One of the first things I would ask myself is your motivation for
creating the plan... is it to help you set internal strategic
direction for the company? To attract outside investors? Get a loan
from the bank? While many of elements of a plan in these different
cases will be the same, the approach may be very different.
You've no doubt found out that there are lots of folks willing to do
this, at pricepoints seemly all over the place. There's also a bunch
of software packages, plus I believe you can buy sample plans as well.
By figuring out your goals, it should help narrow the field.
If you already know exactly what you want to do and how to do it, and
you simply want to illustrate it to others outside the company,
understand that the goal of the plan is to either create further
interest (investors) or satisfy a concern (bank/lender). In other
words, the plan is a form of marketing. In many cases you can do this
yourself by finding examples. If you do need help, I'd recommend
getting help from someone who has experience evaluating plans from
your target reader's perspective... in other words, if you want to
attract venture capital investments, the best person to help you is
someone who helped screen deals as a VC, and knows what your target
wants to hear (and not hear). If this is all you need, and you
already have the necessary financial information, I wouldn't spend
more than $1,000 unless you have very lofty aspirations.
On the other hand, if it is internally focused, the substance is much
more important than presentation. Again, you can do this yourself,
but the goal should be to critically analyse the aspects of the
business. I've found that the act of writing it out forces you to
consider issues that you may not have considered before. I would also
recommend creating a financial model to flush-out "what if" scenarios
and to create projections for future results. If you hire someone,
you want them to spend time getting to know you and your business,
asking lots of questions, and really make it an interactive process.
You want someone who has done this before, is easy to work with, and
has the background and skillset to be credible, effecient, and
accurate. Price ranges vary widely depending on the length of
engagement, but I suspect you probably are spending a few thousand
dollars at a minimum. Again, be realistic on your aspirations, and do
go crazy spending tens of thousands of dollars unless you are talking
about a huge investment and/or opportunity.
A few of my clients have tried doing themselves with software
programs, and in my opinion the results have been mixed. The
financials generated by the programs have been anywhere from
misleading to downright wrong, but the formatting and content
suggestions seems to work pretty well if you are looking for more of
an external-focused plan.
Best of luck!