There are two types of entrepreneurs: those who start a business with careful planning and those who jump right into it without a formal business plan. Both offer avenues to success, but starting a business with a plan helps you visualize that path—and, more importantly, stay the course.
But sometimes your business plan is too long or comprehensive for your needs or audience. That’s when your lean business plan comes into play.
Table of contents
What is a lean business plan?
A lean business plan is a shortened version of your full comprehensive business plan. Lean business plans are useful for when you need to modify your plan for a specific audience. Typically the lean business plan is for internal use. For example, if you want to share your business plan as part of the onboarding process for new hires, you may use a lean business plan to avoid overwhelming them with too much information.
While a detailed business plan may have lots of information and full paragraphs, your lean business plan includes only the most important, need-to-know information. You might use more bullet points and lists in your lean business plan than in your regular business plan.
Further, your full business plan talks about the what, why, who, where, and how behind your business idea. Your lean business plan, on the other hand, zeroes in on the how behind your business.
What are the benefits of a lean business plan?
- A lean business plan enables a business to quickly adapt to new market conditions
- It distills the business’s offerings to their essence
- It highlights what sets the business apart from competitors.
- It takes less time to create
- It makes it easy for investors and business partners to grasp the company’s mission
Lean business plan template
Your lean business plan template should have the following sections:
- Executive summary (optional)
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations plan
Many times, you can also omit the financials section of your lean business plan.
If you want to follow along, consider starting with this business plan template as a base and then trimming it down to fit your lean business planning needs.
How to write a lean business plan
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take our fictional Paw Print Post business plan example and modify it to be a lean business plan. If you don’t already have a full business plan, you can follow this business plan writing guide to get started. Then you can adapt it as follows to suit your lean business planning needs.
The executive summary should have bullet points highlighting what’s to come in the rest of your lean business plan document. The job of the executive summary is to draw your readers in and get them interested in the information that follows. Call out exciting or surprising bits of information to pique their interest.
- List your company’s key points: name, business model, product/service, USP.
- Identify the target market and financial highlights.
- Use bullet points to organize these details in a concise manner.
- Write a draft of your executive summary, ensuring it’s compelling and brief.
In the company description, provide a clear and concise overview of your business. Explain what you sell, your business model, and your business type.
- Summarize what your company does in two sentences.
- Define your business structure and mention the founder’s background.
- Write down your short-term and long-term business objectives.
- Create a bulleted list incorporating these points.
The market analysis section highlights the research you’ve done to validate your business idea. You’ll want to outline the fact that there’s a sizable audience who is willing to spend money with a business like yours.
Your market analysis section of your lean business may also consist of a SWOT analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You may also summarize your competitive analysis, perhaps listing your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.
- Gather research data on your industry and target market.
- Perform a SWOT analysis for your business.
- Identify key competitors and note their strengths and weaknesses.
- Bullet your findings for inclusion in the lean plan.
Products and services
This section of your lean business plan will outline what exactly you plan to offer for sale for your customers.
- List all products or services your company offers.
- Describe the customer experience from start to finish.
- Keep descriptions clear and brief.
This section of your lean business plan puts your audience into groups based on shared characteristics. Customer segmentation is helpful because it allows you to define specific audiences and create targeted promotions and messaging that appeal directly to those groups.
- Define your primary customer segment.
- List the characteristics that define this segment.
The marketing plan should outline your pricing strategy, promotional channels, and sales venues.
- Detail your pricing model and justify it based on your market analysis.
- List your main marketing and promotional strategies.
- Define where and how customers can purchase your products or services.
Logistics and operations plan
This section will cover the day-to-day operations, including suppliers, production, and shipping.
- List your suppliers and their role in your business.
- Detail the production process step by step.
- Explain your shipping and fulfillment strategy.
For each section, ensure you focus on the essentials that matter most to your business’s strategic planning and operation. Keep it concise and actionable with bullet points for easy reading.
Lean business plan example
Here is a lean business plan example you can use to inspire your own.
COMPANY: Paw Print Post
Paw Print Post is a sole proprietorship that sells customized greeting cards featuring a pet’s unique paw print. Founder Jane Matthews runs the business using her extensive experience in the pet industry and formal graphic design training.
The pet industry generates $100 billion each year, globally. Paw Print Post’s high-end greeting cards fill a niche in the market serving pet owners who don’t want the mess of a traditionally captured paw print involving ink or plaster. All customers need to do is send in a digital image of their pet’s paw.
Paw Print Post’s ideal customer is a woman based in North America who considers herself a “cat mom” or “dog mom.” These greeting cards are priced as premium cards with volume discounts for larger orders.
