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Get Help With Your Plan

To help you write your business plan, we've compiled a list of the resources that will put you on the right track. Access them in today's selection from "How To Build A Business Plan."
November 30, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/74646

By the time you've read this guide and tried your hand at a few of the various components of a plan, you should be ready to go ahead and complete your own. However, there's always room for improvement, and there are a number of resources you can tap into to increase your expertise in plan writing.

Hiring a Consultant

Businesspeople tend to fall into two camps when it comes to consultants. Some believe strongly in the utility and value of hiring outside experts to bring new perspective and broad knowledge to challenging tasks. Others feel consultants are overpaid yes-men brought in only to endorse plans already decided on or to take the heat for unpopular but necessary decisions.

Who's right? Both are, depending on the consultant you hire and your purpose for hiring one. Most consultants are legitimate experts in specific or general business areas. And most consultants can be hired to help with all or part of the process of writing a business plan.

The downside is, you have to spend a lot of time on communication before and during the process of working with a consultant. Be sure you have fully explained-and the consultant fully understands-the nature of your business, your concept and strategy, your financial needs, and other matters such as control, future plans and so on. Refer to these important issues throughout the process-you don't want to pay for a beautifully done plan that fits somebody else's business, not yours. And when the work is done, debrief the consultant to find out if there is anything you can learn that wasn't included in the plan.

If you decide to hire a consultant to help you prepare your plan, take care to select the right person. Here are some guidelines:

1. Get referrals. Ask colleagues, acquaintances and professionals such as bankers, accountants and lawyers for the names of business plan consultants they recommend. A good referral goes a long way to easing any concerns you may have. Few consultants advertise anyway, so referrals may be your only choice.

2. Look for a fit. Find a consultant who is expert in helping businesses like yours. Ideally, the consultant should have lots of experience with companies of similar size and age in similar industries. Avoid general business experts or those who lack experience in your field.

3. Check references. Get the names of at least three clients the consultant has helped to write plans. Call the former clients and ask about the consultant's performance. Was the consultant's final fee in line with the original estimate? Was the plan completed on time? Did it serve the intended purpose?

4. Get it in writing. Have a legal contract for the consultant's services. It should discuss in detail the fee, when it will be paid and under what circumstances. And make sure you get a detailed written description of what the consultant must do to earn the fee. Whether it's an hourly rate or a flat fee isn't as important as each party knowing exactly what's expected of them.

Associations

SCORE is a source for all kinds of business advice, from how to write a business plan to investigating marketing potential and managing cash flow. SCORE counselors work out of nearly 400 local chapters throughout the United States. You can obtain a referral to a counselor in your local chapter by contacting the national office.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the umbrella organization for local chambers, of which there are more than 1,000 in the United States. If you plan on doing business overseas, don't forget to check for an American Chamber of Commerce in the countries where you hope to have a presence. They are set up to provide information and assistance to U.S. firms seeking to do business there. Many, but not all, countries have American Chambers.

Government Agencies

State Commerce Departments
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
District of Columbia, (202) 727-6365, fax: (202) 727-6703
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio, (614) 644-8748, fax: (614) 466-0829
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina., (803) 252-8806, fax: (803) 252-0455
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Software and Books

Source:The Small Business Encyclopedia, Business Plans Made Easy, Start Your Own Business and Entrepreneur magazine.