How To Hire Someone to Write Your Business Plan

Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software, has made many videos of advice for aspiring and current business owners. Mr. Berry advises that business owners use business planning software, and his Portland, OR-based company makes Business Plan Pro and many other software packages for nearly every business sector, including even government and non-profit organizations. Business Plan Pro is $159.95 for a desktop computer version, and Live Plan, which is online software, is $19.95 a month.

Here are a few impressions about this brief video starring Mr. Berry. Like the title and intro music. Pine trees in window: awesome!

Mr. Berry is 100% correct when he says “You can’t just hire someone to write your business plan.” You have to understand all aspects of your business in order to be successful. One way to look at the process is, there’s no such thing as “Business in a Box.” Successful entrepreneurs invest thousands of hours in getting their businesses off the ground.

Mr. Berry recommends using the resources of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE, the society of retired business executives that used to be an all-volunteer, no-cost organization in the U.S. years ago. These organizations offer all of the basic, necessary information, especially government regulations and “best practices” that are needed to obtain SBA loans or similar government-backed financing. If you can locate a SCORE volunteer or program that is in your exact business or industry, I too, highly recommend it. In Canada, each province has similar business development resources, and major urban areas like the GTA also have a number of business incubators, as well as industry-specific incubators and grant/loan programs. ABC (Aboriginal Business Canada) also offers business loans and support for qualified First Nations entrepreneurs.

It turns out that a friend of mine who is a talented decorative painter, writer and book publisher, thinks along similar lines to me when it comes to these matters. He tried out a new software system for writers called Scrivener. I haven’t yet tried this software, because I know that a competitive product for film scripts, Final Draft Pro, doesn’t write top-grossing film scripts on its own. It’s just another form of software to learn, while the skills it takes to write a great film script have nothing to do with learning, updating, and dealing with the cumbersome Final Draft software system. The best thing Final Draft does is produce an ideally formatted script for any type of script use, from films to plays and comic books/graphic novels, and it will even submit it for Writers Guild registration after it’s finished.

If the SBA and SCORE were truly able to get businesses off the ground with high success rates and a high level of efficiency, we would have a lot more successful businesses coming out of their system. Instead, the SBA has a disturbingly high failure rate (despite news articles you may read to the contrary). What is of more importance to the new business owner, however, is that the SBA disburses only .05% of the total commercial lending in the US. If they knew what they were doing, they’d have a much larger, better-performing portfolio. It isn’t the businesses that receive SBA loans and later encounter problems which are of concern to you, the small business owner and/or aspiring entrepreneur, it’s the businesses that never get through the process or get the loan in the first place.

Everyone’s time is valuable. As an entrepreneur, your time is best-spent building your business. You have to invest the right amount of time in discovering who your customers are and meeting their needs. You have to understand your business finances, and must be able to accurately identify your own strengths and weaknesses.

You do not need to spend time trying to fit your ideas and your business into a “one size fits all” system like the SBA/SCORE process, or like the type of systems set up by Palo Alto Software.

Palo Alto Software was founded in 1988 by President Tim Berry. Originally California-based (“Palo Alto”), the business is now located in Eugene, Oregon. According to Crunchbase, Palo Alto Software has 50 employees; however Crunchbase’s profile is three years out of date. The company is privately-held, with an estimated $8 million in annual revenue in 2010. That works out to 40 to 50,000 copies of the software packages and/or the online applications sold. It’s simply impossible that the software can be so up to date that it will fit every new business, or produce a truly solid business plan. The business climate and circumstances are changing so rapidly that it’s almost impossible that software could be updated frequently enough to make it truly responsive or appropriate for every business.

For example, who is giving money to whom, and for what? According to a complete report prepared by the Small Business Administration on all US commercial lending, the top five lenders in 2010 were¬†American Express Company (first in 2009), Capital One Financial Corporation (third in 2009), Ally Financial Inc.(fifth in 2009), GE Money Bank (41st in 2009), and JPMorgan Chase and Company (fourth in 2009). You can guess as well as I can that these amounts aren’t actual small business loans. They represent commercial lines of credit or credit cards, not actual loans.

You can see the change in the numbers of loans (and amounts) from this report from the SBA. Loan numbers and quantities have not improved since mid-2010, when this report ends.

Loans under $100,000 are called “micro loans” in the SBA terminology.

But how many businesses are starting up?

About 550,000 new businesses start every month in the U.S. The growing trend is for these businesses to be sole proprietorships/self-employed individuals. According to the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship, which keeps very detailed statistics on business start-ups and activities, Latino/a business owners have grown tremendously over the past 15 years, new immigrant entrepreneurs have been on the rise, and encore business owners and entrepreneurs have also grown as a group.

These are all new and emerging business owners and leaders who are different from the leaders of the past. Men continue to start new businesses at a higher rate than women, according to the Kauffman Foundation; ironically, women-owned small businesses are responsible for most of the job growth in the past five years, a fact reported by nearly all business publications.

This is the type of information I need to gather and understand, in order to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. That’s because you, the entrepreneur, are my customer.

Once again, the answer is: you, the entrepreneur, need to understand your customers, know your competition, and have mastery over all the key aspects of starting and growing your business.

You don’t need to learn how to use cumbersome software or sit through endless cookie-cutter or “one size fits all” seminars. You may well get excellent information from reading business publications or participating in networking events.

Mr. Berry is right. You don’t need to hire someone to write your business plan who is not a business person. That person may be forced to “create a plan” for you, or even worse, use a cookie-cutter or “sample” plan that has nothing to do with your real business or how it will really work. You need a business coach who will help you to maximize your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.

Contact us to see how our coaching and support can help you.

 

 

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