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Business Plan, Welcome
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There are many companies and C D Programs that can help you write a business plan.
I am a SCORE Counselor. SCORE is FREE and can help you in person or online develop a
Business Plan FREE. SCORE also has an Online Seminar with 26 FREE Courses.
Good luck, LUCKIEST
You might want to check out http://www.gobignetwork.com/. You can post for free on their site that you need help with a business plan and can receive inquiries about providing you a quote etc. Also http://www.resourcenation.com has information on business plans and services to help with that.
My suggestion is to initially take advantage of all the free resources you can -- and there are a lot of free resources available, including SCORE, as Luckiest mentioned. Once you have the core content drafted, you have to consider how the plan will be used.
If the plan will only be used to guide your implementation, you may be good to go if your counselor or mentor had experience in the business you are starting. If not, then it would be a good idea to seek out a professional review to confirm that your competitive assessment and financial projections are accurate and thorough. Such a review is normally low-cost or free.
If your plan will be used to accomplish something more (such as attracting investors), then I would definitely recommend seeking professional assistance once it is drafted. Someone who has personally accomplished and is currently helping others accomplish the same objectives that you have (ideally in the same industry) will be able to quickly and cost-effectively "set your words to music" so to speak. There will be a fee involved, but the right person or firm will create a final plan and package that gives you a much better chance of getting what you want.
Hope that helps. Best wishes.
Suzetra, you seem to have some great suggestions already and I hope mine will add value for you.
There are 2 major purposes for a business plan depending on where you are in the business life-cycle. Start-ups have slightly different needs than an existing business and both types of plans have the same two purposes.
1. Operational. This is the nuts & bolts of how the business will run. I call it the "How I plan to be successful running my business after the money starts rolling in" part of the plan. Don't know what your ideas are so I can't help much without more information.
2. Marketing. This piece can be used to illustrate how the funding will be obtained or where the business growth (and funding) will come from. For a business looking for financing, this sometimes becomes more important. I will caution you that both are critical. Many companies have failed because they tried to use a marketing plan to run the business! Doesn't always work.
There are many free resources which have been identified by other folks so I'll save any redundancy. There really aren't any 'new' substantive approaches to writing a business plan and many packaged resources have different formats rather than qualitative approaches. I'm sure that there are exceptions.
The thing that will make your business plan different is the quality of work you put into it. The best business plans that I've reviewed have been researched by the owner/business executive and put in their own words. There are, of course, some basic elements that all plans should address and I'm not suggesting that you can omit them. Knowing the language of business (both operational & marketing) and the expectations of a solid business plan are very important. You should be able to find some books at your local library, where you may spend most of your time conducting research.
Some start-ups seeking financing often become 'lost in the shuffle' because they are the 10th business plan written in exactly the same 'prepackaged' format using the same 'canned' wording that funding sources have seen that day. This is often unfortunate because the good ideas one has become overlooked; the assumption being that the author didn't have the drive to do something other than find/replace. Not saying these products are bad, just be aware that if it "looks & feels" like 10 other 'bad' plans, you may not get the fair hearing you deserve.
To directly answer your question, I never used a 3rd party to write any of the plans for the 3 businesses I've started (growing one from $0 to $100 million in 5 years...some luck involved!) or the business plans I've written for the Fortune 500 companies I've worked at. I have reviewed dozens more, some good, some not so much. The best start with a comprehensive outline and use the authors own words.
Get a good outline & put your heart into it. If needed, have someone you trust with business experience take a look at it. I'd recommend your banker, investment advisor, or a business consultant. After all, it will be your success or failure at stake.
Hope this helps Suzetra!