At The Business Plan Company we have spoken to thousands of aspiring and current (and aspiring) business owners wanting help and advice in their small business management and business plan writing. Besides the question of ‘how much will it cost’, the next most common question we are asked is ‘how long does it take?’

The first thing to consider in business planning timelines is whether there is a deadline. By ‘deadline’, I mean a ‘hard’ deadline, where someone waiting for the plan (such as a bank or landlord), where you could lose an opportunity, have an audit, or a visa will run out on a specific date. In this case, the plan must be completed beforehand, with no flexibility.

Deadlines, however, are often self-imposed by clients, as they feel the need to ‘get the business plan done.’ To get the most from business planning, however, a more relaxed timelime pays much higher rewards. Business plans, when done properly, are not a rush job or a box to tick. After all, you could get some artificial-intelligence generated content and just paste that into a template; but this will give you no value for your future business strategy.

Business planning is a process that takes time to think, time to research and consider questions you haven’t thought about. It is not a process of just regurgitating content that you already know onto paper, but of pushing you into new knowledge, to change the way you think and understand your business. The process needs to interrogate your understanding of your business, what’s happening and what your business future can look like. Even when working with a professional business planner, it takes participation by the business owner to reap all the benefits.

On top of the writing and research, once the plan is written, you also need to review it to make sure it’s an accurate representation of your business. The financial projections, particularly, are a very useful exercise that allow the business owner to do a deep dive into costs and forecasts; that shouldn’t be rushed.

Good business planning should take one to three weeks, with about two weeks the average.

It’s not uncommon for companies that offer business plan writing services to promise 24-hour or 48-hour turnaround. I do wonder what the depth and quality of a business plan created in that time frame can possible be. Will the planner really have time to ask you deep and probing questions, to research your market, think about your business and interrogate the information received? As a business owner, would you have time to answer those questions properly, to read the document to make sure it is accurate, to think about the future of your business and provide valuable additional information?

Your business plan represents your business so it needs to be accurate, well researched, considered and properly reviewed. Sometimes business plans are a crucial element of applications for finance, licences, loans or investors: would you feel confident if it’s slapped together? Before you even start writing, make sure you have time to do your business plan properly.