Okay, a cheap trick to get your attention by using a line from Paul Simon’s 1975 hit song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” as a headline. But, hey, if your reading this it must have worked. So, let’s talk about Business Plans.

Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not preparing a business plan. That’s not terribly surprising, the prospect of writing a traditional business plan can seem an intimidating task. It requires time, careful thought, research, and patience as you define your business’s goals, critical success factors, marketplace and financials. A full traditional business plan is essential if you intend to request funding from outside sources.

But, the business plan is not only important for starting your business, it’s also an indispensable tool for helping you manage and grow an existing business. Your business plan is your roadmap in operating your company. Plus, reports are that many more entrepreneurs today are bootstrapping their startup businesses, that is self-funding and/or using customer revenues, and not requiring funding from outside sources. We need a quick and easy method of writing down and monitoring the important aspects of our business to keep us on task.

In his 2010 book Running Lean Ash Maurya proposes such a vehicle. His “Lean Canvas”, one-page business plan, allows the business owner to capture the essential elements of their business, make it easy to read and allow the plan to be displayed as a single page on a bulletin board. The left side of the lean canvas focuses on the product and the problem to be solved, the solution, your competition and cost structure. The right side of the page asks about the target customers, your competitive advantage, channels of distribution and revenue streams. All questions pertaining to the market. This one-page plan, on your bulletin board allows you to continually evaluate your business model and know when to change course if necessary.

Port Charlotte SCORE is offering two workshops on using the lean canvas. The first session was July 20th and the next is August 17th. I am assured by the instructor, SCORE Mentor Steve Drake, that if you missed the first session a brief review at the second will get you up to speed. To register for these workshops, visit www.portcharlotte.score.org.

In 2015 Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, released the book Lean Business Planning. Berry’s book proposed the “Lean Business Planner” as a method of displaying the strategy for your business and help you manage and lead. In addition to information on your product(s) and market, Berry’s plan displays your mission statement and asks about the people helping in the venture. This plan also sets milestones to compare to the business’s performance and help with decision making. Having this information in clear concise statements makes it much easier to adapt your business to changing circumstances.

Remember, whatever planning method you choose, your business plan is a living document that should be updated with new or modified contingencies, and adjusted timeframes for key milestones. With a business plan, you’ll be better able to move your business in the right direction from the start and navigate changes more easily in the future.

Let me know your thoughts at eddavis@scorevolunteer.org.

Port Charlotte SCORE is a Chapter of The SCORE Association, dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses by educating and mentoring entrepreneurs. Volunteers provide confidential business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing entrepreneurs at no cost. Request a mentor at www.portcharlotte.score.org. Follow us on Twitter; @charlottecscore