[Disclosure and bias alert: I’m conceptual author of Business Plan Pro and founder of the company that publishes it. If you read this blog regularly you know that I almost never post about my company’s products; but this post is special because it’s a point that needs to be made.]
My post here Friday about coaches and consultants reminded me of a pet peeve. I think it’s a shame that any business plan writer/ coach/ consultant ever works with a client without using business plan software as a shared tool that optimizes the work and the relationship. And I don’t mean dumb templates, or fill-in-the-blanks rehash, but good software.
(For brevity, let’s just call that writer/coach/consultant the expert.)
The wrong way: client gets an idea and works on it in the middle of the night. He or she sends an email to the expert summarizing the thought. Now the expert has to incorporate that thought into a revision.
The right way: instead of writing an email, client opens up the latest version in the software, renames it to a new version, revises it, and send an email attaching the latest as a file, asking the expert to comment.
Consider how many wins come from the right way:
- The expert, whose hours are presumably expensive, isn’t billing for redundant tasks that don’t optimize the expertise. Billing is based on expertise only, so the amounts are less, the expertise is easier to buy, the expert sells what he or she is good at, and the client can afford a longer term relationship.
- The client owns the business plan. He or she never has to turn to the expert to answer questions about the plan.
- The business plan lives in the client’s space, where, whether or not the relationship with the expert continues, the client can get it, review it, revise it, and keep it alive as planning, not just a plan. Planning is management, and steering the company. A plan is just a document. Regular reviews and revisions turn a plan into the first step of planning.
Then ask yourself why any business plan expert does it the wrong way. With apologies in advance for showing a bit of contention here, here are some possibilities: What do you think?
- The client is too stupid to manage his or her own plan?
- The expert wants to control the relationship by building a dependence so the client can’t ever manage the ongoing plan without paying the expert?
- The expert wants to operate like the Wizard of Oz, with smoke and mirrors, so the client doesn’t realize what he or she is really getting?
- The expert has so little faith in his or her expertise that he or she is afraid that once the clients sees the software, the expert will become an unattractive option?
For the record, I was that expert for many years, and I practiced then what I now preach here. My first business plan engagement, which I’ve blogged about as my worst-ever business plan engagement, was the only one I did all by myself in a way that left the clients not fully realizing that it was their plan, not mine. I didn’t duplicate that mistake. Right after that, I developed spreadsheet templates that became eventually Business Plan Pro, so that my clients could share the tool, the work, and the thinking. I billed more than seven figures for business planning over a period of 11 years, without ever having a client not using the same software I was.