Business Plan Tools & Guidelines

Business Plan Pro

Business Plan ProThe Business Plan Pro Suite offers valuable assistance for business plan creation.

Business Plan Pro produced by Palo Alto Software, Inc., has proven to be one of the most effective of the kind by its functionality and flexibility. The program offers perfectly adaptable solutions for a large range of domains of activity. Besides business plan templates and the wizard plan creator, it offers over 400 sample plans, SBA loan application documents, a venture capital database and links to online business loans.

Business Plan Pro general usability features

  • easy to install;
  • high degree of compatiblity with other programs allowing imports from Intuit QuickBooks and exports to MS Word, MS Excel, PDF and HTML;
  • easy to use and understand due to its user-friendly interface;
  • allows freedom of expression, first-time users can successfully create a business plan even if not familiar with business writing;
  • available versions — US version, U.K. version, Canadian version — customized for every country’s requirements, especially for particularities in the legal area or in the financial area, such as currency, taxes quantum;
  • available in English and Spanish;
  • available in a Macintosh version.

Writing a business plan

Preparatives

Before starting to build your own plan you may want to:

  • survey the program’s database of samples;
  • make an idea about the available templates;
  • have a look at Tim Berry’s book, Hurdle: The Book on Business Planning, which is available in electronic format in the Resources section of the program.
  • Note: You can use the included Business Plan Pro Manual to assist you throughout the creation of the business plan. It contains valuable help for successfully creating a business plan even if you are not familiar with this type of business writing.

For learning this information you may want to open first the Resources section of the program.

Getting to the job with Business Plan Pro

You get to work on a pre-existing/default outline. The program guides you step by step throughout the entire plan.

There are some preliminary questions to establish the basic facts about your business such as the object of your business, profit or non-profit, start-up or ongoing and some questions to customize the form of your business plan, such as the form of tables, whether you prefer a long-term plan or a short-term one, whether you have a website etc.

Then it proceeds with questions covering all the topics that should appear in a business plan, section by section. Every main topic, such as the Executive Summary, the Company Summary, the Market Analysis Summary, the Strategy and Implementation, the Management Summary and the Financial Plan are made up of a series of subtopics that ensure an exhaustive approach to the company data.

The program automatically generates:

  • tables for all the figure data (marketing indices, sales, expenses, investments, loans, all financial data)
  • charts wherever necessary, for example: the highlights of the executive summary (sales, gross margins, net profit), start-up expenses, assets, investments and loans, market segment analysis, sales, milestones, break-even analysis, profit and loss analysis, cash flow.

Support for your business plan within the software:

  • The program also offers the option of Plan Review for critical errors or possible problems.
  • The Resources section contains a database with references to online sources providing help with various aspects of your business, grouped as follows:
    • Do the Legal: help to get a business started and legal assistance for business operations.
    • Resources: help for market research.
    • Get Funding: help for funding a business idea or cash flow maintainance.
    • Present Your Plan: business plan templates.
    • Sample Plans: sample database.
    • Planning Books: sends to Tim Berry’s “Hurdle” (business plans) and “On Target” (marketing plans) and to some website plans.
    • Special Offers: services (such as logo design, business incorporation etc.)
    • Product Support: technical support contact information.

Business Plan Pro allows improvement in:

  • The exit strategy and risk calculation area. This topic could be covered in the Executive Summary in the strategy and implementation section or appended in the end to the business plan.
  • The permissiveness for slight changes in the program so as to allow additions or other modifications.
  • Some Business Plan Pro program features, such as first row deletion or online help accessing, have reportedly generated errors.