Everyone knows the saying that there are only two things of which we are certain in life:
“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
History tells us that this saying originates more than 220 years ago. American-born Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, scientist, and writer who frequently corresponded with the prominent international figures of his time.
In 1789, at the age of 83, Franklin was still corresponding with Jean Baptiste Leroy, a French physicist and writer. Many of Franklin’s personal letters contained simple maxims – the kind found in his Poor Richard’s Almanac – and they prove that his wit and wisdom were not impaired by age.
One of these comments was:
“Our Constitution is in actual operation. Everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
The Advent of the business plan
Now, long after his death, I believe it is sensible to add a third aspect of which we can be certain in life… business plans.
Whether you are starting a new business and require funding for your business venture or whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur that is seeking capital to grow your business, one thing is certain, any potential investor will require a business plan from you. So, with this realisation that you can’t cheat death, taxes or business plans, the question beckons, “How do you choose a business plan consultant/writer in South Africa?”
You may need to interview a number of different business plan consultants prior to making a decision of who to work with. In Gauteng alone there are a handful of reputable business plan consultancies and a considerable number of other firms that merely offer a generic/template/software-generated business plan service with no guidance, support, strategic advice or consultation.
It is more important at this stage to ensure you have positive answers to the following questions. Merely deciding on the cheapest business plan consultant may cost you much more in the long run.
1. Why do I need a business plan consultant?
A good business plan consultant has experience working in and working with a broad range of businesses. It is the accumulated business experience and knowledge of a business plan consultant which makes the consultant valuable. A good business plan consultant is experienced in a number of different types of businesses and industries, while also having very specific experience in running companies, in the financing of a company and most importantly in the marketing and sales of a company.
In other words, a good business plan consultant has broad and specific business experience and typically, 15 years or more of accumulated business experience. Having an MBA or CA qualification isn’t enough. The business plan specialist must have solid real world experience with many types of companies and within various industries in order to be an effective consultant.
2. Will the business plan consultant I choose write the business plan for me?
Be wary of companies that promise that they will just “write a business plan for you.” A reputable business plan company will develop a business plan in close consultation with you.
There are numerous so-called business plan “experts” in South Africa that will ask you to provide them with very little information and then they write the entire business plan for you, without meeting or even speaking with you.
This type of process will produce a poor quality business plan. As client, you are the expert in your business and should walk side-by-side with the business plan consultant throughout the entire business plan writing process. This type of consultative process will ensure that they produce a business plan that will be effective and improve your chances of success.
3. I have limited cash available! How can I afford the services of a business plan company?
How can you not? Even though sufficient cash may not be available prior starting your company, you cannot make many mistakes before you find yourself quickly out of business. Spending money on the services of a business plan writing company shouldn’t be seen as an expense but rather as a time to invest in your company’s strategic direction and market positioning.
4. Should I take a cautious approach when choosing a business plan consultant?
Like any supplier you evaluate, you should ask yourself the question:
“What is important to me”?
The business plan consultant should be with you in the beginning, middle and at the end of the business plan writing process. While this personal approach may take a bit longer, the extra time spent on your project will make a noticeable difference in your confidence and the quality of your business plan. And, when you sit down face to face with a potential investor, you will be fully conversant with all aspects of your business plan.
When someone tells you they can complete your business plan in a few days or merely gives you a business plan template suggesting that all you have to do is insert your data where noted, what you are looking at is the proverbial money down the drain.
Be very careful! There are companies that operate in this manner as it is easy to make quick money. Be extremely cautious of “generic” or “template” business plans; whether you find these generic templates in your Google search, in a bookstore, in cheap business plan software or from a business plan consultant. Numerous so-called business plan writers take this approach and charge you next to nothing for such a service. There is no such thing as a generic or template Business Plan.
Make sure that you partner with a reputable business plan company that takes an approach which will ensure that the final product is “your” plan and not a “generic” plan that’s been produced by a business plan software programme or inexperienced business plan writer.
