WRITING EFFECTIVE BUSINESS PLANS
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CONSULTANTS
A.V. Narinesingh, CPC, APC, CC, CMC
One of the first steps in getting a new idea or venture "off the ground", or expanding, acquiring or refinancing a project, must be the development of a well prepared business plan. Preparing a proper business plan could not only prove to be time consuming and frustrating to a business owner, but lack of objectivity and understanding of the market and/or marketing strategies available, and competing technologies, products and/or services, organizational structures, economic trends and financial planning, etc., could seriously impact on the effectiveness of the plan as well as the viability of the venture. For these and other reasons, a professional business plan writer is usually in high demand.
There are many people who advertise themselves as "business plan writers". Many of them are good writers but lack the necessary "hands-on" expertise needed in writing an effective business plan. After all, writing a business plan is not an academic exercise; It is an in-depth, logical, practical and critical analysis of a client's ideas, business strategies, personal goals, and short and long term objectives at each stage of their development and implementation.
Most professional Consultants are chosen by their clients for their knowledge and expertise in specific disciplines. Equally important are their creative skills in communications and writing if they are to initially make a good impression on a prospective client. If a Consultant can effectively utilize these talents in soliciting and developing a sound client base, he or she can enjoy a successful career as a professional Business Plan Writer. It is interesting to note that about 3% of projects submitted for funding are actually successfully concluded. An analysis of thousands of proposals by one of our funding groups show that,50% were rejected after a review of the summary, 36% because of poorly prepared plans and11% because of unverifiable information, poor management or a lack of proper planning.
A well written business plan should set definitive goals and objectives and allow the client to measure the results; it should define clearly what business your client is in, as well as where he/she intends to go in the future; it should identify your client's strengths and weaknesses (if an honest and critical approach is taken in developing the rationale for being in business and continuing to be in business); it would also show how successful or unsuccessful the client will be if he/she does not recognize that changes do occur every single day in a business. The word "flexibility" takes on a whole new meaning. A business plan is a selling document and as such should be organized and written to appeal to potential supporters of the client's project including, bankers, venture capitalists, investors, stockbrokers, strategic partner(s), suppliers, key customers and current and future employees. Obviously, a plan written for a banker may not provide the information that would be of interest to a strategic partner or key customer. Therefore, it is important to recognize that more than one version may have to be written depending on the target audience. In our present business environment, "strategic planning" sessions are now being held by many companies to determine what next to do to survive the "ups and "downs" of the business cycle. In many instances, these sessions are almost like "closing the barn door after the horse has escaped", or trying to control the quality of a product on the production line when the basic design was flawed.
The author has been writing professional business plans since 1968. Over the last 22 years, his company, Cynton, has developed "tried and tested" guidelines and parameters for writing successful business plans for clients. We have always approached writing every new plan as an exercise in "forward planning". We have never undertaken an assignment to write a plan based on information supplied solely by the client. This is because in writing a plan you must always ensure that the information presented in the plan is substantive, can be quantified, verified and confirmed by independent sources. As a rule, we always get the client's involvement in writing the plan, from the conceptual stage to the finished product. We have found over these years that if we got the client involved in every functional area of his or her business, from market research, marketing strategy, production planning, scheduling manpower planning to financing, Information Technology and engineering, etc., so that he/she understood that these areas must be given equal recognition in formulating short and long term goals and objectives, the measurable benefits of this approach proved to be a definitive competitive edge and improvement of the client's chances of a prospective lender or investor becoming interested in funding the venture. It also ensures, continuing success, viability, growth and profitability.
If, as an accredited Consultant, you get involved in writing plans, you must always be cognizant of the fact that the business plan creates your client's venture's first, and often, most lasting impression. Therefore, writing a business plan requires careful thought and a concentrated effort as you must be able to show clearly what the business is going to accomplish, why it will be successful, how the venture will be financed, the return on investment for your client as well as the investor, and who is going to be responsible for achieving the stated objectives.
Careful planning stands behind every successful venture. The planning function is the first and most important task in pursuing any business venture. Your client's goals and objectives cannot become reality without the process of good planning. It is absolutely essential that you, when writing the plan, recognize the importance of proper strategizing, planning and evaluation in undertaking this exercise. Strategic planning must be done prior to beginning and/or completing a proper business plan. It establishes the rationale for adopting certain policies and allows you to quantify them. Further, it removes the element of "tunnel vision" when making sound business decisions.
After many years of writing effective Business Plans, we have now developed our own Interactive Business Planning and Development Program for writing Business Plans. We will also provide twenty hours of consulting time at no extra cost to Consultants and their clients. Consultants can also use this time to discuss and obtain our professional assistance on one or more projects by telephone, fax or in writing. This Program has been developed to provide you with a step-by-step approach to writing an effective business plan. The material presented is relevant to start-ups, emerging as well as mature ventures. Because of the substantive nature of the information presented and the areas addressed, this Program can be used for marketing plans and/or financing proposals, from real estate and construction projects to manufacturing, service and entertainment ventures. The Program can also be used to carry out a candidate synergistic evaluation when considering an acquisition or merger. If you follow closely the instructions in this Program, your business plan, when completed, will be conceived and presented in a professional and logical manner. Each section of this Program addresses specific functional areas of your business. The Program forces you to be cognizant of the importance of all the functional areas of management in a company working together. Special discount pricing is available to members of the Association of Professional Computer Consultants.
When writing a business plan for a client, you must always recognize that, your business plan is a reflection of the business and the business is a reflection of your client. Ultimately the business plan will equate directly to the quality of the person writing the plan - and that is YOU!