The dreaded business plan. Business students and MBA holders often complete one as their final thesis, writing a tome that might be measured in inches rather than pages. Many people, especially those operating part-time as an independent contractor, don’t even worry about them. And it’s not always necessary to make money.
However, it’s an incredibly important tool for measuring success if you want to grow your operations. A well-written plan can even provide a foundation for marketing messages and help you build your network by sharing your vision with others confidently. According to Entrepreneur.com, many business owners miss out on these aspects of the business plan when putting theirs together.
So when do you need a business plan? The minute you’re looking for any outside investment, even bank financing to rent office space or purchase capital equipment, you should expect to write one out. A lot of businesses release a new business plan each year detailing any changes to long-term goals, market competition or financial status. Some companies, especially large multinationals with many subsidiary operations, need a few each year to describe new ventures or secure investment capital for mergers. If you have a business, and you have a clear vision of a “Point B” that you want your business to travel towards (from your current “Point A” position), you could benefit from a business plan. (Entrepreneurs may want to consider just devising a simple business model, a type of flowchart that visually represents your operations. This post from The Christian Science Monitor has more information.)
Writers love business plans. They’re lucrative for us. A thorough business plan might take from one to three months to complete fully, allowing for company interviews and collection of financial data. According to professional pay rates published in2013 Writer’s Market, a business plan can net a writer up to $15,000. One plan. On average, a writer charges about $4,100 to create a plan. At the low end, writers only make a few hundred dollars, but these are likely to be much less complicated to draw up as these smaller companies have fewer operations to describe.
Some automated software is trying to take this job away from writers, however. Enloop is an online service that lets users generate a business plan by inputting some financial data and product information. As this post from Mashable.com’s Launchpad series states, a user can obtain one business plan and a three-year financial forecast for free.
This service is geared for small and medium-sized businesses, certainly not the kind of conglomerate shelling out thousands for this work. But while a computer program can create the kind of dense legal language that underwriters are used to reading, can it adequately communicate the vision of a business owner and his overall message? Business communication can still be infectious in its enthusiasm, when done properly. I’d argue that this would require a more human touch.
If you’re a writer, have you ever written a business plan? If you’re a business owner, what do you think about having a plan? Has it helped you accomplish business goals in the past?