Creating a business plan: 10 ways advisors can help
When writing a business plan, you’re not alone. Here's how attorneys, accountants, and other professionals can help.
No one knows everything. We all need the wisdom of other people to help transform our dreams into reality — and to help craft our business plans. Even if you have a deep well of knowledge, you may be too close to your business vision to make objective decisions.
Here are 10 ways various professionals — from accountants to designers — can help you draft your business plan.
1. Structure your entity. It may be best for your business to sit inside an invisible but sturdy box called a business entity, like a corporation or a limited liability company. This allows a business owner to protect their personal assets in case of a lawsuit. To figure out whether you should set up a new entity, work with an accountant and lawyer.
2. Pick your tax treatment. While your business will have to pay income taxes on profits, there are different ways to calculate those income taxes. Your entity choice and other factors determine your business' tax treatment. To help you make the right choices, consult an accountant and a lawyer.
3. Figure out production. If you want to create a product, you should consult with the relevant experts. For example, engineers can help you plan the mechanics of your product, industrial designers can work on its design, and manufacturers can advise you on the prototype and budget for manufacturing your product.
4. Raise money. If you plan to sell stock or an interest in your new company to others, you will need to figure out how much of your company you will sell and at what price. A lawyer can help you figure out appropriate terms of the deal, help you identify and describe, in writing, the risks associated with investing in your business and make sure any offer of stock complies with regulatory requirements. You may also seek the help of a business appraiser to help determine the valuation.
5. Borrow money. If you plan to borrow from a bank, you will need to work with a banker. You may also need a lawyer to help review the loan documents, depending on the complexity of the transaction.
6. Set up and understand your financials. Financial statements and projections are a critical part of your business plan. If you are new to financial statements, you will need help. Engage an accountant to help you prepare your projections for your business plan and teach you about the important components of financial statements.
7. Price and plan for insurance. Insurance is not just a nice thing to have — it's often required. For instance, most states require businesses to have workers' compensation insurance. Your larger customers may require that you maintain liability insurance to protect them against potential mistakes or accidents for which you are liable. You should also consider insurance to protect yourself from errors that you or others working on your behalf might make. It's particularly important to work with an experienced insurance professional to find the right coverage your business needs.
8. Create your business' branding. Your business plan should contain your company's initial visual presentation, including your logo, colors, fonts, and other branding elements because they communicate your company's personality and mission. A graphic designer can help you design these assets, and an attorney can help protect your intellectual property.
9. Nail down your intellectual property protections. An integral part of a business is its intellectual property (IP) like trademarks, patents, etc., that drives value and differentiates you in the marketplace. To protect your IP from misuse, work with an IP lawyer to identify the steps you can take to lock down your ownership and protect your rights.
10. Get a devil's advocate for your business model. Every plan needs a review. You can engage any of the professionals discussed above to review your business plan and provide feedback. Some comments may be painful; others may be inspiring. Just remember that your business will depend on outside people to buy what you're selling, so it's smart to subject your business plan to the criticism, commendation, and clarification of outsiders.