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When you’re starting a business, the first thing you need is a great idea. Once that’s settled, your next step is to write a strong business plan so both you—and your potential lenders and investors—know the goal of your company and how you plan to reach it. In fact, when you’re applying for a business loan, you’ll likely need to provide your business plan to be considered.
Your business plan will cover everything from a detailed explanation of your products or services and pricing model to at least three years of financial projections—plus much more. So, whether you’re not sure how to get started with your business plan or you’re just looking to make the process easier, you may want to turn to business plan software to help. And not only can the best business plan software aid in making your business plan visually appealing and help crunch the numbers and projections, some systems will also help you manage the day-to-day of your business by showing you where you stand in your industry competitively and give you a picture of your company’s financial health in real time.
There are a lot of business plan software options available, so we’ve rounded up the top choices for 2019 so you can review the best business plan options and choose the right fit for your company. Below, we’ll explain what to look for in a business plan software, plus show you how to identify the best among the best for your business.
What makes a business plan software option the best? Well, some of it is objective—the features to get things done, value for price, etc. But much of it is also subjective, including what you need, the price you need it for, and the user experience you want for your tasks.
Here’s how to know what to look for in the best business plan software so you can choose among the options in the next section.
Certain business plan software options offer different features. Most offer templates, though not all offer several options and strong customizability. Some also have online learning centers to teach you skills as a business owner who is building out a business plan. Some software also offers integrations into your other small business tools and suites. For instance, you may be able to import financial details, projections, and transactions from your accounting software to prevent excess data entry.
You’ll want to think about your other tool suites, too, such as HR, CRM, payroll, and more. Some small business plan software is wrapped into larger packages. It may not make sense to get one of these if you have all of the other tools, or it may be cost- and tool-efficient to do so.
As you look through the top options for business plan software, take note of which features are resonating with you, and which you don’t feel like you’ll necessarily use.
We’ll be candid: The best-of-its-category software isn’t generally free. That goes for things including payroll software, applicant tracking and HR software, and (especially) business accounting software. And, as you might expect, it’s the same for the best business plan software: You get what you pay for.
That said, there are still different pricing tiers within business plan software options. Some may be a better fit for your budget than others, especially if you’re just starting up. As you weigh the features for your ideal business plan software, make sure you keep in mind the budget, and what you’re trading off for a lower price. The more features you need, the higher the price point you can expect, but if you realize you only need basic functionality, don’t shell out the big bucks when a simpler, cheaper option will do.
User experience can vary widely among different business plan software options. You’ll find some programs that are newer, or have undergone user-experience facelifts. Others, you’ll see, have the kind of interfaces that felt new years ago but are now pretty out of date—and, subsequently, make them a little harder to use.
Choosing the right UX for your business needs is genuinely a matter of opinion and comfort. But, keep in mind that the more cumbersome a user experience is, the more time you may have to put into doing certain tasks like data entry, or figuring out features that aren’t intuitive on the surface.
As we mentioned before, the top business plan software option for you is subjective. Some may have features you want but the price is not right, or vice versa. To help kick off your search, we’ve picked the five best business plan software options for small businesses, laid out their features, and added other helpful information so you’re able to pick the top option for your business and goals.
If you want template-rich, modern-feeling business plan software, then LivePlan may be the right pick for you. LivePlan excels with their user interface, which feels updated and slick, and also offers intuitive, easy-to-use features and options. Their step-by-step instruction will help you kick things off from the beginning, and you can take advantage of their online learning center to continue to gain business skills.
The LivePlan software includes more than 500 templates (trust us, you won’t use all of them, but it’s good to have options) to kick you off. LivePlan also offers integration with software including Xero and QuickBooks Online, which will help you avoid lots of data entry. Their interface tracks your financial data in real time with these integrations, which can help you easily update your business plan as necessary. Of course, the software also enables you to export your plan, which helps if you need to show it to a lender or investor.
Another really popular feature of LivePlan is benchmarking data. It’s difficult—or impossible—to know how your business is doing if you’re operating in a vacuum. LivePlan offers the ability to compare your business’s numbers and goals to companies like yours, so you’re able to see where you fall relative to these benchmarks.
LivePlan costs $11.66 per month if you purchase a full year (this provides you a 40% discount). Without the year-long commitment, it’s $19.99 per month to pay as you go. The software has a 60-day free trial period so you can test it out before you decide if it’s right for you. Plus, it’s available for both Macs and PCs.
You may have heard of GoSmallBiz in another context, since it’s a full suite of small business tools, in addition to their cloud-based business plan software.
