Business Plan Software and Business Plan Consultants

[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:

  1. 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.
  2. The client owns the business plan. He or she never has to turn to the expert to answer questions about the plan.
  3. 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?

  1. The client is too stupid to manage his or her own plan?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.

(Image: Velychko/Shutterstock)

7 thoughts on “Business Plan Software and Business Plan Consultants

  1. I agree Tim – In my opinion, any expert worth their fee should welcome software. Experts should naturally want their work implemented, not sitting in a pretty report. Business plans need to be frequently updated and become part of the regular business schedule – not just once a year. Consultants/experts should encourage deeper involvement with the process on a regular basis – in the end it is better for their business – not a replacement. It will make the process much easier and more rewarding for all.

  2. I love the concept of the expert coaching the client and requiring the client to take ownership. It’s far too common for the expert to come in on high and implement a bunch of solutions. This only applies a temporary Band-Aid to the situation.

    While I love Business Plan Pro and have used it for clients on some side assignments (I recently joined a professional services firm that does not use BPP), the one improvement I would see is greater collaboration opportunities. What opportunities are there for BPP to become more web-based and allow coaches and clients to collaborate on the same document instead of saving different versions and e-mailing them? The productivity and sharing improvements would be a major step-function improvement.

    1. Dallon, thanks for that comment. Re your Business Plan Pro question, we agree with you on the need, and we’ve been working on it for a while. There’s unfortunately a lot of very bad software out there, and web apps, so we’ve been taking the time to get it right. That means that we don’t announce timing on it because as a software company we don’t want to commit the classic error of vaporware, announcing things before they’re real, or, in our case, right.

  3. I echo the previous comments. I have used BPP for my own purposes for a little while now and have just started using it with clients who already have BPP. From a consultants perspective it is most certainly more efficient and improves the level of service that we can deliver whilst at the same time opening up more revenue generating opportunities. The out put and presentation of a BPP developed and generated plan is streets ahead of anything I have seen. Everyone wins.

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