While knee-deep in the process of launching and growing a business, many entrepreneurs decide to seek outside help to develop their business plan. The decision to bring in an expert should be made after considering many factors, including one’s budget, skill sets and needs, the audience of their plan, and the level of strategic input they require.
Business Plan Writers vs. Business Plan Consultants
When searching for outside assistance, one key distinction an entrepreneur should consider is the difference between “business plan writers” and “business plan consultants.” The difference is depth, or the degree to which the engagement will be an advisory relationship, versus mainly a documentation job.
“I Needed My Business Plan Yesterday!”
Many entrepreneurs are in a significant rush to get their business plans written, and therefore, they are looking for a “quick fix.” And as a result of this need for speed, there are myriad options to get the job done ASAP, ranging from templates and software to very inexpensive documentation services with rapid turnaround times.
While all of these options are fast and cheap, entrepreneurs should be aware there are significant risks associated with rushing the business plan development process. And that’s a key point: The value of a business plan is in the process – not just in the document itself.
Make no mistake: You will need the document in order to get a bank loan or to capture the attention of a partner at a venture capital firm. But unless you have gone through a rigorous strategic planning process, you significantly decrease your chances of success.
A sound business planning process involves analyzing your business opportunity thoroughly, understanding your market and your venture’s competitive advantage, developing a strategic marketing plan, and building a sound financial model. If you have the time (and discipline) to follow this process, you dramatically increase your chances of both raising capital and of achieving your operational milestones.
“I Need This Done Right”
A consultant’s job is to guide you through the process, and to ultimately develop a document that will impress potential investors, create realistic and obtainable milestones, and position you for success. Two key benefits of hiring a consultant are experience and objectivity.
Based on previous client engagements, an established consultant (or consulting firm) can leverage relevant experience to provide helpful advice regarding the entrepreneur’s opportunity. Aside from just writing the plan, a consultant provides insight that an entrepreneur would not likely otherwise receive, without conducting tons of competitive and industry research.
Also, a consultant is there to provide third party validation of your opportunity. The consultant should rigorously question the feasibility of your business opportunity and the likelihood that you will succeed in raising capital, attracting customers, and achieving business success. To be sure, this is a rigorous process — but it’s certainly better to investigate the validity of an opportunity at the onset, rather than investing time and money into a poorly planned venture. After all, isn’t that the point of a business plan?