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Get the Details Right With Business Plan Pro

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At a Glance
  • Palo Alto Software Business Plan Pro

Business Plan Pro sample business plan screenshot
Business Plan Pro ships with a catalog of over 500 sample business plans.
Starting a new business can be a daunting experience. There are a million and one details to worry about, and endless paperwork to deal with. But not all paperwork was created equal, and a solid business plan is one of the most important documents for getting started with your new business on the right foot. Maybe you are looking to secure a loan, or just to get a clearer idea of where you're going and whether your dreams are realistic. Either way, Business Plan Pro Standard Edition ($100) will take you by the hand and help you hammer out a compelling, comprehensive business plan, even if you've never written one before.

The first thing that struck me about Business Plan Pro is how clear and sensible it makes things. The application includes video content, short segments by Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software (the company behind Business Plan Pro). The explanations are short, direct, and refreshingly free of jargon. Despite being aimed at novices, they don't come off as condescending in any way.

Business Plan Pro screenshot
When you start your new business plan, Business Plan Pro asks you a series of simple questions to help lay things out.
Before you get started writing your first business plan, you may want to get a feel for what a good business plan looks like. To this end, Business Plan Pro includes a catalog of 500 downloadable sample business plan, neatly indexed by categories. Whether you are opening a restaurant, a real estate agency, or a consulting firm, there's at least one business plan for a similar business, which you could download and use as a reference.

Once you decide to start writing your own plan, Business Plan Pro guides you through the process using a simple wizard interface. Videos are interspersed throughout the wizard, and the text explanations are clear and simple. Better yet, above each step you can read examples for that section drawn from the many business plans that ship with Business Plan Pro. You can also switch between examples until you find one that helps you get started.

Business Plan Pro video screenshot
Business Plan Pro includes links to simple videos explaining different aspects of writing a business plan.
Business Plan Pro helps you write, but not like other applications that help you write, such as StyleWriter Professional and Serenity Software Editor. These are great for general-purpose writing, and will check your grammar and writing style. Business Plan Pro doesn't care about your style at all: You could be writing your business plan in horribly convoluted English and it won't notice, as long as you don't make spelling mistakes. So, you still need to be able to write compelling text, but Business Plan Pro will help you figure out what exactly you need to write, and where. If you need help with wording, you can write each section in Word and check it with StyleWriter or Editor.

Other than spell checking and general guidance, Business Plan Pro offers the Plan Review step, which goes over your plan and tries to pinpoint specific issues. It will check your cash balance as described in the plan, your planned payroll, and many other aspects of the plan to make sure that things add up.

When you're done writing up your plan, Business Plan Pro can export it as a Word document, Excel workbook, PDF, HTML, and a number of other formats. I've tested the HTML and PDF output and they both looked professional, with the PDF being particularly impressive.

At $100, Business Plan Pro offers excellent value, especially when compared to the hourly rates charged by most business consultants. With a bit of persistence, you can end up with a business plan both you and your bank manager would like.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--Erez Zukerman

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At a Glance
  • Palo Alto Software Business Plan Pro

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