We work closely with you to understand your goals and vision, research your markets and competitors, and develop your business plan. Although most clients hire us to write a business plan they often find that the process they go through developing a plan is ultimately more valuable than the documents themselves.
Our Business Plan Development Process
Our business planning process is intense, thorough, and highly collaborative. We primarily work with small and mid-size organizations, ranging from just one or two employees up to hundreds.
During our business planning process, we will help you and your team refine your business model, identify your most profitable customers, fine-tune your marketing plan, and improve your sales projections. We provide an objective view, so your final business plan makes a statement that exudes confidence and attracts investors.
- We work closely with you to understand your goals and vision, and then develop your entire business plan, from “elevator pitch” to “exit strategy.”
- We don’t start with a “canned” business plan format — each plan is individually crafted to meet the unique requirements of each client.
- Unlike many of our competitors, we expect — even demand — several iterations. We understand that the first version is rarely perfect. If you are not happy with our work, we aren’t either.
- We don’t just “write a business plan.” We question assumptions, perform independent research on the market and competition, determine business feasibility, and explore and propose alternative ways to market your product or service. We are consultants, not just writers.
- If you need to raise capital, we’ll evaluate your business plan from the viewpoint of a prospective investor or partner. Our experience allows us to quickly spot problems and fix them long before you meet with your first investor.
- We provide you with a small team of experienced business consultants who understand and care about your business.
A professional business plan ties all of the above together into a self-consistent document that serves as a road map for your business.
Rest assured that no matter how simple or complicated your underlying business is, we will spend the time and effort necessary to make your plan a major springboard towards your future success.
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Our writing style is clear, direct, and simple. A complete strategic business plan includes the following components:
- Industry Overview — a general introduction to the industry
- Market Opportunity — a discussion of how large the business opportunity is in terms of revenue, number of customers, number of sub-markets, growth trends, etc.
- Customers — who are they, where are they, how many are there, etc.?
- Competition — understand the competitive landscape in as much detail as possible. If there are no direct competitors now, then who are your indirect competitors?
- Products & Services — What products and services will the business supply to customers?
- A description of the Business Model, including all major revenue streams. How will the business make money?
- Marketing & Sales Plan — how will you attract and retain customers, deliver your product/service to them, and earn their loyalty? How will you position your products and services relative to competitors?
- Operations — how will you get things done on a daily basis? This includes everything from research through production on to sales and billing.
- Management & Staff — probably the single most important factor in any effective business plan. Describe the management team in terms of experience, talents, connections, etc. What additional resources will you need to make the business succeed?
- Investment Opportunity and Exit Strategy for Investors — what will investors get for their money or their time? When and how will they be compensated?
- Financial Projections — includes monthly cash flow projections (with all revenue sources and expenses included), pro-forma financial statements, marketing and sales costs, taxes, office space, development costs, etc. We also provide clear and detailed explanations of the assumptions behind the financial projections.
- SWOT (Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats) Analysis
- Supplementary Materials — patents, trademarks, trade agreements, letters of reference, etc.
As professional business plan consultants, we see a wide variety of business plan formats. The three most common business plan types are bank financing, internal planning, or investor financing. They are listed here, roughly in order of decreasing detail and complexity.
Many businesses are simply not good candidates for bank financing. Generally most start-ups and early stage businesses that involve new technology, innovative business services, practices, products or concepts will be unable to obtain bank financing. Most technology businesses (Internet, Information Technology, biotech, cleantech), and green or sustainable businesses fall in this category.
These types of business usually seek to obtain equity financing, typically from angel investors or venture capital firms. Most angel investors are successful entrepreneurs or business executives who have many places to put their money. If they see a flawed business plan (sloppy, inconsistent, or poorly conceived) they will walk away. Angel investors and venture capitalists expect and demand the highest quality, often following a due diligence process. That usually means a proven or innovative business model; detailed, accurate market research; scenario analysis; well-documented financial projections, as well as extensive supplementary materials (charts, graphs, sample materials, letters of intent, sample contracts, patent or trademark documentation, etc.)
This type of plan applies to any business, independent of growth stage or industry vertical. Since the whole purpose is to guide internal planning, the formatting and packaging is less important than it would be for a plan designed to raise debt or equity capital. In some cases, the financial projections, supplementary materials, and other documents (such as a PowerPoint presentation) are either not needed or are only needed in a simpler form. However, the most important variable for this business plan type is the underlying complexity and novelty of the business. A complicated or unusual business will usually require a more in-depth business plan.
For established businesses with annual revenues above a few million dollars, there are special considerations. Multiple stakeholders, such as a larger management team, a Board of Directors, Advisory Board, outside investors, department heads, remote office managers and directors, supply chain vendors, and others need to be involved with the business planning process. Larger businesses also often have multiple revenue streams from different products and services, serve multiple markets across geographic boundaries, and have more complex requirements for technology applications and services. All of these factors must be considered carefully during the business planning process.
Banks like stable, consistently growing businesses with proven business models and lots of collateral (equipment, land, buildings). This allows them to focus on historical performance, hard assets, and cash flow rather than market projections and future potential. This type of business plan usually requires a modest level of detail in the financial projections, market opportunity analysis, and competitor analysis. Many established businesses fall into this category, especially “bricks and mortar” businesses. Generally, any business seeking an SBA loan, a working capital credit line, or a non-SBA loan fits into this category. Note that although some banks will lend money to start-up businesses, they usually focus on tried and true business categories where industry data is plentiful (such as restaurants, nightclubs, retail stores, etc.)
The above list is not exhaustive. For example certain visa plans for immigrants to the United States require a formal business plan. These include the E1, E2, and EB5 visa programs. The requirements for these business plans are rather minimal.
Despite the rumors, business planning is rarely easy. Especially if this is your first time. Be sure to avoid these common mistakes when creating a business plan.