Pre-Written Business Plans Are Like Fake Medicines

I just saw a web ad for business plans that are already done, finished, and supposedly good to go. Believe it or not, they say you just edit some things on a pre-written plan and it’s ready for use. And they say these pre-written plans have already been tested with banks. And they already have the market research done for you. What a load of nonsense.

That makes me angry.

The very idea of selling pre-written business plans is worse than just dumb: it’s not even just useless, or neutral; its destructive. It reinforces the damaging myth of the plan as document instead of planning as process to help people run their businesses better. It makes people think they’ve gotten somewhere when in fact they’re further away.

It’s like selling fake medicine that’s supposed to help, but actually hurts.

Every business is unique. How can a pre-written boilerplate business plan possibly deal with a specific market, with a specific product/service, and specific resources, and a specific strategy? It can’t. And pretending this is business planning is pretty much preying on ignorance.

And yes, I’m biased. I’ve spent a career with actual, real business plans, and I’ve written books on how to do your own, and I’ve published software tools, and lately I’m on a soapbox a lot telling people to do less than the whole formal thing, but do it themselves, and own its contents. Make it your plan and nobody else’s. If you use a sample business plan to help you get started, read it for ideas. Then start fresh with a clean, new, empty plan. If you work with a coach or consultant, make sure they’re just helping you do it, so that it remains your plan, not theirs.

Some background here, previously posted on this blog: Sample Business Plans Suck, the Value of the Plan is the Management it Causes, and My Worst Business Plan Engagement.

(Photo credit: photofarmer via flickr)


  • gloria says:

    please help me write a good school business plan within two days thanks

    • Tim Berry says:

      Gloria, I recommend that you go to where you’ll find a brilliant online tool you can use to write your own plan, in your own words, with your own ideas, and do it within your deadline, and have the software deal with the formatting and financial projection formats so it’s your unique plan but you’ve had a tool to help you with the presentation of it.

  • Peters Beny says:

    Please help me writen a full busines plan today or tomorow. Is urgent please. Send it via email.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Peters Beny thank you for making my point here. And for others, no, at least as far as I know that’s not a joke. That’s the whole comment, exactly as received.

  • Jennifer conley says:

    All of you are just mad because it takes away business from you. People don’t have the time with careers, family, and life to write an entire business plan these days. It’s not cheating. Lenders don’t even look at the plans anyway.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Jennifer, I appreciate the honest reaction. I guess you and I have completely different ideas of what a business plan is, and what it’s for. I recommend the business plan not as some document that lenders do or don’t read, but rather as a plan, the first step in planning, which is a matter of managing your business, steering your business, and controlling your destiny. Like a trip plan or a game plan, it’s most useful when it’s regularly reviewed and revised. It doesn’t even have to be a document; make it only as big as you need to run your company better, and keep it on your computer.

      Just guessing, but I think you are thinking of a business plan as an essentially useless document done once and then thrown away, whose only business purpose is getting a check mark in a box somewhere, yes, there is a business plan. You’re not at all alone in this; sadly, I think your view of it might be the majority view. I say “sadly” because that’s such a waste of the potential of planning to help people manage better. If that were all a business plan were about, something like a master’s thesis that you forget as soon as it’s done but it gets you the objective, then I’d agree with you.

      I’d love it if you could find two minutes to watch this video on YouTube.


  • Finding an Angel or Venture Capitalist | VentureNavigator Blog says:

    […] A business plan is not something you can download or afford to outsource to business consultants or those who say they will help you find financing.  What you put in your business plan is a blue print for your business, and when you take outside investment it becomes part of your agreement with your financial partner.  If you feel you need help writing your business plan, create a rough draft then work with a writer to refine it into a clean, attractive and accurate presentation of your business. Negotiating the deal […]

  • Jim says:

    I agree with you about “off-the-shelf” canned programs. I believe these programs do more harm than good; one of the damaging aspects of these programs is that the business owner is lulled into a false sense of security about the quality of the plan. Many of these programs produce documents that are very impressive in layout and format, however the content is sub-par.
    As a business planning professional, I have to disagtree with you about the idea that most people should write their own plans. Serious would-be or existing business owners should engage the services of a reputable professional to aggregate a viable plan. I have reviewed numerous plans prepared by individuals and found the plans lacking in content, structure, vision, etc. Some clients have come to me saying “I’ve already written my plan, I just need you to ‘glance’ over it”. Ironically, the quality of the plans I “review ” is terrible!

    • Tim Berry says:

      Thanks Jim, this makes me glad my company does Liveplan and Business Plan Pro instead of those off-the shelf canned business plans. I hope nobody confuses what we do — tools to help people with the mechanics of the business plan, and financials — with canned rehash.

  • Jamie Flinchbaugh says:

    That makes me angry too. I don’t know if I’m more angry that some con-artist thinks that they can get away with selling that, or if people are so desperate for short-cuts that they buy it.

    As Eisenhower (if memory serves) said, “the plan is nothing; planning is everything.” It’s the process, not the document.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Jamie F

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