We previously discussed why you should write a business plan for your startup. It helps you organize your thoughts, turn them into a professional document with which you can communicate with potential employees, partners and investors, then keep your business on track as it evolves and grows.
These days, creating a simple business plan is fairly easy, with the wide availability of free templates on the web. But it can quickly get complicated as you delve into the details, and that’s where business plan software comes in. It can get you started in the right direction by answering such frequently asked questions as: What is an executive summary? What goes into a marketing plan? How should I best present my financial forecasts?
When you’re ready to take the next step with your business plan, here are four excellent software packages to consider.
Palo Alto has a long history of making business plan software (I’ve used them myself for nearly two decades), and LivePlan is the most commonly used software available. Its step-by-step process includes fill-in-the-blank planning, real-life examples and tutorials to produce a detailed business plan in no time. It can even gather your financials and sync with QuickBooks Online (an option I’m still learning about). There is no free version, but you can pay monthly until you have generated the reports you need, and you can request a refund if not satisfied.
Enloop is a solid product that will automatically generate text, financial forecasts and reports once you enter your basic business information. It displays a real-time score that goes up as your plan improves, and compares your forecasts and financial ratios with peers in your industry, so you get quantitative feedback on how you are progressing. The free option doesn’t include all of these bells and whistles, but does provide a basic plan. Like LivePlan, you can pay on a monthly basis and cancel anytime.
StratPad is a cloud-based product that provides basic plan-building services and integration with QuickBooks Online. For startups and students, they offer a free product; otherwise, a monthly fee provides access to both StratPad Cloud and StratPad Connect, a community of like-minded professionals, coaches and mentors. It also connects you directly to banks and other lending institutions to help you get any funding you may need. As with the others, you can cancel anytime and get a refund if not satisfied.
This site a template library, rather than software, but it offers hundreds of templates for specific types of businesses. For entrepreneurs on a tight budget, it’s a good starting point to generate a free plan for any category of company. As you embark on writing your business plan, try one or more of these options and see which one best matches your process and personality. I know I always see things more clearly after going through this endeavor, and I bet you will, too. Let us know how it’s going for you by reaching out to our startup community, where you’ll connect with fellow entrepreneurs. Join us!