I’m often approached by start-up entrepreneurs and asked to write their business plan.
I won’t do it.
I think it’s a rotten idea.
So does Dragons Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne.I’m reading his book Wake Up And Change Your Life – it’s very good for any aspiring entrepreneur.
In Chapter 4 he says “You’ll find several people offering to write your business plan for you – and charge you an arm and a leg for it.”
Duncan then gives two exceptionally important reasons why you should never get someone else to write your business plan for you:
- The first is about the money. He argues that it is poor judgement paying someone else to do something that you can easily do for yourself.
- The second is that you’ll understand your business much better if you write your business plan yourself.
I’d add a third reason.
You’ll be much more committed to putting the plan into action if you’ve done it yourself. You’ll have thought through your actions and whether you really intend to do the things.
Let’s dig deeper into each.
Spending Money You Don’t Need To On Having A Business Plan Written For You
Very few business start-ups are done with a big pot of cash which lets the entrepreneur splurge and even if there is plenty of money, I recommend you are very careful.
It’s much easier spending money than it is earning it.
Researching and writing a business plan takes a significant amount of time and professional time is expensive. It’s also an area where price and quality are closely related so if you penny pinch and find the cheapest source, you can expect the quality to be poor.
Paying to have your business plan critically reviewed and to get feedback on it is different. You’ll find that family and friends are either very encouraging (you can do anything you want) or very discouraging (you’ll never make it work, it’s much better to stay in your safe job). A professional will tell you what you need to hear and challenge your thoughts and assumptions. You may not like it but it will help you to develop a stronger, more robust plan.
You’ll Understand Your Business Better If You Write The Business Plan Yourself
As a general rule, the more you think, the better prepared you will be for action. You can go too far, and spend all your time thinking and planning but often people leap into action with little thought and hit major problems which were all too predictable.
This thinking and planning is invaluable and it can be very useful to work through a structured thinking process.
If you’ve picked a market that ignites your passion, you should find the research interesting and if you don’t, it may be a warning that the business isn’t right for you.
You’ll Be More Committed To A Business Plan You’ve Written Yourself
Do you work better when you’re told what to do or when you are clear on your objectives and decide what you need to do yourself?
If you want to be told, you may not be cut out for life as an entrepreneur.
If you decide on your own actions, then you’re not going to stick to a plan written by someone else. It’s just words on paper with no meaning.
But if you decide you need to do A,B and C and you commit to it in writing and promise other people (like a bank or investor) then you’re likely to follow through unless you get a better idea. If you don’t, you lose credibility with your financial backers and even more importantly, with yourself.
If you can’t trust yourself to deliver on promises, then who can you trust and why should anyone trust you?
Writing A Business Plan Is Easy
Perhaps easy is the wrong word. It does take time and effort but it’s not complicated. This isn’t brain surgery.
You can do it, words and numbers.
There is business planning software to help you that you can get for a low cost or even free.
What Help Should You Get With Your Business Plan?
I don’t believe you should pay anyone to write your business plan for you but I do think there are services which will help you to get a better business plan. Generally I think it’s a good idea to have a mentor or coach for your business start-up.
- Helping you to think better – start-up entrepreneurs can feel overwhelmed by how much could be done so it can be useful to get advice and help on how to focus your thinking on the critical issues. There will be plenty of distractions and people selling bright shiny buttons which promise a lot.
- Reviewing your business plan – you’ll be very lucky if you get constructive criticism of your ideas from family and friends unless they own their own small businesses. Even then, they may struggle to take what they know and apply it to your business idea.
- Help with the numbers – the profit and cash flow forecasts are particularly important if you need to raise finance and you don’t want to make errors which show your inexperience. The business planning software certainly helps because trying to model your business in a spreadsheet is complicated.
- Polishing up your plan – if your plan is going to third parties to raise finance, it needs to sell your business idea realistically. If your plan is poor quality because you struggle to express your ideas in writing, then it is useful to get someone to tighten up your language and make your business case more persuasive.
Each of these are likely to cost money but they should be working from a business plan you’ve drafted. You’ve done your thinking and tried to produce a business plan and you recognise that it could be better.
That’s very different from saying to a professional business plan writer, “Can you write my business plan for me please?”
Paul Simister is a business coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.