5. Will the business plan that a business plan consultant writes guarantee investment funding?
All South African investors and financiers require a sound and feasible business plan for funding approval, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee funding. Every investor will evaluate a number of criteria when making a business loan or investment decision.
They typically consider the validity/viability of the business- and financial model, the entrepreneur’s experience, market potential, solid market research, use of funding, ability to repay the business loan, the entrepreneur’s personal credit history and the collateral available to secure the loan. And needless to say, just like in an interview for a new job, the responsibility remains that of the client to “sell” the business plan and business venture/concept to potential investors.
6. Why is it important to use a business plan specialist?
The business plan specialist utilises many different outlooks to develop a business plan that will be focused on your company. The business plan consultant gets the opinions of your colleagues, co-shareholders and management team and uses experience gained across various markets and industries to write a business plan that is unique and that will address your exact requirements.
Most new entrepreneurs have very specific technical knowledge about their intended business venture, product and/or service. Unfortunately, these entrepreneurs aren’t always fully conversant with aspects pertaining to the management of a company, business planning principles, market research, financial projections, sales, marketing, etc.
This is where a business plan company can be of extremely good value as they will be able to partner with you and guide you on these aspects, providing you with useful information and an opportunity to learn new skills and obtain new knowledge.
7. Is it important to you that the business plan consultant be local?
With video conferencing, Skype and e-mail widely available, there is no reason to limit your search to local business plan consultants. If you have no fear of throwing a wider net in search of the best business plan consultant for you, you can use this technology to connect with individuals you may never meet in person during the process.
For example, why not put a Cape Town based business plan consultant in competition with a Gauteng based business plan consultant; as long as you are comfortable with virtual collaboration methods (Skype, telephone, email, etc.).
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Sample Business Plans: Why not get going with your plan so long? Click here to view over 100 industry-specific, free sample business plans.
Why Your Business Beliefs Are More Important Than Your Business Plan
Your business plan will change. Your business beliefs should lead you to long-term success.
Do not spend more time working on your business plan than you do actually working on your business. A business plan is important, and you should take the time to make one. Just know that your beliefs about business will have a much greater impact on your success than what you put on paper.
I know this because I’ve coached dozens of entrepreneurs and business owners from the very beginnings of their businesses. I’ve watched some of them grow their businesses all the way to six-, seven- and even eight-figure earnings, even when their initial idea looked shaky on paper.
I’ve watched others struggle for years before giving up, even though their ideas looked foolproof on paper.
The short explanation here is that what you put on paper for a business plan will never match reality. Never. As soon as you start selling to and working with real people, things change. There’s a certain amount of chaos. However, there is a way to harness that chaos and use it to build your empire, which is what I’m here to show you today.
Innovation is moving faster than ever before
In the next five to 10 years, most of the jobs that exist today will be replaced by AI. For entrepreneurs, that means your business operations will be cheaper and more reliable than ever before. However, it also means that your daily operations will look completely different than what they look like today.
Plus, many of these technologies will have unintended consequences. They’re going to create problems that we’ve never had to deal with before (such as high unemployment).
I don’t say any of that to scare you. In fact, I’m extremely optimistic about the future, and you should be, too. My point is that none of us can afford to get stuck on how we do business today.
If your idea of success is to find the next “hack” or “quick fix,” then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Those hacks and quick fixes are going to become outdated almost as soon as they appear.
So, here’s what you need to do instead: Become obsessed with the principles of wealth and success, not just the delivery system. Study the entrepreneurs and the businesses you admire most and look for the principles that guided their decisions.
Focus on principles, not quick hacks
The most successful entrepreneurs on the planet are the ones that put in decades of hard work to build their empires. That means that they kept their businesses growing even in times of massive uncertainty, loss and change. How?
It comes back to their business beliefs, which is another way of saying principles. If your business beliefs are solid, you will quickly find a way to create new solutions when the old systems for doing business break down. For a great example of this, look at Ray Dalio. He’s been listed as one of the 100 wealthiest people in the world, and he even wrote a book called Principles.
