Having a new business idea is great! But, without a business plan, or using a generic cookie cutter business plan template a business is essentially rudderless, and day-to-day activities are likely to be haphazard and reactive, in stark contrast to those businesses implementing a well thought out business plan.
Unfortunately, there are a number of “business plan consultants” that promise the world when in fact they merely use a Generic Business Plan Template or Business Plan Software to generate an off-the-shelve document … which takes the said consultant a couple of hours to complete.
Now ask yourself this question: “Is this true value to you as entrepreneur”? The answer is off course “No”. So be careful when deciding on which Business Plan Consultant to contract for the completion of your business plan.
Unfortunately there are a number of individuals operating in the South African market that is out to make a quick buck with minimal effort on their part!
Look out for the following signs/claims made:
- The individual/company is not willing to provide you with testimonials from previous clients they worked with (to support their claims of excellent service). Partnering with a consultant that has recent (up-to-date) client testimonials is better than partnering with a consultant that has none or very few testimonials. And yes, you as the client have all the right in the world to contact these past clients as part of your own due diligence. Unfortunately, once again, false testimonials are at times used by individuals/companies to sell their service. Do your homework and remember; the transparency of the individual/company is key.
- The individual/company claims excessive years of experience in the market place, e.g. can a consultant/individual that claims 100+ years of experience substantiate this? Is this the combined experience of the team members or just of the individual? Ask yourself the question: “If there are 2 team members, and they claim 150 years’ experience, it means, taking into consideration that both team members completed their schooling and university studies, they are 90+ years old! It is simple mathematics.
- The individual/company consistently use discounts and “being the cheapest service provider” as their claim to fame and marketing message. Buying a Service is different from buying a Product. The age-old saying of “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys” have never been more relevant. Writing a business plan in a consultative approach and truly partnering with a client to reach a mutual goal takes time, extensive experience and know-how. And this comes at a cost.
- Review the client portfolio of the individual/company. Having experience in working with small, medium and large JSE-listed companies carries more weight than only having experience in working with micro companies.
- Review the industry experience of the individual/company. If you are starting a new business in the South African Hospitality Sector, why would you use a consultant that only has Retail/IT experience? Is doesn’t make sense and it comes down to what is the value to you as the client.
- Review the credentials, qualifications and experience of the individual/company/team members. Having an MBA doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a world-class service. On the other hand, having very little or no Business Consulting/Management Consulting experience or experience in a non-related field will only cost you money, with no value to you whatsoever. Once again, transparency is key! If the individual/company can substantiate/proof the claims made with factual transparency, you are partnering with an ethical individual/company.
- Is the individual/company willing to meet with you face-to-face (even at a nominal consulting fee)? If not, why is that? Are they situated in Utopia and it will be difficult to catch a flight to South Africa? Some clients prefer that face-to-face, personal touch and interaction. And there is nothing wrong with that!
- Is the individual/company providing a Specialist Business Plan Service or is “business planning” only one part of their service portfolio? Why would you partner with an individual/company that offers business plan writing as a service, along with services that have no relevance to entrepreneurship/business planning, for example, an individual/company saying, “We do business planning but we also sell fish and chips and can check out your plumbing”. Partnering with a Specialist is better than partnering with a Generalist. Jack of all Trades, Master of None – is that what you as the client really want?
- To make a claim of being a Leader and Specialist at a specific discipline/service/field is not merely including such a claim on your Website and marketing material. No! Research has shown that to call yourself a Specialist, you need at least 10,000 hours of experience in such a discipline/service/field. To be a Leader, you need to offer True Value, have a Tangible Value Proposition, Know Your Market Inside-Out, Lead the Market Through Consistent Quality and Excellent Service Delivery and Have a Substantial New Client Base obtained through referrals and Word-of-Mouth! So ask yourself the question: “Do I want to work with a Leader and Specialist or rather a Follower and Generalist”?.
- Any financier and investor in South Africa will tell you that Quality is more important than Quantity. I have seen business plans that make a much bigger impact as a 10-page document and, I have seen business plans that make no impact whatsoever as a 100-page document. An individual/company can promise you a 40+ page business plan but what is the real and true value of the content? Will it be 40+ pages that you can use for fire wood Friday evening during the Rugby game or will you be proud enough to present it to an investor? The number of pages in a business plan has no relevance whatsoever. So be careful of an individual/company that uses this as a “hook” to get you to sign with them.
Need further information and guidance? You are welcome to contact me on +27 79 300 8984 and I will be more than happy to help wherever I can!
Good luck with your ideas and new business venture!