The Best Business Plan Software & Services For 2018
From startups to established corporations, business plans lay the framework for a company's vision and its financial future. Drafting a business plan is a crucial step in the growth of any business. For small businesses looking to take steps toward funding, creating a business plan can be a daunting task. The required accounting and financial data required alone could result in you spending all your time crunching numbers instead of guiding and growing the business.
Different types of business software and services can help solve this problem. By using a software to guide you through the writing process, or investing in a service that taps into its extensive research network to write your business plan for you, you can save your time and spend your effort on other aspects of your business.
State of the Industry
The value of a business plan has been a widely debated topic, as some companies have achieved success without laying out a firm framework. Whether your business needs a business plan depends largely on your short-term goals as a company. For startups still finding their footing, it may be a bit too early to lay out a rigid plan that could end up constraining the company. If you're looking to map out your business's growth so you can secure investment, then you need a business plan. Data supports this, with statistics indicating that businesses with business plans are twice as likely to secure funding and subsequently grow their business. According to surveys, 64 percent of businesses that completed a plan experienced growth, while only 43 percent of businesses that didn't draft a plan experienced growth.
There are two main ways to build a business plan: either by using software or outsourcing to a plan writing service. DIY software walks business owners through the plan writing process with setup wizards and questions about the business. In addition to word processing, business plan software includes powerful finance and accounting tools so you can crunch numbers quickly to create multi-year projections.
Business plan writing services, on the other hand, do all the heavy lifting for you. With turnaround times ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, services will review your company's data, conduct research and draft your plan. Once it's finished, there is usually a revision period where your company can review and propose edits to the plan.
Another perk of different types of business plan software and services is they provide extensive resources for your company to use as you draft your plan. Some services can source 16 different research databases in addition to conducting their own research to ensure that sections on the market and industry your business is entering are accurate. Others will provide independent consulting, edit an already existing plan and pair your business with experts to help you grow different areas of your business. These resources can be a big help with not only drafting a business plan, but also with establishing a company vision and framework.
Business plan writing software will generally be less expensive than an actual business plan writing service. Some programs are primarily web-based and can be purchased for a low, recurring monthly fee. Others are desktop programs that can be purchased for a one-time flat price.
Business plan services' costs will vary based on the features your business needs. These companies generally charge a writing fee, and then added features cost extra.
The first big decision to consider is whether you want to draft your own plan or outsource it to a third-party service. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so consider the following when thinking about what's best for your business.
- Time – Depending on how quickly you need your business plan, different services offer different turnaround times. This can range from 10 days to up to six weeks. The time it takes for revisions to be returned is important as well. Some companies can get them back within a week, while others can take up to two weeks. This can make creating your business plan a multi-week process. Business plan software puts your business plan in your own hands, so you are responsible for how long the writing process takes.
- Resources – Each writing service or software offers different resources. If your business is young and in need of guidance, some writing services offer consulting and other options to help your business grow. If your plan needs extensive research on things like market conditions, software offers access to research materials, while writing services have access to different databases.
- Depth of service – Software and services offer different tools for creating your plan. Services may include rush jobs, printing, design services and even sample plans for you to review before deciding whether to hire the company. Software offers more research-oriented resources, like business tips, investor information and market analysis. While these features are usually built into business plan writing services as well, research-oriented software allows the business owneryou to review and adjust research on yourtheir own.
Free Business Plan Templates
Having a clear picture about the purpose of your business, its goals, and how it will operate is critical not only for your understanding of these issues, but more importantly to get potential lenders and investors to buy in.
Thankfully, you don't have to go to business school—or hire someone who did—to create a business plan. You can download a free business plan template and customize it to your needs.
Free Download: Putting It On Paper: Free Business Plan Template [DOWNLOAD]
Where to Find Free Business Plan Templates
The nonprofit business mentorship program offers free templates for both startup and established businesses, as well as planning tools for nonprofits. Their startup business plan is made up of a narrative along with financial worksheets. The template includes over 150 questions to establish the body of your business plan and can be answered in any order. The executive summary, however, should be completed last. The goal of this completed template is to provide you with a fluid narrative.
This site offers a free, basic template to download. The BPlan free template offers an organized guideline to creating your business plan and takes you though the steps to get your business plan "investor-ready and SBA-approved." If that's not in-depth enough for you, then you can buy their Business Plan Pro software or use LivePlan, an online business plan creator with built-in formulas for financial planning, videos from experts and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues.
