If you are a follower of this blog, you are likely already aware of the "Matter of Ho" business plan requirements as well as several other requirements that have been issued by USCIS via policy memoranda, RFEs (Requests for Further Evidence) and other unofficial statements. The question comes in, however, as to what level of detail is sufficient for a qualifying business plan.
Some attorneys and advisors are of the mind that a shorter business plan is better as longer plans by definition (in their opinion) are inherently committing the entrepreneurs behind the business to doing more, or at least that's the concern.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that longer plans with more detail give USCIS very little wiggle room when it comes to questioning details and issuing RFEs. We count ourselves in the second group and we believe that our record with RFEs proves the point. When we develop our business plans, we are of the belief that more detail is better, while at the same time we are careful to minimize forward-looking statements which would bind any entrepreneur to doing more than they would be committed to doing if they were to submit a shorter plan.
We believe that this approach works, not only because we rarely see RFEs for our business plan work, but also because we believe that preventative efforts to minimize RFEs go a long way for our clients in terms of helping them to avoid extra time and/or expense in getting their EB-5 projects approved if an RFE should be issued by USCIS. Indeed, when we are asked to fix business plans written by others because of RFEs, we commonly see plans that provided too few details about important matters, leaving room for questions to form in the mind of an adjudicator.
Thinking things through in detail is a way of forcing oneself to answer questions that others may have as well. Similarly, a good business plan developer will provide that detail without over-committing the business to specific actions where it is not necessary to do so; rather, they will use the detail to make the business concept more convincing and to demonstrate that the entrepreneurs behind the business are experienced and serious about what they are doing.
The other reason that we err on the side of more detail, is that we are providing investors, who also see the plan, with enough backup information to give them comfort about the project and a level of security relating to their investment, making it an easier 'sell' for the entrepreneur.
True, longer plans do typically cost more, however, the incremental amount of investment for addressing this step thoroughly is minimal in the context of other professional costs and the cost of the whole process and the value of the benefits it can provide to the entrepreneurs and ultimately to the investors represents a considerable ROI in the long run.
The trick, from our perspective, is to assume that many readers are not likely to read every single detail of the business plan, so we structure the plan in such a way as to make it easy for the reader to find what they are looking for, and also to easily find any supporting detail, should they wish to dig deeper.
We suggest speaking to several service providers before making any decisions on your EB-5 team, however, given that a business plan is one of the least expensive (and key) parts of the process, we encourage anyone considering going down the EB-5 road to consider not just the price but the overall value the strongest-possible plan can deliver, both in terms of reducing the likelihood of an RFE and in terms of satisfying investor needs.
Phil Cohen is the founder and President of Strategic Element, a company that focuses on developing regional centers, EB-5 business plans, economic impact reports, feasibility studies and custom 'direct' EB-5 projects for its clients (www.strategicelementconsulting.com).