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Question: I'm starting a business, but the bank needs a business plan before I can get a loan. Is there a service that can write one for me?
Gabriel Aviles Gomez
Answer: Absolutely. You can hire a professional business plan writer. In fact, your bank loan officer may be able to recommend one to you or you can find one online. Many business plan writers have Web sites, or you can find a business planning consultant at http://www.brs-inc.com, the site for Business Resource Software Inc.
While searching for a writer, look for someone who has a general business background and is familiar with such areas as accounting, bookkeeping and marketing. He or she should also be acquainted with financial statements, business jargon and your local business community. Ask for work samples, and, if possible, have your bank loan officer review them to be sure they're acceptable in terms of type and quality.
Professionals can prepare a business plan in two to four weeks. Fees range from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on the time it takes to do the research to obtain the necessary financial data, analyze the competition, develop sample marketing plans and so on.
Although you aren't writing your own plan, you can learn more about what goes into one. Several books can help: Business Plans for Dummies (IDG Books), The One Page Business Plan (One Page Business Plan Company), The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies (Oasis Press), and Business Plans Made Easy (Entrepreneur Media Inc.).
If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact Paul and Sarah Edwards at http://www.paulandsarah.com or send it to "What's Your Problem?," Entrepreneur, 2445 McCabe Wy., Irvine, CA 92614.
We're not being acknowledged for our work. Is this the norm?
Question: We're a new business that offers public relations, marketing and fund-raising services. A local ad agency has outsourced several jobs to us. Now the agency's owner wants to market our business to a client as part of his team and says we can't use our company name while working with this client. Is this standard business practice?
Answer: Business-to-business collaboration is one of the major trends among small businesses today. In researching our book Teaming Up (Tarcher), we found 65 percent of the business owners we interviewed (all of whom had been in business for more than five years) were teaming up in some way with other small businesses, and most wanted to team up even more in the future. One message was clear, however: In creating such collaborations, there's no "standard" business practice, other than the presumption that everything's negotiable.
We found 10 different types of strategic alliances that range from cross promotions to virtual organizations. Like joint ventures and mutual referral agreements, many involve each company promoting its own identity. In others, like interdependent alliances, the company that gets the business is usually the one whose name is used on the contract.
One entrepreneur, for example, has a production company through which he subcontracts work to independent camera and sound professionals. He gets the business and brings in independent professionals who work as part of his organization. They are paid by his company. In relationships like this, it would be highly unethical for a subcontractor to market his own business to clients brought in by the contractor.
In your situation, evidently the ad agency owner believes including your expertise on his marketing materials will help him get more business. For you, this arrangement could mean new business with no marketing costs. But you must decide if there's any downside to such an arrangement and, if not, whether it would be sufficiently beneficial. Otherwise, you should strive to negotiate a more desirable arrangement.
What's key is that you work together to create a win-win alliance each of you can be enthusiastic about.