Have you ever met someone with an amazing idea but when you try and get them to explain how long it’ll take to bring it to fruition the timeline keeps changing? Even if they have a great business plan, without a business plan schedule, chances are moving their idea from dream to reality is going to be a challenge.

To ensure success, your business plan timeline needs to be realistic. An unrealistic schedule can derail your entire launch while wasting precious time, money and resources.

If you’re launching a new business, staying on track with timelines is critical. Here are some tips on how to create a business plan schedule.When investors or bankers look at your business plan schedule, they’re considering whether they have time to wait for your business to hit key milestones. If you’re pursuing your business plan as a solo venture, creating the schedule is your opportunity to do a gut check. Is the timeline you’ve put together a reasonable amount of time for you to meet those milestones? Do you have the funding to sustain the business for a year or two until you begin to be profitable?

Knowing the answer to those questions will help you build the most realistic business plan schedule possible. Let’s look at the areas you need to consider.

Mapping Out the Journey

The schedule section of your business plan is a representation of the journey your business will take in the most concrete way possible.

The business plan schedule acts as your timeline and action plan for the coming months. This isn’t the place to be either overly aggressive or conservative. The driving factor should be making it realistic.

When investors or bankers are looking at this section, their expectations of repayment will be considered through the lens of your schedule. They want to see how long before you’ll be generating revenue, and whether or not you’ve planned for appropriate funding until that revenue kicks in.

Also, this section of the business plan has a strong tie in with your overall strategy. When you start putting all the details together, you may quickly realize some aspects need to be sped up or slowed down. You may notice milestones that have the potential to derail your entire plan if they fall off schedule. That’s why assessing all the variables that could impact your timelines is important for creating the most realistic schedule possible.

Looking at the Big (and Small) Picture

When it comes to what to include in your schedule, there aren’t any details that are “wrong” to include. It’s rare that entrepreneurs actually meet every single milestone on the timeline detailed in their initial plan. Don’t get too hung up on the dates. You’ll be adjusting as you go, so plug in what you think will work and move on to the next step.

The business plan schedule is designed to be easy for readers to digest. I often suggest to my client that they create two versions. The first is a high level, picture version that will go in the business plan. The second is an administrative view for your own purposes.

Administrative View

This is the timeline you create for yourself, and it’ll serve as your to-do list. It can include everything from permit requests to posting jobs online to choosing a designer to build your website. No matter how big or small an item it is, it should be included in the administrative view.

Once you’ve got your list together, your next step will be assessing all the “what-ifs”. As in, “What if X, Y, or Z goes wrong?” and “What if I have to push the timeline for X, Y or Z?”. A timeline of events that gets thrown off will create a chain reaction and can even derail your momentum. Consider how these what-ifs could impact the other items on the list.

Big Picture View

This is the section your investors will be reviewing. It should include a schedule of goals and all the big picture items you intend to complete month over month. This section is going to help you evaluate progress and give you an easier time identifying which items need to be re-prioritized as you go.

When creating the business plan schedule, it’s important to remember that it can span well over a year, and you’ll need to account for everything that has to happen in that time frame.

A Few Tips

When creating your business plan schedule, you’ll want to tie your action items to your goals. So instead of just saying “hire social media manager” you could say “develop a social media strategy to build online presence”.

While it can feel like you want to take a “more is more” approach, you’ll want to stay away from going overboard with the details in your big picture view. That’s what your administrative schedule is for! If you’re planning on hiring four employees, the big picture section doesn’t need to include every step you’ll take to hire those people.

You want your business plan schedule to be easy for readers to evaluate and highlight that you’re being realistic. Include any milestones you may have already met to show you’ve already got some momentum behind you.

By creating a business plan schedule that’s clear and includes all the right details, you’ll show investors you’ve thought about every step and that you have a business plan that’s rooted in reality.

Check out my new book How to Write an Exceptional Business Plan here for more details on creating your business plan schedule and what you should and shouldn’t include. 

Ashley Cheeks

Author Ashley Cheeks

Ashley Cheeks is a Business Plan Consultant. Her core business plan writer expertise is in designing business plans for bank and investor funding. She founded Written Success after years of being a professional business plan writer as a freelance consultant, and working for companies including GE and Fluor. She lives in Houston with her husband, daughter and son.

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