What’s A One Page Business Plan Good For?

Bob Paul, SCORE counselor at Grayslake branch

Bob Paul, SCORE counselor at Grayslake branch

Maybe Oprah likes one page business plans, but SCORE Chicago is less enthusiastic.  (Oprah’s magazine features one page business plans in an article “Your Great Idea, An Idea Whose Time has come.” “I’m skeptical of one page business plans, say SCORE Counselor Bob Paul, who teaches the monthly Business Plan Workshop in Chicago

The one pager makes a nice summary, says Paul, and includes important components – especially the mission, the measurable goals and action plans.

But it misses the analytical part of planning – especially the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) of the business.

  • Who are my target customers? Is the market growing or shrinking? What are the environmental and competitive threats and opportunities? Do customers want what I will be selling?
  • How prepared am I to start this business? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How do I take advantage of my strengths or correct my weaknesses?
  • What issues emerge from my SWOTs assessment that are critical to my success? Does the SWOTs assessment change my direction or emphasis?

If the one-page approach somehow answers these questions first, Paul agrees, then it is fine. If it does not, you can end up with a wonderful sounding one-page plan for a business that builds a factory in the middle of New York City to manufacture manual typewriters.

Have you tried a one page business plan? Has it gotten you where you want to go?  Please leave a comment.   UpdateGreat discussion going on in the comments to this post.  Don’t miss them.

You may also be interested in: 

How Long Should A Business Plan Be?

Is A One Page Business Plan a Business Plan? Poll Results And SCORE Comment

5 Keys to A Successful Loan Application

SCORE Chicago is a nonprofit organization and resource partner of the Small Business Administration.  Volunteer experts offer free email counseling on business plans, loans, marketing etc., for startups and small businesses.  Click here to submit your email counseling request.


8 Responses to “What’s A One Page Business Plan Good For?”

  1. Maria Marsala Says:

    After being in business two years, and after teaching the longer business plan processes at a college, I found the one page business plan(r) process. That was 8 years ago.

    More recently I taught the process at the local SBDC. Part of that program was to create a longer plan with all the bells and whistles; however, to start, they created their vision and learned about the 5 parts of it’s planning process. I was just invited back to do the program again.

    I found a plan I was willing to do — it was the one page plan.

    It helped me see how I needed to change my business model which did look great on paper; but wasn’t working enough.

    When certification was created for the process; I jumped at the chance to take it. I found that clients who created the plan did SO much better than those who didn’t — so now I won’t work with any business owner or executive unless they create a plan.

    In the 10 years I’ve been in business, most business owners are like me — they don’t create a plan unless they need funding. I’ve worked with business owners who are start ups to those making double digit millions; none had a plan, all got stuck somewhere, and they all benefited tremendously by having one.

    The One Page Business Plan(r) with its CD, software and online performance management system is not a plan for funding.

    Learn the methodolgy and you’ll find lots of ways to use it. I had a non profit client who used the questions to help her run meetings better. Had a client use it to create a family plan. Other clients have created plans for their departments, a big project and their careers. Have had two people create plans for positions within a company that didn’t exist yet — they wanted those jobs.

    Even large companies, like Drake Beam Morin, Inc., Head Start, Tom Peters, and Kaiser Permanente all use it to get all their staff “on the same page”.

    It is a living, breathing plan that is used everyday to “put the boss back into your business” — that’s the accountability and clarity many of us need — and are willing to do!

    By that I mean that once your plan is done (and for my clients that means that they have an ideal client profile, budget, SWOT and a few other parts), that they take their objectives and turn them into a performance management system (the CD has an excel spreadsheet to use and we offer clients use of an online system that simplifies the tracking process). Then they take their action plans and turn them into some sort of project managment system– could it be on paper or excel or whatever.

    What’s important is that it’s used daily and doesn’t become a dust collector.

    All my clients know about SCORE and SBA and many have brought their plans to their offices for the free services our tax dollars pay for. And many SCORE offices recommend the process. I know because they’ve found my website.

    People can always find things that are “missing” from something else; even when I taught business plan classes at the college, there were things I felt would be helpful to add. And that’s the thing …. with the web and all the resources out there, we can add them.

