Business Plan School
Business Plans, Business Models, Frameworks, Strategy, Competitive Advantage by Ken Pirok
Business Plan School

New, Improved Business Plan Outline & Business Model Template by Ken Pirok

Introduction and Executive Summary (including financing requests)
Internal Aspects
Strengths and Weaknesses
Business Ownership
Board of Directors
Key Employees and Managers
Management Structure/Organizational Chart
Management Succession Plans
Research and Development
Systems and Technology
Location and Local Market Analysis

Competitive Advantage:
Mission and Vision Statements (What do you do differently or better?)
Value Proposition

Product/Service Descriptions
Product/Service Life Cycle
Target Market
Market Size
Market Share
Revenues and Sales Goals (built from the bottom up)
Customers/Clients and Payment Terms
Bargaining Power of Customers
Consumer or End-User (may differ from customer)
Concentrations of Sales
Cyclical Nature of Business

Labor Unions
Strategic Partners
Financiers and Specific Requests for Financing and Proposed Use of Funds
Bargaining Power of Suppliers
Board of Advisors

Cash Flow:
Financial Statements (See also Financial Statement School)
Breakeven Analysis

External Aspects
Threats and Opportunities
Industry Analysis
Barriers to Entry
List of Major Competitors (including their competitive advantages, strengths, and weaknesses)
Intensity of Rivalry and Price Competition

The Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas is a framework that is used by many of today’s internet and technology startups.  This is perhaps the best-known business model that is purported to replace the business plan.  The book, Business Model Generation, by Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur presents the visual canvas and also describes the elements within each of the nine major categories of the canvas.  Alex Osterwalder also has a blog called Business Model Alchemist.

I generally like the Business Model Canvas.  It is simple, yet it encompasses many of the most important factors involved in planning a successful business.  It enhances the entrepreneur’s ability to communicate these factors to others, and it does seem especially valuable to tech startups.

But, it’s not perfect.  One of my faults with this model is that it does not directly address competition or substitute products or services.  It also fails to directly illustrate the businesses unique competitive advantage; although, the “value proposition” category is certainly a big piece of it.

I am not certain that this business model was created to supplant the formal business plan, nor should it.  In fact, this blog post and this one argue that the business plan is not dead.  But, times are changing.

The biggest news is that this template has actually inspired me to develop my own business model.  I will reveal my new template in subsequent posts.

Ken Pirok

The Demise of the Business Plan?

It has been almost six years since I wrote this article defending the importance of business plans.  I have since read many more articles arguing against writing formal business plans.  (And, I have since written more about why we do need business plans and what crucial information should be included in them.)

Aside from the business plan detractors, there is also a new movement to replace the business plan with the “business model”.  I am just about to complete an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and I will earn concentrations in Entrepreneurship, Managerial Strategy, and Finance.  In multiple courses, we have been taught that business models such as this one developed by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur are crucial to entrepreneurial success.  We have further been told that the business model is replacing the business plan.

Here’s the problem.  This is all an exercise in semantics.  When an expert recommends against writing a formal business plan, he or she usually outlines the important facets of your business that you must understand and be able to communicate.  When a new business model is proposed, it also includes categories of information that a business must think about and present in order to be successful.  The Osterwalder and Pigneur business model uses nine major categories.  And, within each category, there are further details to be filled in.  So, in my opinion, when you think about and communicate the important characteristics of your business and when you fill out a business model, you are completing a business plan.  The important categories are largely the same whether your plan consists of a file folder of information, a deck of slides, a business model, or a formal business plan.  Even though, it’s out of fashion to call it a “business plan”, that’s what you have created.

So, we will move forward from talking about the arbitrary form of presentation to talking about the frameworks, themselves.  We will talk about what is important and what to include, and we will present outlines, frameworks, and models that will actually help you think about your business.

Thanks for reading!

Ken Pirok

Introduction to Business Plan School

This blog is about business plans plus a whole lot more!  I will talk about business plans and business models.  What’s the difference between a business plan and a business model?  Why are they important?  Read on, and check back for subsequent posts to learn more and judge for yourself.  I’ll give you a hint, though.  I am not convinced that there is any great difference between a business plan and a business model other than the form of presentation.

I will also talk about frameworks that businesspeople and management consultants use to think about business problems and solutions.  And, I will talk about strategy too.  All of these topics seem to overlap and intersect.  You usually can’t talk about one topic without talking about another.  And, you can’t often say much about any of these topics without discussing competitive advantage (or what a business does differently or better) either, so we’ll talk about that too.

Thanks for reading!

Ken Pirok

Ken Pirok Expert in Residence at UIC

If you are in Chicago, here is a UIC Experts in Residence event with Ken Pirok.  Register for a half-hour time slot of free consulting.  Check back for future events.

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