A Guide to the Lean Business Plan (With Template and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 1, 2021

Creating a business plan is important to provide structure and an outline for success. However, traditional business plans can be time-consuming and complicated to create. In this article, we discuss what the lean business plan is, the benefits of using it, what it includes and how to create one and provide a lean business plan template and example.

What is a lean business plan template?

A lean business plan template is used to create a simplified plan. This is a one-page template that requires little writing or formatting. Instead, it divides each component of your business plan into individual boxes with brief notes that you may revise or update as necessary.

A lean business plan involves your:

  • Business model: How your business will make money

  • Schedule: What each person in your business will do and when

  • Strategy: What your business will do

  • Tactics: How your business will implement your strategy

Lean business plans allow you to develop the core aspects of your business strategy on one page. It allows you to refine what you want to do, who you're doing it for and what competition you may face. Lean business plans use customer needs and problems as the foundation of your success, and it focuses on your value proposition to differentiate you from your competitors.

Related: How to Craft a Value Proposition

Benefits of using a lean business plan

Using a lean business plan offers a range of benefits, such as:

  • Creating focus on key drivers for your business strategy and success

  • Developing a plan that's easy to read and understand without a business background

  • Providing a visual representation of your business model

  • Providing flexibility to update your plan easily

  • Requiring less time to create than traditional business plans

Related: 7 Types of Business Plans

What to include in a lean business plan

A lean business plan typically has several different elements related to the overview of your business and business strategy. Each element receives its own box on the single page that makes up your lean business plan. The elements to include in a lean business plan are:

  • Competition: Who your competitors are and what alternatives your customers may buy and use

  • Expenses: The key business expenses you have to operate your business

  • Identity: A short overview of your business

  • Marketing activities: What activities or strategies you will use to reach your customers and your cost or pricing structure

  • Milestones: How you will test and begin your business

  • Partners and key resources: If you need to work with other businesses to be successful

  • Problem: What problem you solve for your customers

  • Revenue streams: How your business will make money

  • Sales channels: How you'll sell your services and products to your customers

  • Solution: How you'll solve your customers' problem and a description of your products and services

  • Target markets: Who your customers are

  • Team: The roles you need for your business to achieve success

How to create a lean business plan

Follow these steps to create your lean business plan:

1. Define your business

Start with a brief high-level description of your business. Write a single sentence about what your business does. Focus your answer on your value proposition and how you're unique from other options on the market.

2. Choose your problem and solution

Specify the problem you want to resolve for your customers. Write a few sentences or bullet points about the issue customers face. Once you identify the problem, describe how your product or service satisfies the need that the problem creates.

3. Define your target market and competition

Based on your solution, determine who your target market is. Describe your ideal customer by focusing on their key attributes or qualities. Consider what alternative choices they have when looking for a product similar to yours and create a short bulleted list of your main competitors.

Read more: How To Identify a Target Market

4. Determine how you'll market your business

Define the business tactics you'll use to ensure your business strategy succeeds. Begin by specifying the sales channels you will use to sell your product or services. Create a bulleted list of the tactics you'll use as a part of your marketing strategy to connect with your customers and encourage them to purchase your service or product. It's also important to consider your pricing and cost structure during this stage.

5. Evaluate your finances

It's important to choose a business model that supports your business's success. Develop a basic financial forecast and budget to ensure your model and plan are realistic. Create a bulleted list of ways you'll make money, and create a bulleted list of your top business expenses.

Related: 21 Business Models and Examples

6. Establish milestones for success

Establish milestones for success to use as a schedule for your business plan. Write the basic task description, assign the person responsible for the task and designate a deadline for each task. For example, a milestone may be to build a new website or to develop a more thorough budget.

7. Determine the resources you need

Determine the resources you need to be successful, such as potential partnerships and who you need on your team. Start by making a list of who will work with you on your business and assign a role or title to each person. Create a separate bulleted list of businesses or organizations you may need to work with, such as distributors or suppliers.

8. Ask for feedback

Share your lean business plan with trusted business partners, family members or friends to see if the plan makes sense to them. Ask for their feedback and check for their understanding. If needed, revise your plan based on their feedback, which should be simple, as the plan is only one page and is created to be modified when necessary.

Lean business plan template

Here's a template to use to create your own lean business plan:

Identity
We offer [product or service] for [your unique customers].

Problem
[One sentence explanation of the problem you're trying to solve.]

Solution
[One sentence explanation of how you will solve the problem.]

Target market

  • Specific target market group

  • Specific target market group

  • Specific target market group

Competitors

  • Competitor

  • Competitor

  • Competitor

Sales channels We will sell our [product or service] to our customers through [primary sales channel]. We will also sell via our [secondary sales channel].

Marketing activities

  • Marketing tactic

  • Marketing tactic

  • Marketing tactic

  • Marketing tactic

  • Marketing tactic

Revenue

  • Revenue stream

  • Revenue stream

  • Revenue stream

  • Revenue stream

Expenses

  • Key expense

  • Key expense

  • Key expense

  • Key expense

Milestone

  • Milestone (Person responsible, date of deadline)

  • Milestone (Person responsible, date of deadline)

  • Milestone (Person responsible, date of deadline)

  • Milestone (Person responsible, date of deadline)

Team

  • Name: Role in the business

  • Name: Role in the business

  • Name: Role in the business

  • Name: Role in the business

Partners and resources

  • Partner organization

  • Partner organization

  • Partner organization

  • Partner organization

Lean business plan example

Use this lean business plan example as a guide when writing your own:

Identity We offer high-quality guitars and accessories for experienced musicians and beginners alike.

Problem Buying a guitar can be difficult without having a lot of previous experience with instruments.

Solution Luke's Instruments is a welcoming environment where anyone can get the expert advice they need.

Target market

  • Families with young children

  • Beginning musicians of all ages

  • Teenagers

Competitors

  • Big-box retail stores

  • Online instrument supply stores

  • Local instrument shops

Sales channels We'll sell our guitars and accessories to our customers through our instrument shop. We'll also sell via our online shop.

Marketing activities

  • Develop a social media presence and a website

  • Host a grand opening event with promotions and contests

  • Advertise in local publications and music shops

  • Contact local music instructors

  • Sponsor open mic nights

Revenue

  • Guitars

  • Amplifiers and pedalboards

  • Miscellaneous accessories

  • Instrument repair

Expenses

  • Rent

  • Utilities

  • Insurance

  • Payroll

Milestone

  • Create Q1 budget (Luke, June 15)

  • Research shop locations (Luke, July 31)

  • Develop website and social media (Julie, August 15)

  • Build a list of advertising options (Reggie, September 30)

Team

  • Luke Stratford: Owner

  • Julie Brown: Shop manager

  • Reggie Thomas: Business advisor

  • Alex Dillon: Investor

Partners and resources

  • Flynn & Son: Accountants

  • 1, 2, 3 Music School

  • Guitar Parts Co.

  • Instrument Supply Unlimited

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