Business plan hustle

The grave of singer Kate Smith's dog Freckles at the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery in Westchester, N.Y.

KAI RYSSDAL: We'll be the first to admit that there's a lot of bunk in business. You say something that sounds business-y often enough and it starts to stick. Sean Cole has a case in point.


SEAN COLE: For some reason, I had gotten to thinking about the pet funeral industry. So I typed "pet funeral service" into Google and one of the results read:
"Pet funeral service business plan."

Um . . . What?

"Pet funeral service business plan."

I read on.

"Whether you want to expand your pet funeral service business or you're starting a new company, you need to have a solid pet funeral service business plan for your future. A good pet funeral . . . "

Who the hell was selling a pet funeral service business plan? It's a British Web site. InterstellarSolutions.co.uk . It doesn't specialize in pet funerals. It specializes in business plans.

"Kissogram business plan."

Pre-packaged, user friendly business plans.

"Solid golf tuition business plan."

For pretty much every industry you can think of.

"Wild boar farming business plan. Whether you want to expand your wild boar farming business or you're starting a new company . . . "

There are like 1,700 different industries listed on the site. I tracked down the guy who compiled that list.

JOHN PEARCE: I'm an expert on every one of them.

His name's John Pearce, a veteran business plan writer in Bolton, England. For 25 years he'd worked with merchant banks in London and various companies in America. But then, about six years ago, he had an idea.

PEARCE: It struck me that, for most people, the writing of a business plan was such a daunting prospect that they would rather put their kids into hock or sell their car or do anything than write a business plan.

And anyway, most people couldn't afford his $2,000 to $3,000 fee for personal consultation.

PEARCE: But what they could afford to do was to spend 50 bucks on a business plan which actually provided them with a great deal of the information and then simply amend the information afterwards.

Pearce says he spent the next three years researching all 1,700 some odd industries. He compiled the list using software that tracks Internet searches — like my search on pet funerals. He says every plan has industry specific information in it, but that the basic thrust of them is the same.

PEARCE: Most people are kinda caught up with the idea that running a garage and running a liquor store are two completely different things. But 99 percent of them are the same. The 1 percent is that little special bit of knowledge that you have that turns you from being a guy who runs a garage to a guy who runs a liquor store.

Or any number of stores really.

"Sex shop . . . Fake tan specialist . . . Alpaca wool production."

I asked John Pearce how many people order the alpaca wool production business plan.

PEARCE: Probably not a lot, Sean. It's probably not my biggest seller. Real estate for example is . . . you could live off a real estate business plan. Cartoonist, for example, which you might not sell for six months, you'll suddenly sell four in a week.

And Pearce regularly updates every business plan himself, especially the popular ones. That's the thing. I was sure this company had to be a joke, or a scam, when I first saw it on the Web. But Pearce is serious, even passionate about business plans.

PEARCE: Before you re-mortgage your house for the 15th time, write a business plan. Because it's surprising how much you can save in heartache and in costs and in interest and in having your house repossessed if you write a business plan instead.

Talkin' from the heart there now, Sean! I got a bit emotional there!

Ah! Must be due to my "Radio reporter who makes interviewee's emotional" business plan.

I'm Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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