What to Look for in a Business Planning Consultant – Part 2

In part 1 we looked at the qualities/attributes we should be able to identify in a good Business Blanning Consultant. In summary, I expect them to listen to me, consider my situation, offer advice that will lead me to a clearer understanding of what, exactly, I am trying to achieve and want to do, then, finally, put together MY plan, which will probably be supplemented by their own knowledge, experience and research.

In this part, I think  it may help to describe the process I follow when interacting with a client. While my approach is not definitive, I find that, through  following the complete process, both of us (my client and I) are aware of what is happening and constantly confirming that the path we are following is in accordance with the mental picture (vision) the client has chosen.

The process I follow is as summarised below:

Step 1.  I discuss the business opportunity with the client, so that both of us have approximately the same understanding of the vision. Then Itry to establish “why”. The purpose almost inevitably is “to make money” but the reason the client has chosen this option is of greater importance and value to both of us as the “making of money has been found to be insufficient to ensure long term success of a  business enterprise.

Step 2.  I then commit my understanding of the situation and needs of my client to writing, in the form of a proposal. Here I can confirm my understanding  of the situation and the needs of the client, detail the cost and how I expect payment,and identify the research that I need to complete before the plan is compiled. The client gets to appreciate my understanding of the situation and correct aspects on which we differ and also where we agree, and is also in a position to plan payments so that our relationship starts out on a firm footing.

Step 3.  Once the proposal is accepted, a meeting takes place between the client and I at which the following matters are discussed. This discussion results in both of us being “on the same page” when the plan is compiled and limits the potential for misunderstanding:

Point 1.  The Evolution of Business. A business starts out with the owner doing everything and, over time,  develops into a multi-facetted conglomerate. I feel the client needs to understand the steps which must be completed on this journey and the specialisation that takes place in the evolution.

Point 2. The Small Business Owners “Hats”. Every business owner wears seven “hats” as part of their responsibility. These are the different personalities adopted by the business owner to make sure their business succeeds. They are The Technician, the Manager, The Visionary, The Accountant, The Marketer, The Leader and,finally, The Steward.

Point 3. The Planning Philosophy. In my opinion, a business without customers is an oxymoron. Thus, the core requirement for success is the presence of satisfied customers. Any business plan must be founded on the principle that ” the Customer is King”. For success, the plan needs to address this aspect before any other requirement is considered.

Point 4.   The “Buying” Decision. Here the process of buying is considered in depth through the medium of a Flow Chart. Then the structure of the business plan is super-imposed on the flow chart. From this basis the total business entity can be examined in detail and a meaningful and effective plan results.

Once these points are addressed, the client is then presented with a questionnaire to complete, based on the philosophy described above. This questionnaire becomes the skeleton of the business plan.

I follow this process with every client as even those with extensive business experience could be limited if there is not uniformity in our combined thinking process. The corollary is that it is difficult for me to compile an effective plan without the necessary empathy between me and my client.

In the next part I will address the research process required for a successful business plan to evolve. I hope this post assists and look forward to your comments, questions and opinions.


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