True Story: Why You Don’t Want a Business Plan Writer
It’s been years since I was making a real living off of business plan consulting (I migrated to business plan software instead), but I had an exchange last week that reminded me of one of the biggest problems – and most common misunderstandings – related to business plans.
Not that you, in your situation, should never hire a business plan writer, consultant or coach. In some cases that’s a good idea. But let me explain that after I tell this story.
One of my first engagements in business planning was as business plan consultant to a startup with three experienced founders. I met with them several times, listened always, and did their business plan. I built the financial model, wrote the text, and produced the document as a business plan document. But I wasn’t part of the team. I wasn’t able to promise to go full time. I was just the business plan writer.
It was a good startup. It had a good idea and, much more important, a market window, differentiation and experience to make it happen. The three founders had about 40 years of computer company experience between them. And it was a good plan too.
But there was a problem with the plan: The founders didn’t know it. They thought it was enough to have a plan, but it wasn’t. In every meeting I attended along with the founders, when there were critical questions, I had to answer them. I knew the plan. They didn’t. It was my plan.
And, in fact, the plan failed. My clients didn’t get financed, and the venture never launched. Of course I was disappointed because I spent a long time developing and revising that plan. I repeatedly changed financial assumptions and revised text.
So here is my advice about hiring a business plan writer, consultant or coach:
The best business plan is one you do yourself. Hiring out is threatened by the fact that good business plans in real business use last a few weeks at best. Business planning is about regular review and revision.
Consider hiring somebody from the outside only if you have the budget for it. It is conceivable that you don’t want to do it yourself and your time is better applied to other business functions. Cheap business plan writing strikes me as about as good an idea as cheap surgery, cheap dentistry, or discount sushi.
If you do hire somebody, look for a relationship more like coaching than consulting. Hire somebody who shares expertise and experience, makes suggestions, but doesn’t do the task so you don’t have to.
Don’t believe ever that having a business plan written is any good for more than a few short weeks. Business plans get old and useless very quickly. If you don’t have one you can keep alive, then you don’t have one at all.