You can start with one of their templates, customized by industry. They also offer a step-by-step builder to walk you through the business plan process. When it comes time to export your business plan, they enable you to do so—but note that you can only export to Microsoft Word or PDF (which could be a drawback if you’d prefer PowerPoint, Keynote, or Pages). It’s also important to note that this software is better for writing and developing a plan for investors and lenders than real-time business plan management.
GoSmallBiz’s business plan software is strong on the financial side, offering small business owners the ability to run analyses on cash, sales, profit, balance sheets, and more. You’re also able to access information about your business entity and subsequent details, and do a bit of market sizing and comparative analysis. GoSmallBiz also has a lot of online learning tools, including coaching from real entrepreneurs and business experts. This is where it really excels.
GoSmallBiz is available for $39 per month, month-to-month, and also offers a 60-day free trial. And while the price is higher than other options, keep in mind this is a full suite of small business tools, so that price point gives you access to HR planning, customer relationship management tools, and more. If you only need business plan software, this option may be too robust for your needs, but if you’re also in the market for other business management tools, this could offer a lot of bang for your buck.
A great entry-level business plan program, Business Plan Pro will walk you through the process step-by-step to create your business plan. This business plan software excels with its 500-plus business plan templates. When you’re done with your plan, you can export it to Word, PowerPoint, or PDF. This can be a great advantage for showing your business plan to investors or lenders in a format that’s easy for them to read and digest.
Business Plan Pro’s software offers databases on comparable business’s financials, which can help you with things including projections and statistical correlations. That can be a great resource, along with their helpful tutorials. Business Plan Pro also has renowned customer service, which is another reason why it’s great for beginners.
The software is made for use on PCs only, though. And one of the drawbacks to Business Plan Pro is its interface, which feels dated and cumbersome. If user experience is very important to you, you may want to give it a try before you commit to keeping it. Business Plan Pro is $99.99, and offers a 60-day money-back guarantee. It’s worth noting that both Business Plan Pro and LivePlan are products of Palo Alto Software, so if Business Plan Pro isn’t the right solution for you, LivePlan may be a better fit.
Part of the startups.com suite, Bizplan gets top marks for their user interface—it’s intuitive, easy to use, and modern. You’ll work with a step-by-step business plan builder to get exactly what you’d like from your business plan. It may remind you of a modern website builder, since it has drag-and-drop tools to build templates. If you want your business plan to feel very shiny and chic, this is great software to consider.
It also provides you with a dashboard for your financials. You can monitor in real time, and generate reports from the dashboard, such as revenue projections.
Bizplan also has solid customer service and learn-as-you-go tools. As Bizplan is part of the startups.com ecosystem, you’ll get access to their thousands of online classes and educational resources as well as guides from business pros.
As a cloud-based product, you can make Bizplan work on any system. You can enjoy a seven-day free trial (not as long as some others, but still good to have). After that, you can choose monthly pricing, with is $29 per month, or purchase a full year with a 30% discount at $249. As this price includes access to other tools besides the business plan software, take a good look through what else you’d get for this price and how much you think you might utilize them.
For some of the strongest financial features among business plan software options, including budgeting and forecasting, check out PlanGuru. If the financial focus of a business plan software is most important to you, that’s where PlanGuru excels.
Unfortunately, the software doesn’t offer templates to build from, but it more than makes up for this with its suite of financial reporting. As you might expect, the software integrates into QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks, Xero, and Excel. For its focus on financial reporting and forecasting, compared to other business plan software that’s geared toward those who are just beginning, this software is a bit more sophisticated.
PlanGuru is made for both PCs and Macs. The interface does feel a little dated, and you’ll have to get in the weeds in order to know how to use it seamlessly.
You can try it free for 30 days, and then pay $99 monthly. It’s a steeper price compared to some of the other options, but this is software is more focused on running financial processes than simply building a visually appealing business plan.
Often, thinking of a great business idea isn’t the hard part. That comes when you need to decide how exactly you’ll start and grow your business—things you need to illustrate in your business plan. But utilizing a business plan software is a great way to help you get insight into your trajectory and figure out the resources you need to reach your goals. Most of these software options enable you to use their templates to draw up your business plan and then finalize it, and also offer sophisticated financial tools to ensure you’re on the right path.
As you compare the best business plan software options, you’ll want to keep in mind the features you’ll find most helpful, how much money you can reasonably spend on this tool, and how well you understand the system so you can use it to its fullest potential. The good thing about most of these business plan software options is that they offer a free trial or money-back guarantee. The best way to find the right solution for your business may come down to trying out a few choices before you commit. Business plan software can be a big investment, but you’ll find the returns for having insights, data, and analyses are more than worth it.