Common problems and bottlenecks
Recommendations and guidelines (*)
- In some cases, there is a real danger that business plans are treated
simply as bureaucratic forms to fill in so that the figures add up and
justify a grant.
- Personal problems and conflicts are underestimated.
- Business plans can be used as participatory educational tools on a one-to-
one or group basis.
- It is not uncommon to find sales figures have been "made up" by simply
calculating sales as arbitrary market shares, determined on the basis of
sales figures needed to achieve financial stability.
- If one is embarking on a fairly new area that could have important
multiplier effects on the local economy, it is advisable to carry out
production audits and market studies.
- Whereas the internal logic of a business plan can be dealt with by a
generalist, the market and technical data often need to be checked by a
- There is little direct experience of the production process; figures for
revenues and expenses (inputs and outputs) are therefore unreliable.
- It is often essential for project promoters to carry out small-scale test
runs before embarking on major investments.
- Business plans are too technical and complicated for the type of project.
They put local actors off.
- It is always possible to use simplified business plans for small projects
(bed and breakfasts, self-employed tradesmen, etc.).
- The format of the business plan should be negotiated with other agencies
and banks so that the final output can be used by project promoters for a
whole range of applications.
- The business plan should also be designed so that it helps the project
promoter and support agency in ongoing management control and aftercare
(regular checks of forecasts against outcomes).
- Advisors substitute project promoters and write the plan for them.
- In their desire to achieve results, advisors lose their objectivity and are
- Project promoters should always have the responsibility of collecting the
basic information and writing the business plan. The adviser usually acts
as a sounding board: he picks up on internal problems and contradictions
and points the project promoter to sources of information (the "mirror"
- There is no systematic system for providing aftercare or follow-up to
- Monitoring and aftercare should be built into the advice system and costed
- It is worth coming to a clear (sometimes written) agreement with project
promoters about responsibilities, time-scales, outputs and any payments.
- A calendar of regular meetings and work to be done in between should be
- The average time spent advising each project obviously depends on the
knowledge and ability of the promoters and on the complexity of the project
- Support staff should agree clear tasks, targets and timetables with project
promoters. The business plan should be used together with other specific
tools (e.g. records of output, sales, stocks, sales contacts, etc.) to
monitor the degree to which objectives have been achieved.
- During the aftercare period, there should be at least one yearly contact in
order to monitor and evaluate progress. Collective projects may take many
months of full-time resources over several years.
- Projects promoted by disadvantaged or very inexperienced groups may require
extremely intensive systematic, hands-on aftercare (e.g. quarterly,
monthly, weekly or even daily at certain crucial times).
- The frequency and duration of aftercare meetings is usually less important
than the serious preparation that has to go on in between.
- At the other extreme, the support may drag on for a very long time without