Business planning software is all the rage these days, with smart features, cloud access, and a series of tools to mix your financials in with your plans. But for start-ups, building the best business plan starts with the basic numbers of your business.
What Is A Business Plan?
Business plans are documents that tell an ongoing story about your business. They are often ‘living documents’ meaning they are dynamic and responsive to changing marketing conditions and your business’s needs. Business plans help owners and founders have direction and set goals. They also help investors understand if the business is going to make money and is therefore worth their time and investment.
Find Business Planning Software that Is Founder-friendly and Investor-friendly
If you’re looking for the best business planning software for your start-up, make sure you find something that really fits your needs. Start simple, by inputting numbers for your business to help build your forecasts. You don’t need long tutorials or to be an expert in fancy jargon. Make sure that you understand each element of the financial forecasts you’re building and why they are important.
Lengthy plans consisting of pages and pages of hopes, dreams, and a few business assumptions are no longer appropriate for investors. Instead, find a business planning software that will radically transform your ideas into actionable steps, making it easy for you to follow your strategy, and for investors to see where you’re headed.
Top 5 Best Business Planning Software
Pros: This program is probably the most well known of all business planning software. LivePlan is super customizable, integrates with Xero and Quickbooks, and offers financial services too that calculate your financial outcomes for the next five years. You can build a step-by-step plan using templates that are built to reach specific goals.
Cons: Rigid templates mean you are forced to shoe-horn your business into a template that might not be appropriate for your start-up. Also, sometimes too much detail can ruin your business plan.
Costs: Free trial available and then either monthly or annual subscription.
Pros: A cross-over between a self-onboarding platform and a consultation service, GoSmallBiz offers multiple tools from website design through to legal support. Business plan reports are customizable and there is also a business mentoring service available too with help from real CEOs. There’s online calendar management to schedule appointments and events and you can generate financial projections and statements for your business.
Cons: Whilst there are hundreds of sample business plans available, you may be forcing your business to fit a template, rather than finding a template to enhance your business. You cannot export your data and many users are so familiar with Google or Microsoft Calendars that GoSmallBiz’s calendar functionality can seem a little obsolete.
Costs: A cancel-anytime monthly subscription is available.
Pros: Another good contender that’s really user-friendly is BizPlan. Like LivePlan, you can sync your data with accounting software. Use drag-and-drop industry-specific templates to build in-depth presentations with really nice graphics. Share your financial plans with investors online in just a click of a button or use the real-time collaboration features to work on your plan with your team.
Cons: PDFs can be fiddly to export and the platform isn’t responsive so you may have difficulty accessing it on mobile devices. You may also need to have a certain degree of knowledge regarding all the financials to get the most out of this program.
Costs: Monthly or annual subscription or a single lifetime payment.
Pros: PlanGuru is stuffed full of excellent features, grounded in financial forecasting software with rolling forecasts and strategic planning. Learn everything you need from PlanGuru University and build flexible budgets to suit your start-up of any size. For established businesses, you can import historical data to help build some of your financial forecasts. Get stuck? Use their services (charged by the hour) to help bring expertise to your models and business plans.
Cons: You might get a bit lost with the snazzy features of PlanGuru, depending on your own financial forecasting knowledge levels. You may need to invest time using their learning tools to get the most out of your business plan.
Costs: PlanGuru is at the more expensive end of the spectrum with monthly subscriptions available.
Pros: Whilst Numberslides is not strictly a business planning software, the platform offers the fundamentals of all that business planning really is. It helps you answer the questions; is your business viable and what does your cash flow look like? The features of the online platform include building financial forecasts and using live market sensitivity analysis on your predicted financial outcomes. You can also create a bespoke set of financial documents that help you build your best ever business plan. By simplifying the steps for inputting all your numbers, Numberslides helps you optimize your business plan. You don’t need to be an expert in accounting, economics, or business strategy. There are no templates to force your business into, and you can give anyone (business partners and investors) access to toggle your numbers.
Cons: This is financial forecasting software with limited business planning software. If you need software to help you build your business plan (including strategies and actions, your competitive edge, products and services, marketing strategy), you may be better off with software that focuses mostly on business planning.
Costs: Multiple plans, billed monthly or annually.
Getting the Most Out of Business Planning Software
It might seem tempting to sign up to business plan platforms and start plugging your numbers and goals into the website, but be warned, sometimes the sense of busyness we get from this is actually a trap. Before choosing a software, you need to ask yourself what you want out of the software in the short-term and the long-term.
Short-term goals might be:
- Understanding if your ‘back-of-a-napkin’ business plan is viable
- Collecting all your ideas for this business down on paper to check each potential ‘limb’ of the business
Long-term goals will look a little different:
- Understanding your business’s viability over the next 5 years
- Accurately forecasting your business’s cash flow for the next 2-5 years
- Predicting your business’s growth over the next 5 years to help secure investors
Find the Right Business Planning Software for Your Business
So, there you have it, five good options to consider for your business. Remember that before you start thinking about your marketing strategy or what your team will look like, at the very heart of every business are the numbers. If you don’t get those right, you’ll be struggling with an uphill battle every step of the way. Frequently, we sign-up to software without understanding what we want from it and without realising the true potential of the software either. Pick a software that will allow your business plan to speak to your financial forecasts, and you’ll be able to build your business with confidence in your numbers and your goals.