He’s also the founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, which has a fund called the Pure Alpha fund that only lost money three times in the last 20 years. Keep in mind, that includes the 2008 housing crisis, which was the worst economic downturn in recent history. When most people were suffering financial disaster, Dalio and others like him kept their empires growing.
Again, it goes back to beliefs, aka principles. One of Dalio’s core beliefs was that he could design an investment portfolio that would remain safe and keep growing under any economic season. Through years of researching and testing, he created the All Seasons portfolio and accomplished just that. And he accomplished that because he was looking for the principles that would keep his money growing over the long term instead of get-rich-quick tricks and hacks.
Another great example is Google. Google’s mission statement is “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That’s not a hack or a get-rich-quick scheme.
That’s a guiding belief in what’s possible. It’s a huge idea that serves the needs of people all over the world. That’s what has allowed Google to create billion-dollar solutions and rewrite how much of the world operates today.
Beliefs can make you mentally strong — or weak
Let’s bring this back down to a personal level. If you believe that you have the creativity, focus and discipline to solve any problem that comes up in your business, then that will come true. On the other hand, if you believe there’s no room left for your ideas, or that you’ll never be able to lead other people toward your vision, that will also come true.
With that in mind, let me offer you a set of beliefs that have helped me succeed in business. These are not beliefs I pulled out of thin air. These are beliefs I’ve seen in action with dozens of other successful entrepreneurs.
I’ve tested them out in my own life and found that they each helped my businesses grow faster. I encourage you to read these aloud to yourself until they become habits in your own thinking.
- Money is attracted to decisiveness, action-taking and speed.
- I can learn whatever new skills I need to succeed and keep my business on the cutting edge.
- I can earn the respect and cooperation of anyone whose help I need.
Now, you might be wondering if I’m preaching some kind of woo-woo, “law of attraction” stuff here. I’m not. If you read those beliefs again carefully, you’ll see that they emphasize taking action. They emphasize going above and beyond what most people are willing to do.
The whole point of this is to prime yourself to want to take these actions even when they are uncomfortable. You will do this because you believe that the rewards will come. No, the rewards will not come immediately. Yes, the reality will be a long and difficult road.
Related: The Power of Dominant Thought
That’s precisely why you need deeply held, empowering beliefs to push you forward even when your plan falls apart. Focus on developing your core beliefs, and you will have the power to overcome any challenge on the path to empire.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Top 9 Business Plan Resources
Want to write a business plan but don’t know where to start? Find the top 10 business plan resources here.
A business plan is essential at every stage of your business. By writing a business plan you are giving potential funders a reason to invest in you and you are giving yourself a reference throughout your business journey.
You should be referring to your business plan at regular intervals to make sure that you are still on the right track or to update it in order to grow your business.
Writing a business plan need not be confusing or difficult because of all the available resources on the web. Entrepreneur lists the top nine business plan resources below to help you get started.
Entrepreneur Magazine SA offers advice on every area of writing a business plan
Entrepreneur Magazine being the ultimate “how to” guide for starting and growing a business offers a helping hand to anyone looking to create a business plan.
This section goes into detail on the format to follow and also offers sample plans for you to use as a template. You can also read through articles offering expert advice and do’s and don’t of business plans.
A creative, visual map for success.
The Right Brain Business Plan offers readers a fun and accessible way to creating their business plan and reaching their financial goals.
This book is ideal for the creative entrepreneur, designer, wellness professional, writer or photographer.
With the use of worksheets and step by step instructions, you will find that the business plan process is easier than you thought.
A visual guide to writing a business plan.
Entrepreneur Magazine has an in-depth business plan template that you can easily download and use as a detailed guideline when writing your business plan.
You can download this template for free and start creating the various sections of your business plan so that in the end you have a detailed business concept that is attractive to potential investors.
Practical advice from business plan experts.
BPlans was founded by Tim Berry, a renowned business planning authority, and their website caters to entrepreneurs and business owners who need sample business plans as well as advice for writing a business plan when starting or growing their companies.
This website offers free as well as paid for services for you to choose from depending on your needs.
Complete guide to business plan contents.
