Independent business plan consultants are now an established alternative to writing a business plan yourself. The following information is taken from our Business Plan Team blog. It highlights some of the issues involved in selecting a business plan writing service and suggests some guidelines when selecting a business plan consultant. You can see how we shape up against these by checking out our services, client testimonials and case studies. If you want to find out how we can help you develop your business plan please use the Freephone number above or our contact form.
Selecting a Business Plan Consultant / Business Plan Writing Service
Some people advise that the entrepreneur or management team is the only one that should write the business plan and that it should all be done internally. In reality, when faced with the challenge of securing funding from an investor or bank, many people do not have all the requisite knowledge and skills to build a convincing plan. Others may not have the time to research and develop a plan exclusively themselves especially if they are focused on running and existing business. There is also a good case for having an independent and objective person reviewing the business proposal – it is all too easy for the entrepreneur to convince themselves of the potential for a business only for it to be pulled apart on first meeting an investor!
For these reasons, and many more, entrepreneurs and management teams look for some form of business plan consultancy to help develop their plan. They need help that goes beyond the tips, templates and basic software found on the web in order to develop a professional business plan that will help them increase their chances of securing funding.
Accountants have traditionally acted as one source of business plan consultants. Sometimes legal firms have offered a business plan consultancy service too. Both these generally build to a greater or lesser extent on their own area of specialism – accounting and the law. These services are generally delivered on a face to face basis and can be costly. Some services are offered at a much reduced rate as long as you give away exclusive rights to the supplier to source funding for your business on a success fee basis. This is attractive in the short term to keep costs down but, when you are looking for funds, this may seriously slow down or limit your likelihood of success if you are tied to only one channel of potential investment. You need to get your plan in front of as many people as possible, not limit your reach.
There are now an established number of independent business plan consultants specialising in providing business plan writing services. Some, like The Business Plan Team, offer senior level commercial, start-up and fund-raising experience. But there are a wide variety of business plans consultancy services available – knowing what you are buying and making the right choice is important. So, what are some good guidelines when selecting business plan consultant or a provider of business plan services? We think there are five good tips worth following:
1) Commercial ExperienceThe ability to write well is not enough to make your plan investable – this is not simply a copywriting exercise. If you are going to secure funds you need to construct a business case that integrates all commercial aspects of your business. This requires your business plan consultant to have a commercial understanding of business and how each area of a business integrates with another. So, be sure that your business plan consultants have several years of senior commercial experience – the broader the better. This commercial experience should include budgeting or forecasting – your financials are a critical part of your plan.
2) Track RecordMany business plans are confidential – so, do not expect to see many examples. However, business plan consultants should be able to provide written and attributable from clients (not simple one-liners that could be written by the company itself). They might also be able to provide to show the extent of the work they do for a client that will give you confidence in their process of putting a plan together.
3) PricingThese range widely and we have seen prices from as low as £350 up to £20,000. The bottom line here is that, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Make sure you ask for a specific proposal that outlines exactly what you are going to get for your money, the timescale and price. If you are raising £50,000 from the bank you are not likely to want the depth of detail required to raise £50m of Venture Capital. However, you will still need all the core elements of a business plan including a set of financial forecasts for your profit and loss, cash-flow and balance sheet. From our experience the average cost for a straight forward start-up, including some basic research, comes in at around £1,500 - £2,500 for the completed written plan and financials. Each business is different so the best thing is to get a couple of quotes.
4) Ownershipne potential disadvantage of having a business plan written for you by business plan consultants is that you may not “own” the business plan and be totally familiar with it. So, ensure that you are fully involved in the business plan development process and that there is time scheduled for you to review and discuss the financial forecast and written plan with the business plan consultant who is developing the plan for you. Get into the detail and ask questions at the development stage before you get in front of a potential investor or bank!
5) FundingIf securing funding for your business is your goal then ask whether the plans that they have created have secured funding? Whilst funding depends on a wide variety of factors and not just the quality of the business plan (state of the market, availability of capital, product, service, proposition, management team etc.) any specialist business plan consultancy should be able to quote a few examples where their business plans have helped to secure funds.
Remember - no-one can guarantee that your plan will secure the funding you are looking for. Steer well clear of anyone saying that they can! For more information about how we can help you develop your business plan please take a look at our services, use the Freephone number above to speak to one of our consulatants, or send us a message using our contact form and we will get right back to you.