10 Useful Questions To Ask Your Business Plan Consultant
When starting a business, there are plenty of entrepreneurship tips and tricks to get you going. You can listen to podcasts, learn from the mistakes of others, and establish a general feel for what it means to be a business owner.
But, at the end of the day, every business has its own path, which is laid out in a business plan. This is your point of reference for every decision you’ll make in the first year. A business plan describes everything from funding initiatives to product development to revenue goals and marketing ideas.
It’s still not a guarantee of success, but it does give you a strong foundation to get started. To make your plan as effective as possible, you need a consultant.
Don’t hire just anyone, though.
Here are ten things you should ask before moving forward with a business plan consultant.
1. How Long Have You Been in Business?
One of the simplest indicators of how a business plan consultant can help you succeed is how successful they’ve been.
Look for someone who has been in the business at least 2-3 years. This shows you they know a thing or two about consulting because only about 20% of businesses make it past the first year. If a consultant has been offering advice for business plans for longer than a few years, even better.
Either way, the point is to make sure you’re not working with someone who just started out. How are they supposed to help you get your business running if they’re still working on their own?
2. What Kind of Work Did They Do Before?
Some people know they want to be a business plan consultant in the early days of their career. Others take a little more time getting there.
Still, there could be some value in the work a person did before they became a consultant. Maybe they were an accountant, an executive-level manager, or some sort of analyst. These lines of work provide valuable insight over the years, which you can now benefit from.
Not to mention, there’s a chance that a consultant has hands-on experience in the industry you want your business to enter.
3. Have You Worked on Business Plans in My Field?
Even if the personal work history of a business plan consultant doesn’t seem to offer much value, their client history might. Try to find someone who has dealt with business plans in your sector before.
This means they are familiar with the market you’re trying to enter.
They know its historical and current demands as well as the potential opportunities. They have a feel for the buyer behaviours and know some of the tools for success other businesses in this line of work have used.
4. What Have Previous Clients Said?
It’s one thing to hear about a consultant’s experience from them, and another to get some proof. Always take a look at the reviews for the services offered by each of your top choices.
Reviews give you some special insight regarding what you can really expect.
Past clients will either be over the moon with the help of a consultant, or something less than satisfied. Make sure you’re not the latter by doing your research.
5. Can You Provide Some References?
You may be pleased to find most of the reviews for your different options are positive. This can make it harder to choose a business plan consultant, but it’s a good problem to have.
Consider narrowing down your search by contacting previous clients directly. Ask each consultant that you’re in contact with for a few references. These will likely be clients they had exceptional, special successes with.
Such achievements may be possible with your business plan, too.
6. How Extensive Are Your Services?
To really make your business plan as great as it can be, it needs to be well-written from start to finish.
Some business plan consultants will provide a service to write the entire plan for you, with your guidance. Others will only offer editing and insights once you’ve written the plan yourself.
Choosing which option is best is a personal decision. But, be sure the consultant you want to work with offers the services you’re looking for.
7. Can You Guarantee Funding?
Another question to bring up is whether or not a consultant’s services can guarantee you’ll get funding for your new business. This is one of the main purposes of the business plan, after all.
But, phrasing your question in such a way is kind of a trick question.
No consultant should guarantee what they can’t follow through on themselves. If a person guarantees you’ll get funding with the help of their services, be cautious working with them – or choose another consultant altogether.
8. How Many People Will Work on Your Business Plan?
Just when you think you’ve found the perfect business plan consultant for the job, check if any other people will be involved.
Some consultant services work in teams. Others have representatives work with potential clients, then begin to handle the ins and outs of your business plan once you’ve committed to working with them.
This is why it’s best to double-check who’s going to have their hands on your plan.
9. How Much Should You Plan to Pay?
Pricing for services can be one of the most uncomfortable subjects to bring up, but it’s still one worth mentioning.
Talk about payment plans if your business funding is a little tight. If you plan to pay up front, you should still get an estimate of how much the total amount will be.
This way, you have no surprises when the finances are due. The last thing you want to do is work with a business plan consultant and under-budget their services – which could mean you come up short for other resources.
10. What Kind of Timeline Can You Expect?
Talking about payments and expectations is the perfect segue into a project timeline. You should have a pretty quick turnaround for your business plan to be completed, especially if you’ve already started the writing process or have the whole thing written.
Plans that you need a consultant to write from start to finish will take more time. But, not so much time that your startup process is put on hold!