How To Choose Business Plan Assistance


How To Choose Business Plan AssistancePeter Mehit, WhiteBoard Partners

We have rewritten many business plans that were purchased from companies, real world and internet, that didn’t do what the buyer wanted causing them aggravation, wasted time and money. While some of the providers were unscrupulous, the majority of the time the problem was caused by a difference in expectations. To avoid this, you need to understand exactly what you’re buying.

Why are you writing a business plan?

If you’re writing a business plan as an exercise, then any method will probably produce acceptable results. But if you’re drafting a business plan because you want to have a map to success that details both the risks and rewards as well as exposing your blind spots, the process you use to make the plan is as important as the plan itself.


The steps you go through should be rigorous, bringing to the surface the things you need to think about. In that respect, your business plan becomes the realization of your thoughts, hopes and dreams for your business. By bringing your thoughts into reality through a business plan, you make them real and more likely to occur. It isn’t a process that is checked off a list or outsourced without due diligence.

Because you will learn a lot in creating your plan, you will have more confidence. You will represent your business more accurately. You will be able to answer questions about your business directly. In short, you will have a foundation for your dreams.

What is a business plan worth?

If you were building a house, you wouldn’t start without a set of approved drawings. Those drawings would be drawn up by a draftsman, reviewed by an architect and then approved by local officials. This planning process can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, even for a modest home. Relative to price of the home, this expense can run from 2 to 10% of the total cost. As we all know, even with this level of planning, things can and will go wrong. But because you have the plans, you have a basis for the decisions you need to make to fix them.

This same logic should apply to business planning. That would mean, if you are planning for a business that is going to make $100,000 in annual revenue, your planning budget should be $2,000 and $10,000 for your initial plan. In this budget you would have line items for marketing and business consulting, plan development and due diligence. Most Fortune 100 companies spend millions on planning annually. A modest investment for plan development with a consultant committed to understanding and expressing your business idea should be no-brainer.

Having a solid business plan, created using a method that helps you to think more clearly about every aspect of your business doesn’t mean you won’t have problems. It does mean you’ll spot problems sooner, have ideas of where to find answers and know when to ask for help. Going for lowest cost is false economy and could ultimately decide if your business succeeds or fails.

Free Sources

Who They Are
Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE), Small Business Development Corporations (SBDC), Minority and Women’s Business Centers (MBC/WBC), Small Business Administration (SBA) and some planning companies (including us).

What They Offer
In varying degrees, these entities offer business plan and financial model templates, training and coaching. SBA offers forms and templates only, but is a great source for information about regulations and funding programs. SCORE offers primarily coaching and seminars. SBDCs and Minority/Womens Business Centers usually offer training on top of the models, but because they are evaluated on the number of people they help, the amount of support you can get is limited. The amount of support available from commercial companies offering free planning varies greatly and most support is for fee.

       Advantages

       Disadvantages

  • Free
  • A wide variety of information available
  • Limited or no one on one support
  • Information can be dated, hard to work with or wrong
  • Limited or no accountabilty
  • Tends to take a long time

For Fee Sources

Who They Are
For fee services, such as us, breakdown into two categories; those who offer you a business plan template for a specific type of business or those who offer to write the business plan for you.

What They Offer
Business specific templates: We discourage people from purchasing canned business plans. Usually the template is a cleaned up version of an actual business plan, developed for a specific idea. Using a canned plan will steer you toward changing the data already in it rather than developing information that is relevant to your idea. Instead stretching you by challenging your ideas and helping you fill in gaps in your knowledge, you will be trying to find data to match sections of a document you don’t know will work. You will be selling yourself short. By the way, people who read business plans for a living can spot a canned plan in a heartbeat.

       Advantages

       Disadvantages

  • Industry specific
  • Ready made format
  • Low cost
  • You’re writing the plan, with little support
  • Not specific to your idea or circumstances
  • Requires as much or more time than writing from scratch
  • May contain sections, not applicable or that you don’t understand
  • Generic in nature

Business plan writing services: The thing to look for with these services is their process. How do they collect information? Do they send you a questionaire or ask a set list of questions? Do they challenge any weak points in your business idea? Do they offer alternatives? We have found that most of these services will simply write exactly what you tell them to. This is great, if you have everything figured out, but that’s not most people. Most of us have questions and gaps in our ideas that need filling. A red flag is when offering business alternatives as part of a plan, they give you the language, but not the reasons you would select a specific one. Choose a service that will ask you hard questions, challenge your assumptions and make you think. It could save you a rewrite.

       Advantages

       Disadvantages

  • Some services are low cost
  • Questionnaire based format is easy
  • Many plans are ‘cut and paste’
  • Questionnaire format can leave many details out
  • Limited or no accountability
  • Plan reflects only what you told the service
  • Plan may contain items you don’t understand

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