How Business Plan Consultants Add/Create Value
In a sentence, great business plan consultants help entrepreneurs and management teams plug strategic gaps and blind spots in their business models, strategic thinking and monetization plans, not only at the pre-launch stage but also during the growth phases of their businesses.
The process by which business plan consultants do this takes many forms, but typically includes analyzing and strengthening one or more of the following areas of every business:
- Holistic View of the Business, Plan + Mode: Oftentimes entrepreneurs and managers find themselves too deep in the thick of things or too caught up in the allure of specific ideas to maintain the necessary, unemotional perspective required to drive success. Business plan consultants, at a minimum, provide a dispassionate but expert-level view on the whole business and its elements, especially against sector-context and idiosyncratic market forces.
- Market Sizing + Assessment: Most business plan consultants are skilled at conducting market sizing analyses—an exercise that is indispensable to an entrepreneur and manager in assessing, confirming or validating their enterprise’s/product’s total addressable market(TAM). By way of illustration, the assumption that you will command a market share of 5% of a $50 million industry vs. say, a $500 million industry or TAM will imply very different outcomes for fundraising, resource allocation, choice and direction of product innovation, team structure and even whether one’s choice of the “problem-to-be-solved” is the right one in the first place. An analytical and correctly executed TAM analysis is one of the bedrock elements of every successful business. Get this one right.
Go-To-Market Strategy: A go-to-market strategy is a pre-designed action plan for “the who, the how and the where” of a company’s plans to reach its desired customer, deliver its value proposition and achieve/sustain competitive advantage. A good business plan consultant, given his/her personal repository of information and referenceable success/failure case-studies, can come to the table able to inform, sanity check, and stress test ideas ahead of market entry. Also, the consultant can subsequently assist with any pivot related strategizing and documentation as may be required.
Pricing Strategies + Monetization Plans: Freemium vs. free-trial; subscription vs. ad-based revenue; cost-plus vs. bundle pricing — strong business plan consultants are able to qualitatively and quantitatively adapt, sensitize and represent most known pricing/monetization models to the benefit of their client, as well as speak to their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Distribution or Customer Acquisition Strategy: Further, good business plan consultants are also capable of commenting on or co-designing their clients’ sales, distribution, and customer acquisition strategies, and also modeling out the strategy’s potential path to scale. This skill-range includes customer acquisition cost (CAC) analyses, various forecasting models, customer lifetime value (LTV) calculations, and other relevant benchmarking exercises, useful to understanding the financeability and sustainability of the clients’ plan.
Product: Although perfecting the product and achieving product-market-fit are two of the most important elements to all successful ventures, they are, unfortunately, among the few that a business plan consultant will be least qualified to opine on. He/she may have valuable input into the process through which an entrepreneur or manager might iterate or test to get to the right answer, but the design, features, mechanics, applications, and use-cases of the product will fall squarely on the shoulders of the entrepreneur and product team.
Fundraising Strategy: Finally, great business plan consultants will often have a strong pulse on the market—what it has an appetite to fund and what is trending hot vs. not. This information, combined with the experience to distill, interpret and frame a narrative that will speak to the investor, is another indispensable skill that a great business plan consultant will bring to the table. A skill that may be the entire difference between a successful fundraiser and a failed one.
Outputs of Business Plan Consultants
As previously alluded to, the value delivered by business plan consultants isn’t restricted solely to the advice or experiences they bring to their mandates. The majority of their job actually involves formally delivering on one or more of the following outputs, often critical during both the fundraising and execution stages of companies:
- Investor Pitch Decks: These are the 10-20 page pitch decks that have become the fundraising standard in today’s market. They usually come in concise, text-light but illustration-heavy powerpoint decks, that deliver only the most critical points related to the startup’s model, value proposition, and traction/path to scale.
- 20-30 Page Business Plans: Though less common these days given the sheer volume of startups pitching investors who are short on time, some businesses still prefer to go through the full exercise of documenting their entire business and execution plans. I personally find the discipline of this practice valuable as it cements and makes tangible, in a referenceable and shareable format, the full scope of a startup’s thought process.
- Board Presentations: For businesses that are post fundraising, business plan consultants are experts at stitching together robust board presentations for a range of situations. These situations span budgets, strategy reviews, new product or vertical launches, and/or acquisitions and divestitures. These presentations, as do the other output-types, come complete with the requisite financial analyses, market sizing outputs and the other information highlights necessary to drive home the initiative, or as requested by the client.
- Market Research Reports/TAM Outputs: As also previously mentioned and spoken to, TAM analyses and market research reports are also the specialties of most business plan consultants.
- Financial Models: Especially for Series-B and above companies, as well as for companies in the ideation/pre-launch stages of new products or verticals, detailed product, and operating models are a must. The ability to envision both single and multi-product companies, or new products acquiring market share over time, then converted into sensitized, multi-year forecasting models is a rare, value-added skill that only the best and most experienced business plan consultants will have. Shop wisely.