Type of business: sole proprietorship run by owner Jane Matthews
Industry: pet industry (primary); some goods could be categorized in the greeting card industry
- Immediate: Launch at the Big Important Pet Expo in Toronto
- Two-year goals: (1) Drive $150,000 in annual revenue from the sale of Paw Print Post’s signature greeting cards; (2) Expand into two new product categories
Team: Jane Matthews is the sole full-time employee
- Contractors hired as needed to support her workflow and fill gaps in her skill set.
- Standing contract for five weekly hours of virtual assistant support with Virtual Assistants Pro.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Paw Print Post’s flagship product is a line of greeting cards customized with a pet’s unique paw print. Here’s how it works:
Customers send a digital image of their pet’s paw
Paw Print Post edits the image and adds it to the front or interior of several card options, including:
- New pet welcome
- Pet loss condolences
- Pet birthdays
- Adoption milestones
- Training course completion
- Service pet work commencement
- A woman who owns a cat or dog
- Lives in North America, 25–55 years old
- No children
- Shops online at least once a week
- University-level degree
- $50,000 average annual salary
- Values her time
- May refer to herself as a “cat mom” or “dog mom”
- Price. A single card costs $9.50, while bundles of identical cards reduce the price, with three for $20 and six for $30.
- Product. Paw Print Post’s greeting cards solve a specific problem—pet owners want custom, high-end products featuring their pet, and a paw print is a unique and affordable way to do so. Since pet owners only need to take a digital image of their pet’s paw, it’s a lower-effort way to customize cards than what exists in the market currently.
- Promotion. Leading industry trade shows, partner promotions with established products, and digital ads on both Facebook and Instagram.
- Place. Paw Print Post will have an online store at pawprintpost.ca where customers can place their orders. Paw Print Post will ship all orders to customers’ chosen addresses.
LOGISTICS AND OPERATIONS PLAN
Suppliers: Local print shops for one-off prints, given that each item needs to be made to order, and cheaper offshore options won’t work.
- Customer places order and sends their digital image
- Jane takes five minutes to process the image in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop before sending to the local printer
- Local print shops offer one- to two-day turnaround for custom orders. Each custom card will cost $2 for setup and 75¢ for each print, so the costs for each bundle offered are:
- One card: $2.75 (Price: $9.50, margin: $6.75)
- Three cards: $4.25 (Price: $20, margin: $15.75)
- Six cards: $6.50 (Price: $30, margin: $23.50)
Facilities: Jane processes images and ships orders from her home office; all contractors maintain their own facilities.
Equipment: Paw Print Post already owns the required software and hardware to process the images.
Shipping and fulfillment: Paw Print Post will fulfill orders using Shopify Shipping and may look into local fulfillment options or contractors to help scale if needed.
Inventory. Paw Print Post does not hold inventory and all orders are created as they come in.
Ready to create your business? Start your free trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
Lean business plan FAQ
How do you write a lean business plan?
- Start with an executive summary: Write a high-level overview of your business strategy, objectives, and how you plan to achieve them.
- Describe your business: Detail the products/services you offer, how you will price them, how you plan to market them, and how you plan to organize the business.
- Identify your target market: Describe your target customer, the size of the market, and how you plan to reach them.
- Outline your financials: Provide a financial overview of your business, including projected income and expenses, break-even analysis, and financial goals.
- Define your operating plan: Outline the day-to-day operations of the business, from staffing to inventory management to customer service.
- Provide supporting documents: Include any supporting documents, such as résumés, contracts, or legal documents.
How long is a lean business plan?
A lean business plan is typically shorter than a traditional business plan, usually no more than two pages in length. It usually consists of a brief overview of the business, the current situation, the goal, the action plan, budget and timeline, and a conclusion.
What are the 4 types of business plans?
- Startup business plan: A detailed document used to define and plan your business’s objectives, strategies, and tactics.
- Growth business plan: A plan used to identify and capitalize on opportunities for growth.
- Internal business plan: A plan used to assess the internal strengths and weaknesses of a company.
- Strategic business plan: A plan used to set long-term goals and strategies for achieving them.
How is a lean plan different from the traditional business plan?
A lean plan is a simplified version of a traditional business plan that focuses on the core elements of the business, such as the mission, strategy, and key activities. It emphasizes identifying and testing assumptions, keeping plans short and simple, and focusing on the customer. The traditional business plan is more comprehensive, with a greater focus on financials, market analysis, and operations. It also requires a longer timeline and more resources to complete.