1. Are they knowledgeable in your industry?
Speaking of industry jargon! Just because a consultant throws around a few terms doesn’t mean they have real knowledge.
Most successful business plan experts will be able to provide you with:
- proof of experience researching and writing for your market
- examples of previous work in your industry
- success rates
Research each firm’s reputation in your field. Remember, if they don’t have any industry experience, they may only be interested in taking your money.
2. Have they listened to your questions and answered them clearly?
Pay close attention during your interview. Does a potential consultant seem more interested in selling you services than listening to your idea? If so, that’s a major red flag!
They should listen to your questions, concerns, and needs. If they don’t, it’s unlikely that they’ll offer you more than a generic, cookie-cutter plan down the road. Your business is unique. It deserves a custom business plan!
Furthermore, the business plan expert should give answers that are clear to you. If they throw a bunch of meaningless statistics or industry jargon at you, ask them to clarify. If they can’t, it will be difficult to work together on a business plan that you can actually use.
3. Have they explained their development process to you and asked for your input?
Finally, make sure the firm you hire lays out their plan development process for you. They should begin with a thorough interview. If they don’t ask questions about your idea, research and basic business strategy, beware. A truly great business plan expert will want to work directly with you to create your business plan. After all, it’s no good to you if you don’t understand it!
The process should also include opportunities to revise your plan. A good business plan is a living document – it changes as your business grows and your market fluctuates. Look for a company that provides a 5-year outlook for their plans.