As a small business consultant, I often hear both aspiring and existing business owners ask the question, “Where can I find someone to write my business plan?” This question comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the plan.
Too often people who are trying to start a business and even those already in business think that the purpose of the business plan is to acquire funding. They have spoken to a banker or Small Business Administration (SBA) representative about getting a loan and have been told they need a business plan to apply for funding.
They want to find someone to do the plan for them for a variety of reasons – they do not know how to do it, they are in a hurry to get funding, they are too busy to do it themselves, etc. But none of these reasons justify risking the consequences of not having a solid business plan that they researched and wrote themselves.
The purpose of your business plan is for you to use it as a roadmap to guide you in operating a successful small business. You cannot use a plan you do not understand thoroughly. And if you hand over the development of your business plan to someone you have asked or even paid to do it for you, you will end up with a plan you do not really understand and are unable to successfully implement.
A major problem you will have with a business plan someone else writes is that you will not thoroughly understand the meaning of your numbers. By this I mean financial information such as projected profit and loss statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, startup or expansion costs, and breakeven point.
You must “own” these numbers and be the one who conducts the necessary research to come up with them and develops the assumptions behind them. If you do not, you will not know whether or not your plan is feasible or be able to assess the risk involved.
You will not understand what financial resources will be needed and when. You will not be able to compare actual numbers to projected numbers and make the necessary management decisions to make and keep your business profitable and solvent.
You will find it very difficult to build a solid relationship with your customers and keep them coming back if someone else has conducted and interpreted the market research and designed your promotional plan.
To attract and retain customers, you must truly understand who your targeted customers should be and how they make decisions. You need to understand your competitive edge – the reason that your target market is going to choose to buy from you instead of your competitors.
Keep in mind also that the market is not static. Things will not always be the way they are when your business plan is written. If you do not analyze your market yourself and develop your own plan to promote your business, you will be unable to respond appropriately to changes in the market.
If you are seeking funding for your business, you must be able to explain your plan to a potential lender or investor. They will be asking questions concerning all elements of your plan, especially the financial projections. If you cannot answer their questions satisfactorily, you will be unable to obtain the funding you seek.
Even if you are an experienced business owner, you can learn something from writing your own business plan. Whenever I work with someone who is researching and writing their own business plan, they inevitably discover something that they had overlooked when they first started the process. They often comment how glad they are that they went through the process of developing their own business plan.
So if you want your small business to be successful, do not get someone else to write your business plan. Put forth the time and effort to do it yourself.
But you do not have to do it alone. You can get help from resources such as your local Small Business Development Center or SCORE office. While they will not write your plan for you, they can work with you to help you develop a thorough, well researched business plan that you will understand.
(Source: Connie Edwards, Former Consultant, UGA SBDC Southern Coastal)