- Hiring an accountant to help write your business plan ensures you start off on the right foot.
- It gives you a better chance to raise funds or get a small business loan approved.
- They give you a good dose of reality check before you build a new business based on the wrong financial assumptions.
Whether you are an established small business owner or a budding entrepreneur, a business plan is a wonderful opportunity – and an important step – for you to document everything you know and understand about your potential market, including your big picture visions and goals for the business, and your execution strategies.
Writing a business plan is a potentially complicated process, and whether you are trying to raise funding, preparing to launch, or planning for growth, the plan itself is a vital piece of the puzzle.
While drawing from your existing knowledge base, documenting your vision, and trusting your instincts are all equally significant, securing the right kind of advice early in the process will ensure the plan includes realistic outcomes, is structured and written in a professional manner, and has a better chance at achieving a positive result for you.
So much more than a bookkeeper
Can an accountant help write your business plan?
Yes, definitely. A good accountant can provide so much more value to your business than simply solid bookkeeping skills, a streamlined payroll, and neatly filed taxes.
Imagine a strategic business partner, one who understands and shares your vision and is equipped to help you achieve your financial, management, and business goals. Build a relationship with the right accountant and he or she will be able to grow your financial forecasts into real, long-term value for your business.
A fresh pair of eyes and reality check
As an independent advisor, an accountant will be objective enough to look at your business for what it is, rather than the potentially rose-tinted view that you apply to your business.
He or she will be able to help you identify strengths and weaknesses found within your prospective or existing operational or financial structures, to help you prepare a business plan that addresses both opportunities and potential problems in detail.
Hiring an accountant means you have a professional on your side, someone with the knowledge and experience to guide you through each stage of the planning process. He or she can help you develop a statement of purpose, do a SWOT analysis (to determine what your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are), define your goals, and help you write and revise the plan in a way that it will be most appealing to your plan’s audience. Potential investors or business partners, for example, will expect to see a great deal more financial detail in your plan than your employees or vendors.
Navigating a potentially complex web
Business plan development requires scrutiny of various aspects of your operations, finances and organisation. Accountants are uniquely qualified to help you and your business through the multiple stages of this process.
A good accountant will have a broad background in not only finance, but also business matters, and will be able to offer you valuable advice and assistance in ensuring that your plan is as exceptional as it can be.
The Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science lays out the steps you’ll need to take in order that your business plan is in the best shape, and they offer some good advice in obtaining professional help to draft a business plan on their ‘How to write a Business Plan’ page on their official website.
“Get some help,” they declare. “If you aren't confident in completing the plan yourself, you can enlist the help of a professional (i.e. Business Enterprise Centre, business adviser, or accountant) to look through your plan and provide you with advice.”
Pitching for finance – who’s got your back?
If you are looking to launch a business which requires funding of any kind, your business plan is the most important document you will ever produce and will be one of the factors which determine whether or not you will end up raising the funds you need to get off the ground.
Business plans for startups should be a ‘realistic’ view of the business’s immediate and long-term objectives and expectations. At the same time, they need to provide an operating framework within which you have outlined a clear and systematic path to success.
Obtaining bank financing or other investment capital to start your business is an area brimming with obstacles. First impressions last, and when it concerns potential investors, there are other options they can fund. Therefore, making a positive impact with a clearly set out business plan is critical.
David Jackson, a committee member of Sydney Angels Inc, outlines a number of the key features of a successful pitch for investment, which include:
- Current active users
- Sales & revenue (including per customer)
- Gross margin
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Payback period
- Capital required
- Predicted future users/clients/sales
- Breakeven point
If you are pitching for finance, engaging a professional accountant will likely increase your chances of securing funding for your business, and with it, your likelihood of ongoing success once the funds come through.
While preparing a business plan won’t guarantee you’ll get the loan or investment you’re seeking, the absence of one will almost certainly guarantee you won’t.
Know your business; know your goals
A business plan is usually broken up into various sections, covering everything from:
- An overview of the company structure
- Details on products and services being offered
- Market overview
- Your proposed marketing and sales strategies
- Management plan
- Vital financial information and forecasting
As the financials are widely understood to be one of – if not the – most important element in understanding and determining the success of your business, developing them, or at the very least, having a professional review them is highly recommended.
Hiring an accountant at this stage, as early in the game as it is, will mean you benefit from the advantages which come from their financial knowledge, as well as their professional advice, right from the start. Taking care of the ‘big ticket’ items like this at the outset is guaranteed to save you time and money in the long run.
Many small business owners will launch head-first into forecasting without any foundational knowledge of the finance or accounting. Although well-meaning, they are often misguided and ill-equipped knowledge-wise, where structures will be skewed, figures out of proportion or forecasts inaccurate. They’ll then hire an accountant to guide them out of the labyrinth, clarifying data and setting them straight onto the path they should have been on to begin with!
It’s unanimously acknowledged that bad management is the primary cause of small business failure, and there’d be nothing worse than failing before you even begin.
After the business plan – what next?
Sound financial planning will enable you to monitor, and hopefully, help you towards achieving the financial forecasts outlined in your business plan.
- Cash flow
- Seeking finance
- Succession planning
- Risk management
Moreover, engaging an accountant for more than business plan forecasts means that over time, as the business grows and evolves – taking on new staff, for example, or going into partnership or debt – your accountant will have a long-term outlook and be able to assist with your business’ ongoing business and tax strategies.
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science website also offers business owners a few useful links for small business owners to investigate all the options available to them, including links to ASIC’s MoneySmart site, which can guide you through the process of selecting the right accountant for your business.
It’s generally sound advice, anyway
Even outside the realm of preparing a business plan, having an accountant is a good idea. You won’t find a small business that doesn’t benefit from working with an accountant in order to make the most of their financial analysis and advice. It’s generally a good rule of thumb that your business checks in with an accountant on an annual or bi-annual basis so that you can update your tax strategy, as well as go over your finances, expenses and receipts that they’ll need to properly prepare your taxes, even if that information is shared electronically on an ongoing basis.
It also goes without saying that you should ensure that your accountant is properly qualified and certified, including being registered in Australia with a formally recognised industry body such as:
- Charted Accountants of Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ)
- Institute of Public Accountants (IPA)
- CPA Australia (CPA)
Your business plan will be tailored to your specific audience, and there are several factors which will influence its content, length, complexity, and how much of it needs professional scrutiny.
An experienced accountant will likely have worked with many other businesses like yours and be experienced in and understand how your operational, structural, management, and financial goals and strategies should tie in with each other within your business plan.
Your business is your potential livelihood, so make sure you are collaborating with someone who knows what they’re doing and is qualified to do it.
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