The best business plan software


What is a business plan?

Many of us have been there: that sudden revelation in the shower or in a bar chatting with friends. The slew of initial ideas hastily scribbled on napkins or maybe just forgotten altogether. Many great companies started with these same events, but millions more never made it past. This is because the next step can be both difficult and laborious, which is to write a cohesive business plan. Going from random napkin notes to an organized and comprehensive plan to start, fund, and generate income for the foreseeable future can be a gigantic undertaking, especially for newbies and even more so for people trying to go it alone.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of help if you know where to look, especially if you really need a written business plan that just communicates a clear vision. This will help you attract the right people and the right resources to implement your idea. A business plan tells others how you will get clients and clients, who will run the business, and how start-up venture capital (VC) will be raised. Business plans help you talk about yourself, explain your strengths, and ask for money to support your idea.

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Thus, people write business plans in order to obtain funds or to document the planned direction of the business. That is, you want a bank loan, venture capital funding, or other help to get your startup started. A business plan can also be the most concrete way to get everyone’s agreement on “This is what we do, law?! ”Keeping the plan up to date as the business matures is an easy way to measure success.

In all of these cases, the business owner needs to do something that can be scary – become an expert in business document management by creating a structured document (i.e. a business plan) with lots of numbers. and convincing prose, knowing that the pitch is decisive for the vision of the company. This is a difficult work. It’s hard to articulate your product’s unique selling points, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, and justify your claims about why you need so much money. Believe me, I know. In my pre-journalistic life, I wrote two extensive business plans. One plan taught me that I didn’t have what it took to complete this project and the other plan got my start-up business accepted through a VC conference.

So when we lack expertise, we should seek help. Software with “follow the bouncing ball” instructions for business plans can play the same role as online accounting services because in each case you rely on specialists to guide you through the process. Best of all, many of the products we review in this business plan builder complement their software offerings with in-person coaching and mentoring as well as plenty of online learning resources, such as videos and tutorials. practical articles.

Business plan software options

The 10 online business plan software solutions reviewed in this roundup—Atlas Business Solutions Ultimate Business Planner 5.0, Enloop, EquityNet, NetEkspert iPlanner.NET, OnePlace, Palo Alto Software LivePlan, PlanGuru, StratPad, Tarkenton GoSmallBiz and The Business Plan Shopevery promise to help you build a neat business plan, with all the numbers and the story you need. So whether you want to start your own accounting firm, real estate business, or e-commerce business, you’ll be good to go.

All of these online business plan software solutions certainly keep their promise to help you, and none of them are a bad choice. However, a few of them provide additional services such as connecting to funding sources (EquityNet gets a nod of the head here) or comparing your plan with the plans of others in your industry (like the score of Enloop). Ultimately, however, the two Editors’ Choice winners were clear: Palo Alto Software LivePlan and Tarkenton GoSmallBiz, both of which ticked most of the boxes on a typical entrepreneur’s wishlist.

These Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications may not give you the compelling prose to convince an investor that you will make your projections, but they guide you to answer all the questions an investor is likely to have. Here are eight key factors to look for when choosing a business plan software solution for your business:

1. Structure of the business plan
There are many elements to business plans, some of which will not occur to someone who has never written one before. Ideally, the business planning software solution will walk you through each section appropriate for your business category, making sure you answer all of the relevant questions. These solutions can inspire you to answer problems that you might not have thought of solving.

2. Make the numbers
Ultimately, a business plan shows how your business will make money. Even the simplest plan should include financial reports such as profit and loss charts, balance sheets, and monthly and yearly projections.

3. Context and analysis
Some business plan software solutions (such as EquityNet and Editors’ Choice Palo Alto Software LivePlan) help you compare your numbers to others in your industry, including regions and company size. You could argue that the Jewish grocery store you are proposing to open in Asheville, NC will turn a profit in three years, but market data suggests five years is typical. This data helps you back up your claims before a banker can raise an eyebrow. This is a “nice to have” feature for some businesses, but not relevant for others.

4. Useful tips
Even though the business plan software solution gives you places to plug in data (think “Mad Libs” for business), you ultimately need a good idea (you are alone there) and understand the information that investors want to see. As with tax preparation software, it is reassuring when the business planning software solution defines terms, provides sample data, and explains the type of information expected in each area. StratPad’s educational videos are a model for how this sort of thing should work.

5. Depth and presentation of the report
The result of all this work is a business plan, a document for others to read. These don’t always have to be works of art, but it helps if the business plan software solution attractively packages your business plan and allows for customization. Don’t think of these tools as all-in-one solutions to your problems. Set your expectations correctly and you will find that these business plan software solutions are much more useful.

6. Treat the business plan as a work in progress
Gather everything you think will be necessary before you begin. But I promise you that at least once while you’re using these business plan software solutions you’ll say, “I don’t know, I have to look. ” It’s a Well thing because it means that the software is asking for relevant information that you didn’t think of including on your own.

For all but the simplest proposals, this is an iterative process. Thus, you must highlight the parts to come back to (after your accountant’s response, for example). Or, the software should at least save the data in some sort of draft status. However, in all of these apps there are some forms that insist that you have to enter something in a field before you save everything on the page, which is annoying. Worse yet, it could lead to errors as you might not be able to remember to go back and correct the temporary guess. I kept wishing for a way to bookmark “temporary” data that needs to be verified (“I’ll write 800 for now …”); the best answer to that was the Palo Alto Software LivePlan comment field, but it would be nice to see a business planning software solution that allows me to mark a field as “Remember”.

7. You still need a spreadsheet
In general, these business plan software solutions will act as if you are reasonably organized before logging into their websites where you paste summary information. However, based on my practical experience, I would advise you to always expect to do basic math on your own. For example, if you need to complete the marketing workforce forecast for the next five years and keep adjusting the number of people to hire (based on your spreadsheet guesses), expect to update. manually update the total in the software rather than having the data automatically synchronized. In other words, these business plan software solutions are helpers, not “I’ll think it over for you” applications. And that’s okay, as long as you don’t expect them to be something they’re not.

These are all SaaS applications, some of which have a free version with the basics as well as a paid version with more features. If your needs are incredibly simple, and all you need is “fill in the blanks” forms to give to a banker, then you can find several completely free options that do the trick.

8. A plan for all businesses
These business plan software solutions should be relevant to everyone, from a solo entrepreneur trying to open a small to medium-sized accounting firm, to an established manufacturing company aiming to finance a new factory. To judge suitability for the task, I used data from two actual business plans: a restaurant startup in New Jersey and a nine-year horror film festival. I also measured the software against the business plan I once wrote with the help of professional advisers (back when I was looking for significant venture capital).

All of these business plan software solutions are good applications; none of them seriously disappoint. However, Palo Alto Software LivePlan and Tarkenton GoSmallBiz were head and shoulders above the rest. It won the admiration of PCMag because of the clarity and understanding of their documentation and the impressive depth of their features and options. However, each of the 10 business plan software solutions reviewed has strengths that may make it a better choice for your business than any other. So, take a look at all of the options to see which one is right for you.

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