Business Planning Software
If you do want to prepare a full blown business plan, then you task will be greatly facilitated by using good software. This does not mean that you are excused any of the tough decision making and strategic thinking involved, but the mechanics of actually producing a presentable plan are structured for you.
Make sure that if you are using software for the plan, that the document is truly yours and reflects what you want to do with the business. The advantage of the software described below is that you can include only the bits you want and all the text and tables are fully customizable.
Biz Plan Builder
I recommend the best business planning software, JIAN’s Biz Plan Builder. Click on the banner link to the right to learn more about the BizPlan Builder (PC version). It uses Word, Excel & PowerPoint for total flexibility. If you need the Mac version, see below.
On the Startup Owl Business Planning page you will find a raft of advice about preparing to plan, the purposes of planning and the different ways to approach it. If you have not already read the page, I suggest that you do.
While a piece of business planning software is by no means always necessary, the flexibility and logical process of the JIAN (jee’-on) Biz Plan Builder ensures that you don’t omit vital aspects of thinking from setting out on your startup adventure. In addition, you get a whole lot of stand alone tools that you can use individually. Of course, you can set up your own cash flow spreadsheet, but why bother when the package has one ready to use.
There are many good things about the BizPlan software, but here are some of the things I rate it best among the options that you will find if you search for business planning software:
- comes with a detailed 360-page Handbook of Business Planning that is helpful for both novices and the more experienced. This Handbook is your guide to the software and amounts to being a teach-yourself course on business planning and helps you to think not only about your own needs, but also how outsiders (especially banks or other funders) will react. It also has a great section on 65 ways to Finance Your Business;
- helps you to decide what kind of plan to build and choose the appropriate formats. As I have said above, Business Plans can have several different purposes and here at JIAN you choose between an Business Angel/Venture Capital plan, if you are looking for capital; a Concept plan that is really like an executive summary and can be added to later; Internet plan for a business that is predominantly Web-based; Retail plan for any kind of store; and a Service/Bank plan if you are starting a small/personal service business and seek a bank loan;
- the structure and contents are totally flexible, but come with the facility to ditch what you do not need or want, or the ability to drag and drop plan text and financials from any other plans you may have previously created;
- it steps you through a series of concise, pre-written Microsoft Word® templates, Microsoft Excel® financial workbooks and a Microsoft PowerPoint® presentation—all easily customizable to suit your unique business.
In short, I think that Biz Plan Builder business planning software is the best investment you can make for under $150. You can download it right away and be working on your plan within minutes of now. I really think that you have nothing to lose.
The JIAN software even comes with a company valuation system using different models (e.g., Harvard, DCF) and a table to calculate capital allocation when you are looking to raise equity. On the JIAN website you can find additional support, links to finance sources and the means to be put in touch with consultants—like me! Financials that are included in BizPlan product.
The interesting thing for PC or Mac users is that whether you actually want to produce a formal business plan or not, if you use Biz Plan Builder, you will be guided through the steps necessary to have a really robust plan for starting your business.
The advice on the Business Planning page of Startup Savvy will tell you that no matter what you have in mind, some sort of plan will be vital to your success. Do not get hung up on the all-bells-and-whistles 50 page plan if a back-of-the-envelope plan will do the job.
Burke Franklin, the owner of the company is developing a Web-based version of BizPlan Builder now. Burke is widely experienced in business planning as well as business planning software, having raised investment himself, so the product and all its support features are based on real experience (read more about Burke below). JIAN also has other related business planning software, such as Marketing Builder marketing strategy & planning software.
“JIAN’s focus on business planning is tighter and more concise than many of its competitors, with a strong dose of sales and marketing insights that help the plan serve as a working document rather than just a financial tool.”
- Dave McClure, writing in Accounting Today
Loan Builder – a complete loan preparation kit
JIAN also offer a Loan Builder product that really simplifies your task when negotiating a bank loan. At under $100 to download, you will save yourself a huge amount of disappointment if your loan application is refused. By preparing this document in advance, you will impress the bank officer and increase you chances of obtaining a loan. Just click the banner link to the right to get to the JIAN site. You might just fiind that several of their products appeal to you as time and money savers. The Loan Buiklder is built in to the Biz Plan Builder package.
The Loan Builder software includes the following sections for you to customize:
- Cover Page – you are preparing a “Financing Package.” An attractive document goes a long way to successfully borrowing money. It also helps bankers find it on their desk!
- Cover Letter to your bank – introduce yourself and detail your loan request
- Executive Summary – like an abbreviated business plan, it covers the major points of who, what, why, where, when and how of what you are doing currently as well as what you will do with the financing.
- Financial Model – an easy to use Excel workbook enabling you to fill-in your projected sales, costs (including financing) and cash-flow.
- Supplemental Documents – this page lists the additional documentation that you are providing.
- LLC Operating Agreement – if you are an American LLC, the bank will usually want to see this document.
- Executive Resume Template – while you’re not looking for a job, the bank does want to know more about you. What’s a nice person like you doing in a business like this? They want to be comfortable that you and those whom you have assembled for your management team (or employees) are likely to be successful running the business.
- Personal Financial Statement – Some lenders require this, some may not… It’s usually a good thing to go ahead and complete it and have it handy. It’s also a good document to have handy for other applications as well.
- If you are a US business, there is the SBA “LowDoc” Application – this is the SBA loan application form. Your bank may provide a form of their own.
Burke Franklin, founder and CEO of JIAN
Burke has a very strong background in sales, marketing and business development with both technology and consumer products. He worked for companies like Texas Instruments, CPT and a number of start-ups. He was also the electronics buyer for The Sharper Image catalog. JIAN was founded in July, 1986, to develop sales promotion materials.
Burke applied his experience as a successful field sales representative and marketing manager with his ongoing study of psychology and communications to produce ads and brochures. These marketing materials helped increase clients’ sales by 140% to more than 300%. He also applied this experience to a number of business plans he worked on. The result was more descriptive, concise and easily understood proposals-the kind that are read and approved for funding.
It soon became obvious that the best materials from each of these projects could be combined to produce the “ultimate” business plan. Burke brought the best of each of his plans together, and the resulting product became Biz Plan Builder® in March of 1988. But he does not simply sit on his laurels. The Biz Plan Builder is regularly updated and improved in the light of user experience.