The Microsoft Office site offers a gallery of templates, including business plan checklists, financials, presentations and marketing. These templates are useful if you want a specific template, rather than a general business plan. In addition, there is a PPT for business presentations for when you are ready to showcase your business to potential investors.
Offers a comprehensive Word-based document that contains a detailed framework for building your business plan, including sample text, tables and charts, as well as a manual with section-by-section assistance. Free-Plan is ideal for new and established businesses looking to expand and in need of a business plan for internal or external use. Their micro-plan is designed for startups and very small businesses.
This site allows you to fill out a template online, with instructions on what to include in each section. Next to each category, tips and examples are provided as an additional resource. After completing the template, you can generate your business plan and save it to your computer as a Word document.
This online business planner allows you to fill out a template on the site section by section, tracks your progress on the plan, and allows you to share the plan once its completed. BizGym's recent update offers a collaborative platform with multiple pricing options, including a free "Inventor" plan. Through this application you can access resources such as a deck builder, budget builder and pivot plan.
- Write your executive summary last, after you've done the work of researching and thinking about your business.
- Explain the fundamentals of your business in two pages or less. Make it enthusiastic, professional, complete and concise, advises SCORE.
- If a section of the template doesn't apply to your business, don't worry about filling it out.
- If you're having trouble filling out your template or have questions about creating a business plan, SCORE has mentors that can give you free advice in person or via email.
- As evidenced above, there are plenty of options for free business templates, so don't feel like you need to pay for one, unless you can't find a template that thoroughly addresses your needs.
- In addition to completing a business plan checklist, look for a due diligence checklist from potential lenders or investors to make sure you have a better understanding of the types of information they need.
- Many sites, including Bplans.com, Entrepreneur.com and toolkit.com, offer free samples of business plans categorized by the type of company for you study before starting your own.
- According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a good business plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated regularly.
- Before getting bogged down in the details of business planning, make sure you have a clear vision and set of values for your company. This creates a road map for you to follow in the rest of your planning.
Download the Guide BelowDownload eBook
Major changes in technology and the economy have created for a shift in the business landscape, and traditional business plans are being thrown out the window. But where do you go from here? In our Business Plan Innovations (10 Best Practices) guide, you’ll gain helpful insight on a number of new ideas and learn how to apply them to your business.
3 Ways to Optimize your Business Plan with Business IntelligenceDownload
Business intelligence (BI) is what happens when big data analytics are made available throughout the organization, democratizing the access and analysis of data. This makes it possible for your company to optimize its business plan and gain key competitive advantages, even from unexpected sources.
Common Business Plan Software Questions & Answers
Heather. Since you've already made the commitment to start a business and have purchased the truck, I suggest that: 1. Turn off the engine. 2. Do some critical thinking and research. Specifically, if you've not already done so, formulate a business model. You can find numerous examples on the web. The purpose of this exercise is to test your original assumptions with reality. It is not to your benefit to try to confirm your original beliefs (hopes and dreams), rather you need to find out...Read More ▼
Check the SBA and score websites. Even as a business coach, I utilize Business Plan Pro and free online formats. The key to a good business plan is to have an outline of the various points in the document, which is not rocket science, does not vary much from one type of business to another, and can be found for free. The key is how well the various elements are addressed -- not any type of fancy pre-written document or format. My last theoretical point is that I distinguish between a...Read More ▼
Every business can benefit from a business plan -- the exercise of doing a business plan really helps you to focus on your strategy and test your business model. The key to doing an effective plan is to not put it on the shelf when you are done. It is a living document and should be updated annually to keep your business on track. In effect, it becomes your plan for the year. If you are not going for financing, don't be restricted by the formats that are commonly used. A business plan can...Read More ▼
I can't speak for all investors. I can speak for how I look at business plans in the tech industry. The answer I'd give is somewhat in-between simplified and detailed. Specifically, The business plan should convey that you know what value you will be creating...and have a solid idea of how to navigate to product-market fit and then tackle the challenges of scaling the business. It's much less about the detail: since no forecast will be accurate, it's not worth digging down to three...Read More ▼
The obvious advantage of knowing your competitors 3 year business plan is that it allows you to adjust to what they are doing. That may be ziging when they are zaging or it may be to try to zig before they do but if you know what they are doing you can adjust your own business plans. That said I don't think the odds of getting your competitors business plans are very likely. Public corporations may have some generalities in information they release and there can always be some leaks but I...Read More ▼
Tammy, what is the purpose of writing your business plan? Is it to obtain financing or provide a road-map to your plan over the next few years. I have helped many companies raise money or presented them to different investors and critical components along this path include having a section on management expertise, a succinct and accurate product description including features and benefits, identification of target market. (Note this should not be the market is 100 M and I expect to achieve...Read More ▼
List of 18Business Plan Software Buying Guide
Bargain Business Plan
Bargain Business Plan writes business plans for business seeking venture capital and angel investors as well as companies applying for visas or SBA loans. It also has subscriptions to multiple research databases to create a customized market analysis for clients.
