Know Your Plan

I have been in business for almost three years. To expand, I know I need to have a business plan to go after financing, but I am not much of a writer. Should I invest in hiring a consultant to write it for me? –Anonymous, Via the Internet

As a business owner it is best for you to write your own business plan. You should at least do the initial research and writing. After writing a draft, hire a consultant to edit the document and provide feedback. Writing even the first draft yourself will help you hone in on key areas such as your competitors’ share of the market and your target customer base. Two of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make are failing to know who their direct and indirect competitors are, and failing to understand their core market inside out. And make sure you’re clear about who will read your document. A business plan written to secure a $50,000 bank loan is drafted differently from one written to obtain $1 million in private funding.

Reach out to SCORE (www.score. org), an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs such as yourself. Read Business Plans Kit For Dummies by Steven D. Peterson, Barbara Findlay Schenck, Peter E. Jaret (John Wiley and Sons), and How To Write A Business Plan by Mike McKeever (Nolo Press). Also, check out a comprehensive software program on the market–PaloAlto Software’s Business Plan Pro and Marketing Plan Pro (www.paloalto.com, 800-229-7526).

Mail your small business questions to Savvy Solutions, BLACK ENTERPRISE130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011or send an e-mail to brownc@blackenterprise.com.

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