If you’re starting a new business, you need a business plan. Everyone knows that. Many entrepreneurs choose to outsource this piece of their new business to another firm that can take that dream and put it on paper in a way that gets investors or loan officers excited. It’s not an easy task. It takes skilled and knowledgeable writers and researchers to do this.
In your search for a business plan company, you’ll likely find hundreds of companies who may or may not be able to meet your needs within your budget. It’s an important decision because the future of your business is riding on it. If you don’t get the right plan completed, you are back to the start. But finding that right business plan company and investor can change your life forever.
The main thing to understand is that there are different tiers of companies out there, each providing a different level of service. Those tiers are as follows:
Tier I – Custom Business Plan Development Firms – The top tier is custom business plan development firms who focus on the quality of the plan and its ability to acquire necessary funding. These companies generally meet with clients at an office location or on the phone to learn about the entrepreneur and his/her dream. My firm fits in this tier, and we have several national competitors here that do good work. While sometimes costly, the quality of business plans from this tier is far better than the others and gives the entrepreneur the best opportunity to attract funding for their new business.
Tier II – Attorneys or Other Professionals – Attorneys or other professionals, including CPAs, will sometimes write the business plans themselves for their clients. While I have seen some very good business plans from these professionals in my experience, the majority of them fall just short of funding. It’s not from a lack of effort but simply a lack of experience or knowledge of how to get investors interested and engaged in the business proposal.
Tier III – Companies that Write Your Plan From an Online or Emailed Form – I also like to call these “personalized plans without a personalized approach.” These firms prefer to write business plans based on an online form you fill out or a simple questionnaire that you send via email. In many cases, the text you type simply gets placed into a template to give you a “business plan.” I use quotations there because it’s really not what it is. Realistically, it’s a template that has your words in it that was compiled for you. This isn’t always the case as some others will write your plan based on this information. However, it’s really difficult for a writer to fully understand your business from an emailed form and nearly impossible to really comprehend your points of differentiation.
Tier IV – Template and Software Companies – Online searches will lead you to a number of business plan templates and software packages out there, ranging from no cost to a few hundred dollars. Templates and software are dangerous because it’s difficult for someone without knowledge of how to write an effective plan to understand how to personalize their business plan and, most importantly, how to emphasize the key points in their business. Experienced loan officers and investors can pick out the templates and you will instantly lose credibility. These templates still require a significant amount of work from the entrepreneur to complete industry and market research. Depending on your industry, you should expect to spend a few hundred dollars more on quality industry data that isn’t available to the public and a significant time commitment of several hundred hours to get the plan finished.
Ultimately, each entrepreneur has to choose what company to work with based on who can provide the best opportunity to get funded within their budget. Some clients simply can’t afford Tier I services, and that’s OK. It just means the amount of time spent getting the plan ready for investors is much more significant. Don’t take the decision lightly and don’t sacrifice quality whenever possible. Consider your business plan an investment and choose the path that best gets you to your goals. After all, giving yourself the best opportunity to attract capital is the ultimate goal of the business plan and your idea deserves it.