You’re sitting in a restaurant, enjoying good food and drinks when an idea hits you. An amazing idea. You scramble for a pen and paper.

All you can find is a cocktail napkin.

And that’s a good thing.

Whether you’re just starting out, or already own your own business, writing a business plan is always a good idea. But you don’t need to start off with a 50-page document. If you’re a visual learner, sometimes it’s better to see your ideas down on paper. Believe it or not, sketching out rough drawings on a cocktail napkin can help a small business owner like yourself better visualize your goals.

Here’s how:

Customers

Let’s say you’re a coffee shop. Your target market is busy business professionals who don’t have time to make coffee in the morning. Normally, you’d write out a list or work with a spreadsheet to categorize your different target markets, writing a detailed demographic description for each.

Or you can take a different approach.

Think about it. Who needs your product and services the most? A little happy family doodle says it all. It’s a quick shortcut to help visualize your customers.

merchant helping target customer in coffee shop

Products and Services

If you had to distil your product or service into one or two doodles, what would they be? If you’re a bakery, you sell a variety of baked goods to suit the tastes of many different people. Some of your customers feel guilty eating those delicious treats, but it doesn’t stop them. You don’t want to get bogged down in the details, though. You know what you sell? Cupcakes. They’re a staple of any bakery, and they’ve seen a surge of popularity in recent years. No need to describe your 7 types of sugar cookies and 10 types of croissants. You sell guilty pleasures. You sell cupcakes.

cups, sugar and other coffee shop expense

Revenue and Expenses

Just as it’s important to get a good grasp on your customers and products or services, you need to have a good idea of your revenue streams.

Pie charts make nice quick overviews. First, about how much money will you need to launch your new business or a new venture in your current business? Draw a pie chart and label the whole thing with that amount.
Now you’re going to break it down by revenue streams. If you’ve got some money saved up, what percentage of that pie does it take up? Have you taken out a business loan? Sketch that in there. How are your sales? Are you making a profit? That’s a piece of the pie.

You also need a second pie chart for your expenses. How much do you pay for retail space? Salaries? Insurance? It’s just as important to know where your money is going, as it is to know where your money is coming from.

business owner drafting business plan

A little sketch or doodle might not seem like much compared to a 50-page business plan. It can be hard to distil all that information to fit on a tiny napkin. But writing something that detailed can be overwhelming. Where do you even start?

If a great business idea hits you, you don’t want to lose it. Sometimes, short and sweet is the answer. Like cupcakes.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.