Preparing a business plan is an important step for any business, but it's a critical step for securing financing. For that reason, many business owners hire consultants to help them research, organize, and present all the relevant business plan information to potential investors. The most important factors to consider when comparing consultants are:
- Experience – how many business plans have they written in total?
- Success – what percent of the plans they've written have been funded?
- Cost – paying a per-project fee may be more economical than an hourly fee.
Get free help from the governmentBelieve it or not, the U.S. government wants small businesses to thrive, and they have several agencies and partnerships established for that exact purpose.
Small Business Development Center, Service Corps of Retired Executives chapter or Minority Business Development Center for free or low cost business plan preparation help.
Find consultants specializing in your type of businessA good way to whittle down your options is to find those consultants who specialize in your industry and in businesses of your size.
Examine work samplesBesides cost, one of the ways to differentiate firms is through their work. Ask to see samples of completed plans to get a sense of the firm's style and capabilities.
Check out their staffWho will be responsible for helping you prepare your plan - an experienced entrepreneur with an MBA, or a junior consultant just getting started?
Consider alternatives to a consultant...If you've already pulled together background information and have thought through how you intend to run the company, a business plan software package may be all you need to at least create a draft.
- Even if you outsource the writing of your plan to someone else, be sure you stay involved in the process, so that you can answer detailed questions from potential investors later. It still needs to be your plan.
- The more work you can do up front to gather statistics, organize your background materials, or create a first draft can reduce the amount of time a consultant has to spend on the project, and potentially your final bill.
- Although working with someone locally can be convenient, don't limit yourself solely to consultants within a five-mile radius; the best one for you may be 300 miles away.
- Ask for recommendations from other business owners, investors, bankers, and accountants to be sure you select a reputable firm.