Business Plans – Should You Use a Hired Gun?

The thought of preparing a business plan tends to fill most business owners with dread; it can be a difficult, stressful, and time consuming process.  It is a document that can make or break your future, it deserves the investment of your blood, sweet and tears. This is not to say that you have to do it alone or locked in a room with your management team. There is help and the use of a detached, third party, professional to facilitate the process and challenge/validate your thoughts, ideas and assumptions.

In order to get the greatest benefit from your outside assistance you need to establish your expectations before you establish the relationship. Are you looking for a writer to make it sound good, a facilitator to lead you through the process or a subject matter expert to provide detailed information. Do you want someone there full-time or a consultant ? What you expect and who you hire will greatly effect both the cost and the results.

When choosing you selection it is important that you don’t choose either the first person that you come across, or the cheapest. Your business plan may not only be used for guidance, but it may also be used to attract financing and key employees and nothing kills a deal (or business) faster than an incomplete or poorly written plan. The plan also becomes an indicator of competence and professionalism.

It’s not unreasonable to request writing samples and references or recommendations from trusted advisers who have used their services.  For subject matter experts, the addition of a resume will help to ensure you are getting your moneys worth and that you end up with a business plan you can use. As with any contract you enter into make sure you fully understand the deal before signing on the dotted-line.

By following these points you should be able to decide whether or not professional assistance can benefit you and the future of the business.  While outside help is a cost, in the long run it could be the best investment you ever made.

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