    We’re all working together to help business owners succeed. We do it differently and I think it’s great that clients have options … especially those who won’t — for whatever reasons — create any sort of plan.

    I’m sure that if people find this post, you’ll hear of many more success stories. And maybe, unlike me, they didn’t have to move 3000 miles from home to find a business plan they were willing to do and use….

  2. Peg Corwin Says:

    Here is Counselor Bob Paul’s reply to Ms. Marsal: “I don’t disagree with anything here. Ms Marsal acknowledges that she does the “client profile, budget, SWOT and a few other parts” So she is doing all the things I suggest were missing but for some reason, doesn’t choose to call them part of the business plan.

    “What I read into Ms Marsala’s comments is that many businesses consider the plan to be “done” without identifying the measurable goals and specific actions. I agree that “one pager” does a good job of highlighting these last steps.

    “But to suggest that the “one pager” constitutes a business plan when there is no mention of target markets, SWOTs, and financials is misleading. All the steps are important.”


  3. Catherine Marshall Says:

    As someone who has taught and consulted with literally hundreds of entrepreneurs and now nonprofits, I know that the first challenge is getting them to complete a planning process, any process. The One Page Business Plan was never created to be the end of planning but the beginning, the foundation. In the process of creating the One Page Business Plan an entrepreneur begins the exploration of all you described. The fact that you dismissed this quickly indicates you haven’t even read the book let alone experienced the process. Why don’t you actually try it out, Bob? I know other SCORE counselors I have talked to rave about it.

  4. Peg Corwin Says:

    Bob responds to Catherine:

    If the book on “one page” approach assures the analysis of the target market, the SWOTS, and a cash flow, (along with the mission, measurable goals, and action plan), then I have no problem with it.

  5. Joe Dager Says:

    Don’t confuse the OPBP as an executive summary. Though I have never written a OPBP for funding, the person with the “gold” have always dictated what was required in a business plan. If they have the money, who is going to argue. The OPBP is an internal process as a result.

    That does not lesson the importance of the OPBP. It still is the “plan.” Most executive summaries are simple introductions that can practically be used year after year. A little update here, an adjustment in numbers and maybe better quality paper if you had a good year. In fact, when I have seen people review plans, they usually just flip past theses page to the table of contents.

    A story I heard once from the guy that invented the PDA. He went to a funding session where people were presenting their ideas for funding. The came in with tons of paper, supporting documentation, and more. He, thinking it was only to be a preliminary type meeting had just a few pages. So, instead of presenting the paper, he threw his wallet in the middle of the table and talked about what the PDA would be able to do and what it would look like. As they say in the movies; “He had them at Hello!” They even picked up the wallet and passed it around. The executive summary explains the paper, The wallet(OPBP) says it all!

    I challenge SCORE offices to dig deeper into the OPBP. Most SCORE Counselors, though scads of business experience, have not necessarily done start-ups. But they have to realize that most start-ups put their plans on the shelf after funding is received and never look at them till the next time funding is needed. The OPBP provides a document that is usable for them and provides accountability through out the year. It is a tool that counselors can easily review with their clients and quickly address concerns and issues.

    I can attest after doing several small business start-ups and growth companies, that getting funding for lines of credits for $200K to 1 million that I would have been held more accountable with a OPBP than the 4 inch thick pile of paper, I supplied. I heard this once in a OPBP tele-seminar, don’t fund the paper, fund the person.

  6. billcooey Says:

    I think that a one page business plan is a good idea with one caveat – it should be preliminary to eventually doing a full business plan. I would think of it in the terms of the proverbial “sniff test” because if it fails on the “one page plan” then no amount of additional detail will salvage it by doing a full and proper business plan.


  7. Is A One Page Business Plan a Business Plan? Poll Results And SCORE Comment « Learned At SCORE Chicago Says:

    […] “The OPBP makes a nice beginning (mission) and a nice ending ( measurable goals and action plans) to the planning process.” So says counselor Bob Paul, who has already weighed in on this topic earlier. […]

  8. Carter Vajnar Says:

    To help budding entrepreneurs avoid these traps, I also identified the three key elements that go into a successful business plan: a logical statement of a problem and its solution; a battery of cold, hard evidence; and candor about the risks, gaps and other assumptions that might be proved wrong.`

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