Best Business Plan Software
Best Business Plan Software: using the best software is a critical component of startup success. I have been practicing and teaching new business creation for 35 years and have tended to veer away from ‘template’ business plans for two reasons: first, they relieve you of thinking and questioning your own assumptions too hard, and second they encourage you to believe that there is a set formula. However, that was before I encountered LivePlan from Palo Alto Software.
Any plan must convince the audience that you are the person or team to make your solution produce results, though personally I don’t believe there is one right way to write a business plan, though I insist that it is not a job for an entrepreneur to subcontract. Outstanding business plans can be written on the back of a napkin, or in a 50pp document + appendices. I have lots of advice to offer about how best to craft a compelling story and indeed, I offer a table of contents for what I believe should be in a business plan.
Structuring the Plan
However, LivePlan offers business plan writers a structure for approaching the content. It’s a cloud-based software that leads you through the process. Though I have written many business plans starting with a blank screen, LivePlan can accelerate the process, without losing authenticity or immediacy.
Sure there is a structure, but you can change or reorder it. For instance, in the ‘Opportunity’ section I both reordered and added subsections that I determined to be important. There was no subheading for ‘Value Proposition‘ or ‘Business Model‘ that I wanted to include—but two clicks later, they were added.
Plan and Pitch
There is a tendency among my clients to try to write the executive summary or pitch at the outset, whereas I recommend that it should be the last step in the process, to ensure that the argument presented in the main document is convincing, and that the summary covers the main points lucidly and sequentially. Like any consultant, I don’t always take my own advice! I tend to dart from one item to another in a haphazard way as ideas strike me. LivePlan allows me that messy way of working, jumping around and crafting my pitch and my plan iteratively.
Given that space is limited in the Pitch Section of LivePlan, it really concentrates the mind. On the other hand, I found that as I worked on the Plan Section, especially where I had to produce data to support my argument, I could test the assertions in the pitch against what I claimed in the plan. LivePlan forced me to revisit my data on the Market Size and Competition many times before I was satisfied. Here’s a slide that it generated for the competitive landscape for the business plan review service.
LivePlan’s video tutorials and examples, helps you write a good plan in much less time, and often as you constantly go back to the writing process they can inspire you and help you realize what’s missing. There are very helpful and short intros to topics such as the Revenue Forecast or Personnel Plan. I review many business plans, both of clients and students and am continually amazed at the gaps they have not spotted. With LivePlan, it’s possible to reach those ‘ah-ha’ moments on your own.
There is another huge benefit to using LivePlan: it’s easy to share the plan with others. Business plan writing often is a solo occupation, but without feedback from others whom you trust, or members of your co-founders or startup team, the document is likely to flop. The software allows you to share the draft with or without the ability to edit. That is a vital component of the tool for entrepreneurs, just as it is with several of the tools you can find at Accelerate Your Startup.
LivePlan is much easier to use than many competing products. At the outset I thought it looked too simplistic but as soon as I started to use it, I realized that that was deceptive. It really helped me to structure my thinking, but allowed me all the flexibility I needed. Of course, it also has many bells and whistles, like themes you can customize, if that’s your bag, and the ability to import financial data. It does your financial calculations with you having to create formulas in a spreadsheet. Indeed you can keep the numbers updated without a separate spreadsheet. You can also compare your profit to industry averages with LivePlan’s benchmarks. The Milestones section can keep you up to the mark, and really it will be the only ‘dashboard’ you’ll need, once the business has started.
Perhaps the biggest benefit is the price. An annual subscription is only $11.66 a month, however many plans you write; a monthly subscription otherwise is $19.95. Both payment plans include phone, email and chat support.
Automatic Calculations and Presentations
A super aspect of LivePlan is that is carries out spreadsheet calculations. You put in the numbers and it does the rest. But it does not stop there. Your pitch can be automatically converted into a slide deck. When you download it, it’s in Power Point form that can be easily edited if you don’t like the way it looks, though mine have looked pretty good. The pptx file can obviously be converted to Keynote if you are a Mac user.
Business Plan Reviews
A significant part of my work involves reviewing business plans for both clients and students. The business plans I see come in all shapes and sizes. The curious thing is that that some immediately reek of ‘template’, showing up the lack of deep thinking by the author. Others reek of ‘blank screen’ and are all over the place. The first category need feedback on real strategic thinking. The latter need a complete rewrite. Recently I had to return my fee, since the plan submitted was such a mess that it needed to be re-thought and re-written from scratch. Fortunately neither of these is likely to be the case with a LivePlan plan.
Have I convinced you? If not, click the link and go straight there!