There are 10 elements or sections that need to be included in a business plan and this article from Entrepreneur Magazine goes into detail on each.
Related: Free Sample Business Plans
Their format guide will ensure that your business plan covers everything that it needs to for your own use as well as to present to potential financiers.
A useful handbook for building the ideal business model.
Alexander Osterwalder’s has created a guide to building a detailed business model that any start-up will find useful.
You can purchase the full book if your decide that you would like further information on his process and thinking around business models.
Top advice from finance institutions and entrepreneurial experts.
Renowned experts such as Martin Feinstein of Enablis, Allon Raiz of Raizcorp, Keet van Zyl of HBD Venture Capital and Andre Deiderichs of Old Mutual all give their opinions and top tips for writing a business plan by taking into account the do’s and don’t s and what potential investors will be looking out for.
Related: Free Business Plan Template Download
If you are working on a marketing plan for your company, MPlans can assist.
Because writing a marketing plan is just as important as your business plan, it’s important to take the time to understand the various elements.
MPlans offers a range of free marketing plans that you can use as a template to create yours. They also have marketing software that you can purchase if you want to create a totally unique plan.
Tim Berry is the owner of Palo Alto Software, a co-founder of Borland International, and a well known expert in business planning.
Entrepreneur Magazine’s website gives you free access to his articles and advice so that you have all the knowledge you need when writing or modifying your business plan.
Related: 21 Free Sample Business Plans
Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan
A number of apps simplify the often tedious, complicated process of crafting a thorough bank- and investor-ready business plan.
If you have a killer idea for a start-up, but lack the time, resources and budget to develop a business plan, a business plan-generating app can help you get your plan on paper and, ideally, off the ground.
A number of apps simplify the often tedious, complicated process of crafting a thorough bank- and investor-ready business plan.
You provide the information, they organise it into a plan, and hopefully soon you’ll be in business.
Here’s a look at three apps that can help get your business plan rolling:
This is an all-in-one web app that walks users through every step of creating a traditional business plan.
Here’s how it works: Based on the data you enter into the app, Enloop automatically generates sales, profit and loss, cash flow and balance sheet projections for you, complete with explanatory graphs and other compelling visual elements.
Enloop also provides standard, yet customisable business plan text for each section of your plan, including portions focused on key company information and financial data.
Enloop’s Free & Easy option includes a single custom business plan packaged in a clean, professionally formatted PDF file that you can download, print and share.
More fully featured paid versions range from $9.95 a month to $39.95 a month and allow you to make multiple business plans. Enloop is only web-based and not yet available for mobile devices.
Alex Glassey, who designed this iPad-only app, describes it as “a strategic-planning app that helps entrepreneurs with the thinking and decision-making process.”
StratPad can be a smart choice for people who are writing their first-ever business plan. It is packed with several free how-to tools for beginners, including a 58-page business strategy tutorial, view-on-demand training videos, email-based customer service, and more.
A free basic StratPad edition is available for students. Paid, one-time fee plans range from $9.99 to $54.99. The more you pay, the more advanced business plan options you get.
The easy-to-use app guides users through a series of simple questions and prompts. Your answers are used to develop a summary business plan, complete with revenue projections and full-colour graphs and charts.
3. Business Plan Premier
This $7.99 iPad app does double-duty for users who are eager to have their business plan backed fast.
Not only does Business Plan Premier help you organise and write your business plan at an extremely detailed level, it also enables you to present your finished plan to more than 3 000 high net worth potential investors, who are also members of investment research firm Ben Stein & Accredited Members Inc.
Business Plan Premier leads you through writing your prospective company’s vision and mission statements, product descriptions and marketing plans.
You can also use it to complete competitive and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, outline your management scheme, identify your start-up expenses, define your target market and more depending on your needs.
Your completed business plan is exported as a Microsoft Word document that you can edit, print, email or upload to Dropbox. Business Plan Lite is the free (but much less functional) version of the app.
Sample Business Plans: Still stuck? Click here to view over 100 industry-specific, free sample business plans.
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