One Piece of Paper, Four Simple Questions: Business Plans 101

I offered to help a family member with a business plan. I was so excited when he took me up on the offer, I dashed off a note saying, “Here’s where you start.”

Back when I was in b-school, entrepreneurship professor Wendell Dunn had us write one page venture papers.

Yes, we might have world beating business ideas, but we needed to be able to describe them on one piece of paper.

He also assigned us approximately 10 pounds of reading. I derived the 4 questions from one of these articles. I have to admit that there was a brown-nosing, toady-ish, element to my derivation of the questions. I was thinking, “How can I get my idea across in one page, and have the result meet the professor’s approval?”

Oh yeah, I’ll look at what he assigned us to read.

I’m looking for the article, so I can cite it here. But today, a serious number of years later, these questions have become so part of my DNA that I was able to spin them out in a 2 minute email between meetings during the workday. (That is good teaching. Thank you, Wendell.)

  • What is the opportunity?
  • Why am I the person to bring this opportunity to life?
  • What resources will I need?
  • How will I get them?

In the following posts, I’ll explore each of these questions, and also talk about business planning software (I’m against it) and some good books to read.

But if you want to write a business plan — whether you’re a yoga teacher or massage therapist who works on your own, or you’ve invented something better than TiVo, or you want to grow your existing business into a new arena — where do you start?

One piece of paper.

4 thoughts on “One Piece of Paper, Four Simple Questions: Business Plans 101

  1. Rebecca, thanks for your comment! The next post I have planned on the topic is “Why do you need a business plan?”Interesting point you make, too…is there a particular business sector where you’ve seen a particular decrease in the use of business plans?Thanks for stopping by! Be well.

  2. Kind words, Anne, thank you!Happy the concept has served you well. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s harder to write one really, really good page than thirty mediocre ones.Keep up the good work.Best wishes from ‘Down Under’

  3. Wendell, thanks for stopping by! The blogosphere is an amazing place, it is nice to see you swimming in my vicinity in this enormous ocean of people and ideas.These questions, and many others from your class, have been quite influential in work I’ve done as a manager and consultant, and in my own management of my career. (And I still have a coffee with Elliot every so often, and will do so again in early January!)Be well, enjoy New Zealand, and thank you so much for everything.

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