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How to Find Business-Planning Experts for Advice

No one knows the ins and outs of planning and running a business better than someone who has done it before. If have questions you can’t answer, or if you run out of ideas on ways to get your company off the ground, turn to someone with tried-and-true expertise for advice.

The first place to look for expert advice is in your address book. You’ll probably have an easier time getting a “yes” from someone you know on a personal or professional basis. If that tactic doesn’t pan out, ask friends and colleagues for suggestions.

Other good places to look for help are the chamber of commerce and the business section of your local newspaper. You may end up paying for some of this advice, but when you really need help, it’s worth the investment.

When looking for an expert who can guide you, you want to choose someone with experience in a company that’s similar to the one you’re planning. After you identify such a person, decide exactly what kind of assistance you need. After all, you can’t ask someone to plan your whole business for you, but you can ask for help fine-tuning your marketing strategy or reviewing and critiquing your financial projections.

Consider contacting the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a nationwide organization that works with the SBA to provide help to business owners. SCORE has a free online newsletter and provides free e-mail counseling. The group also has local chapters around the country, with retired business people ready and willing to help. It also sponsors small business awards.

A retired schoolteacher came up with a business idea that promised to keep her busy while helping out some of the hardest-working people in town. She wanted to start an online agency to represent the dozens of women who were cleaning houses in the area. She wanted to help these women find more work than they could get on their own.

She also planned to help them organize their schedules, communicate with clients, and do the bookkeeping. She also wanted to offer them benefits such as health insurance. In return, she would take a small percentage of the money they earned. But how much of a percentage? And how much money would she need to get her business going? How should she organize her business? How should she market it?

With more questions than she knew how to answer, she quickly felt overwhelmed — until she happened to read about a local businessman who was retiring from a high-tech business he started.

On a whim, she wrote to him, describing her idea and asking whether he had time to help her put together a plan. He called her immediately; they met a few times, and within a month, she had a solid business plan in place and had designed a prototype for a website. She was also able to get a small business loan for the start-up money she needed.

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