the end of 2020.

Marketplaces Like Upwork
Just like on-demand delivery services, freelancing marketplaces like Upwork will continue to gain popularity. Driven by job cuts and budget reductions urging businesses to hire more freelancers, online freelancing platforms will enable companies to tap into expanded pools of global talent and hire qualified workers.

Similarly, there will be more opportunities for companies to enter the freelancing platform creation market. Whether it’s better service, streamlined applications, or greater job curation, there are plenty of ways to disrupt this emerging service.

Artificial Intelligence
AI has been a consistent presence and focus for startups and technology companies over the last 10-years. And while it’s been useful for incremental functionality in the past (think iPhone and Siri or Tesla and self-driving cars), now, it’s truly becoming a major business disruptor. Not only because of its capability to accelerate and automate rule-based processes but also because it helps achieve better operational efficiency and reduces human error.
AI is also likely to be your greatest asset for business recovery. Here are just a few things you can do by leveraging data analytics:

Gain a better understanding of changing customer preferences
Discover new business opportunities
Identify and eliminate bottlenecks in your operations
Minimize and better allocate advertising costs
Provide greater customer support through automated chat
For entrepreneurs looking to start a business or for established businesses looking to pivot their business model, you can use AI to build as-a-service operations. Take delivery service apps like Instacart for example, that use AI analytics to garner insights about customers and their behavioral patterns. There are still plenty of industries prime for these types of services, as well as room for competition in current ride-sharing, food delivery avenues that are worth exploring.

Internet of Things
While AI helps businesses make sense of their data, the Internet of Things (IoT) helps capture and deliver data from a plethora of interconnected devices. Simply put, IoT is a combination of sensor and data analytics systems, helping businesses aggregate metrics to make more accurate decisions.

In a post-COVID-19 world, IoT is becoming the main driver of telehealth, helping physicians remotely monitor patients’ state and automatically alert them to urgent conditions. It’s also improving remote doctor visits, allowing for patients and doctors to have more versatile check-ups, without having to meet in-person.

The benefits of IoT even expand into products and services. In the supply chain management space, businesses are leveraging these data sources in app development for smart inventory management, logistics, and merchandising. As of today, IoT applications are present in the manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, energy sector, logistics, and hospitality industries, to name a few.

Cybersecurity
The increase in remote work is making cybersecurity one of the top post-COVID-19 priorities. The amount of disparate connections to sensitive data is increasing and so are the potential targets for perpetrators.

The top cybersecurity threats this year have included phishing, IoT attacks, cryptojacking, the evolution of ransomware strategies, state-sponsored attacks, and crypto-physical attacks. In other words, the opportunities for data breaches are increasing and the methods to do so are becoming more and more intricate.

In 2020, data breaches are among the greatest cybersecurity concerns, with health records, corporate intellectual property, smart cars, and connected devices being the most vulnerable targets. As of today, tech companies increasingly rely on data encryption and blockchain technology for resolving cybersecurity issues, which is becoming more readily available.

5G Network
5G is a next-generation cellular network technology which has a number of advantages over 4G: it has wider coverage, greater data bandwidth, higher speed, and lower latency. As such, it has the potential to transform the world as we know it and improve the functionality of self-driving cars, smart cities, AR/VR, and facilitate machine-to-human interactions.

5G mobile service is expected to be implemented by 2030, but 2020 marks the start of the deployment of the 5G telecommunication network. The long-awaited advent of the 5th generation mobile networks will act as a major impetus for accelerated development and adoption of most of today’s groundbreaking technologies.

These trends will develop in synergy, with 5G. Supporting the spread of IoT, propelling the further increase in applications of AI and data analytics, and creating the need for sophisticated cybersecurity solutions.