In almost every walk of life people recognise what they do and do not know, what they do and can’t do and recognise that successful outcomes are significantly enhanced by using experts to fill knowledge and experience gaps and to do what they can’t do. Business ventures prosper by employing experienced people to carry out the necessary roles rather than just getting someone on the payroll and asking them to do their best with whatever comes up.
When it comes to business planning, however, this tried and trusted concept appears to be ignored in favour of a DIY approach. Not only is this the case for business plans intended for internal use only, but oddly, for business plans which are intended to be used to secure bank and investor funding. Logic would suggest that if you need funding to secure the future of your business or business idea then you would want to give yourself your best chance of successfully raising funds and surely that means using professionals throughout the process. Why then, do so many people try to present their potential funder with a plan written by themselves without any knowledge of convention or what should be said in a plan and how?
Perhaps the answer starts with a lack of understanding about what a business plan can do for the business and the importance of having one. More businesses fail where there is no business plan and no planning review process than those that take this matter seriously. If you think about the business planning process alerting you to potential future problems you can see why. If you can see a potential problem you can plan to avoid it or minimise the effect. Notwithstanding this, people avoid business planning and often only want a business plan because their potential funder is insisting on one. This clearly downgrades the planning process to a necessity as opposed to desirability and maybe that’s why people feel they can deal with it themselves. If it’s just a box ticking exercise then how difficult can it be?
Perhaps DIY around the home can shed some light. Even the most enthusiastic DIYer draws the line at anything which involves structural changes, electric, gas, or water because they recognise the potential dangers of getting it wrong. However many will have a go at painting the house. If you get this wrong your house will not fall down, straight away at least, it will just not look good. People do not understand what they should know to safely do the electrics and they also don’t understand what skills a painter needs to get a good result which protects the fabric of the house. With the latter they just don’t understand the implications just as they don’t understand the implications of writing their own business plan.
If you looked at it from the point of view of a funder, however, you may begin to see the error of your ways. Funders see thousands of business plans and it is the main way they get to understand your business proposal, why funding is necessary and the chances of repayment or a good return. Funders are busy people and do not have time to extract information from a garbled waffle. They expect the information to be presented succinctly and in a recognised format so that they can easily gain an understanding of the proposal. Is this beginning to sound like a professional plan? Good because that’s what a funder wants to see. Anything else and he’s likely to discard your plan and move onto the next.
If funders want professional business plans then it’s obvious that you will need professional help so why else would you persist on your own. Well I’ve heard it said that you should do your own plan because only you know your business and you need to own the plan. The implication is that you cannot use professional help as a consequence. Not true, professional planners work with you, not instead of you, to get a professional business plan produced. They firstly work with you to understand your business then work with you to develop the business model and then work with you to ensure your understanding and adoption of the plan. If you still think it’s just a box ticking exercise then brief the professional anyway. Less work for you and at least you’ll be giving the funder what he needs.
Research carried out by Charles Brooks, owner of Comprehensive Business Management Ltd, a leading professional business plan writing consultancy, showed that the main reason for entrepreneurs not wanting to produce business plans was a reluctance to set things in concrete. They intuitively understand the need to keep things flexible so that changes can be made as new information or opportunities come along. In fact successful entrepreneurs do plan but they keep it in their heads. Perfect until things get too big or you need to communicate the plan to someone else. A potential funder perhaps. Instead of just using the professional to produce a professional business plan that never gets out of the drawer once funding is approved why not work with him to develop a planning process that keeps the plan live and up to date with opportunities and new information as it occurs. The easiest way to evaluate opportunities is to consider the implications to the original plan. If you never knew where you were going you can’t know if the potential opportunity is worth pursuing or not.
When it comes to selling, everyone understands the benefit of presenting the service or product in the best possible light. Professional photographers and printers are used for literature, and marketing professionals are used to get the message just right. Why, because you need to give yourself your best chance of making the sale. The same applies to Professional Business Plans, they give you your best chance of securing the funding necessary to achieve your future and working with a professional plan writer with years of experience will ensure the plan answers most of the funders questions without him having to ask.