FORTUNE Small Business:

Do I need a business-plan writer?

A software entrepreneur needs a business plan, but wonders if a professional consultant is trustworthy.

By Anne Fisher, FSB Magazine

(FSB Magazine) -- Dear FSB: I am a software entrepreneur who is starting a new venture based on preventing identity theft. I want to create a business plan to show to potential investors and lenders. Should I hire a consultant to write it for me? And how do I find a reputable one who won't steal my idea?--Vilay Luanglath Huntersville, N.C.

Dear Vilay: A surprising number of experienced entrepreneurs have made the mistake of running their businesses without a written plan - and failed to achieve their long-term goals as a result, says Jan King (jankbking.com), author of "Business Plans to Game Plans: A Practical System for Turning Strategy Into Action" and founder of eWomenPublishingNetwork in El Segundo, Calif. Creating a plan now is a smart way to keep focused on your mission.

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If you want to scare up millions of dollars in startup capital, hire a professional, perhaps from an established national firm such as GrowThink (growthink.com), she says. Otherwise write the plan yourself.

"The process helps you clarify your thinking," King says. You can get free advice from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE.org) or the Small Business Administration (sba.org).

Some entrepreneurs rely on non-disclosure agreements to protect their ideas, but using one won't help you if you can't afford to sue violators, King says. Your best protection is to show the plan only to those you know and trust.

Once you enter the marketplace, copy-cats may still try to steal your idea, but if you put off launching your business, someone else may get to it first anyway.

Would you trust a professional with your business idea? Did you write your own successful business plan? Post your thoughts on the Ask FSB blog.  Top of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.