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Which outside agencies you should consult

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/7/2006 | Business and Finance

It always pays to seek the help of professionals.  They help you polish your business plans and make them presentable. To do this, you can hire a business consultant. He can not only advise you on making a business plan but can also provide new insights that can add value to your plan.

You will have to spend considerable time briefing a consultant about the nature of your business. This is essential because the consultant needs to have all relevant information to produce a plan that suits your business. Once the plan is ready you need to spend some time with the consultant to ensure that all relevant points have been covered.

The best way to hire a suitable consultant is to ask for referrals from your friends, colleagues, accountants, lawyers, bankers, etc. This may be the only way, since very few consultants advertise. Ideally, you should look for a consultant who is an expert in your line of business and has a track record of helping businesses like yours.

You should ask for references and check with past clients about the performance of the consultant. Check if the fee was as per the estimate, if the work was done on time and if the work served the purpose for which it was intended.

A detailed legal contract can be used to describe what the consultant is expected to do and when the fee is to be paid. A contract helps to define the role of each party clearly.

You can also get the help of organizations like the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). They provide information and guidance to small businesses and individuals, usually for free. The SBDC counselors can help you with cash flow projections, market research, etc.

The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) has been providing assistance to entrepreneurs since 1964. SCORE is a non profit group in which assistance is provided mostly by retired business professionals, who volunteer to help small businesses for no charge.

SCORE volunteers provide all types of business advice, which includes advice on making a business plan. SCORE has chapters all over the United States. You can contact the national office and obtain a referral to a counselor in your local chapter.    

There are many chambers of commerce in the United States that are committed to helping small businesses through training, networking, lobbying, etc. They actually help small businesses by providing practical solutions to their problems. They also help small businesses to make business plans.

The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is the national organization for business incubators. Business incubators are organizations specially set up to help start-ups to survive and to grow. They provide management assistance, help to get financing and provide technical support. They may also provide shared business services and leased office facilities.