BizPlanBuilder has both a cloud-based and a download option for its business plan-writing software. This software solution has several industry-specific templates you can review and then add to the document editor to create a plan that reflects your own business needs. This program devotes special attention to financials so you are prepared to present your idea to any type of investor.
Business Plan Pro
Business Plan Pro is easy to use and comes with research resources that only the best business plan software includes. It also has a stellar technical support team ready to help you with any problems that may arise.
Capital West Advisors
In addition to writing business plans for SBA loans, venture capital, angel investors and visa applications, Capital West offers strategic planning consulting.
Cayenne Consulting offers business plans for businesses seeking SBA loans, venture capital funding or E2 and L1 visas. In addition to business plan writing, Cayenne offers strategic planning and management consulting.
Enloop is an online business plan-writing program that has templates and support for multiple industries with the exception of nonprofit organizations. Despite this, Enloop is easy to use with step-by-step instructions and an intuitive design, making it one of the easiest business plan software applications to use of the programs we evaluated.
Go Business Plans
Go Business Plans writes business plans that serve a variety of business's needs, ranging from SBA loans and visa applications to plans seeking venture capital funding. It also offers strategic planning and management consulting services.
Joorney is a service that writes business plans for a variety of purposes, including SBA loan applications. Joorney specializes in visa business plans, so if you are looking to apply for an E2, L1 or EB5 visa, it may be a good option to consider.
LivePlan helps you create business plans ranging from start-up to strategic marketing to funding plans. If you're not sure what type of plan is best, this program assists you in determining whether you need a funding or an investment plan and then provides templates for each scenario.
Masterplans writes business plans for SBA loans, visa applications as well as for businesses seeking venture capital or angel investors. In addition to business plan writing, Masterplans can also review your existing business plan and give you feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Optimus Business Plans
Optimus Business Plans offers business plans for a wide range of purposes, including visas, SBA loans and companies seeking angel investors or venture capital funding. This service focuses mainly on writing business plans and doesn't offer any additional consulting services.
PlanIt Business is a business plan service based in Dallas, Texas. Businesses looking for SBA loans, immigration visas, venture capital and angel investors can all get plans through this service. You can expect to get a quality plan through this service, but it does cost more and can take longer than some services.
PlanMagic Business offers specific software for each industry, including retail, construction and food services, to name just a few. It also has a program for nonprofits with its unique financial requirements and reporting procedures. Each program is designed to be easy to navigate and intuitive to use with step-by-step guidance and in-program help aids.
Pro Business Plans
Pro Business Plans is comprised of a highly experienced team of senior financial analysts and MBA writers to prepare investment focused materials including business plans, pitch decks, and memorandums. All of its members have a background in investment banking or private equity – giving them a unique edge to preparing materials that few companies have. The team members at Pro Business Plans are not just writers, they are seasoned finance professionals collaborating for the client's ultimate success.
The Plan Writers
The Plan Writers offers a variety of consulting services in addition to business plan writing. Business plans are available for businesses and entrepreneurs interested in applying for visas or SBA loans, or those looking for venture capital or angel investors. The Plan Writers is also experienced with helping companies go public as well as creating feasibility plans.
Ultimate Business Planner
Ultimate business Planner helps you determine the viability of your business idea before you start to write your business plan. It walks you through the financial sections of your plan first. Within a few minutes, you have a clear financial picture whether your business idea is feasible or not.
Wise Business Plans
Wise Business Plans writes business plans for businesses seeking venture capital and angel investors as well as businesses interested in applying for SBA loans, E2 visas and L1 visas. The plans are high quality and contain market and industry research drawn from a wide range of sources. Its turnaround times are above average: This service can complete a business plan in a week or less.
iPlanner is a simple program that includes helpful tools for creating an effective small business plan. With iPlanner.NET, you can import financial information from other accounting programs. It also has step-by-step tutorials for each section of the business plan and financial calculators and chart generators to help make financial analysis easy.