Every small business begins with an idea, be it big or small. Soon enough, most entrepreneurs realize that coming up with the idea was the easy part: writing a business plan, pitching to investors, and figuring out how to anticipate all of the little details that come with starting a small business quickly become a much larger challenge. That’s where LivePlan and other business plan software solutions can help.
If you’ve read a LivePlan review, or have looked into what kinds of business planning software options are out there, you might be familiar with what these programs do and how they work. In essence, they help entrepreneurs develop a business plan that covers every detail a prospective investor wants to see. This can help save time and effort for getting a small business loan, business financing, or any other task that requires heaps of data and information.
Here’s everything you need to learn from a LivePlan review. We’ll break down what LivePlan does, how much it costs, and what LivePlan alternatives offer.
What Is LivePlan?
LivePlan is a software platform that helps make it easier to create business plans and other organizational tools for small business owners. Instead of having to sift through the best business plan templates or, worse yet, create one yourself, LivePlan offers a smorgasbord of templates and tools that help take the guesswork and manual labor out of developing business plans.
With LivePlan, businesses can streamline several recurring financial management tasks. These include performance tracking, financial modeling, budgeting, and business planning. Whether you’re just starting your business, are in the throes of steady daily operations, or are looking to expand, LivePlan’s suite of tools and templates can make these efforts easier to manage.
The LivePlan platform also lets you keep on top of your company’s key data points, be they financially oriented or otherwise. You can even set business goals and compare your company’s performance against industry benchmarks as well. This way you can not only keep track of your own performance, you can also see how your business stacks up against others in the same field. This makes it easier for you to plan for your business’s future, keep track of its present situation, and learn from the past in order to keep growing the right way.
How LivePlan Works
Getting set up with LivePlan is relatively easy. First, you enter the basics about your business into the software. Then, the platform asks you what your main purpose for using LivePlan is. This can be starting a company in the first place, raising startup capital for a business idea, bringing investors on board, or even just measuring your company’s financial progress and coming up with a long-term business plan. The LivePlan startup wizard will walk you through the process to make sure you’re measuring your goals the right way—and quickly.
From there, LivePlan walks you through the process of getting your business plan set up and ready to roll. This is called the LivePlan Pitch, which is a one-pager that outlines your business’s strategy, customers, and goals. You can export this document and send it via email as a PDF, share on LinkedIn, or print for physical use as well.
Next, LivePlan helps you put together a business plan to complement the one-page LivePlan Pitch. As every entrepreneur knows, writing a business plan is a vital step when building out a new venture. This business plan will explain your vision to investors and financing partners, and can help you stay focused on the big picture once your business gets off the ground.
That’s not all LivePlan does, though—the platform can also help you come up with a budget and financial roadmap for your business. From there, the software even shows how your business financials compare to other businesses in your industry too. You’ll end up with a dashboard to see if you’re staying on par with your projections, as well as benchmark financial projections industry-wide.
Who Is LivePlan For?
LivePlan is designed for small business owners of any shape and size. Early-stage businesses can use LivePlan to keep an eye on their overall business health and growth. Other, larger companies can take advantage of the platform’s more complex tools, such as investor and fundraising management.
The good thing about LivePlan is that it offers different tools and capabilities that track with each stage in a company’s growth. Whether you’re in the early goings of your business or well on your way toward expanding and taking on investors, LivePlan has something to offer your business. And even if you’re not quite ready to use all of the functions and features LivePlan includes, you can always take a look at what else the software offers to get a glimpse into what you might have to think about later down the road.
Basically, if you’re looking to do any kind of business planning, tracking, or benchmarking, LivePlan can be a great tool for you to have at your disposal. The platform can help you measure your performance or plans across a variety of sectors with helpful tools—each of which takes the manual labor and effort out of the equation, versus doing it all yourself.
LivePlan follows a pretty straightforward pricing model. There are annual, six-month, and monthly memberships available for clients, so you can choose your plan based on how long you’ll use the product—only a few months or long-term.
For instance, some companies may only need access to the platform when they’re starting their business or are aiming to expand. In these cases, a shorter-term plan makes the most sense, since their needs are smaller and aren’t likely to require extended time within the LivePlan system. Other businesses that want to take advantage of LivePlan’s financial modeling and tracking may want to have year-round, extended service to keep their projections running smoothly. That’s when a year-long membership makes the most sense.
These three membership models come with three different price points. Annual memberships cost $11.66 a month, billed annually. The LivePlan six-month membership costs $15.96 a month, billed every six months. The month-to-month plan costs $19.95 and is billed monthly.
There is no difference in features between each of these pricing tiers. Whether you get a monthly plan or a yearly package, you’ll still get the same level of support and have access to the same features. That’s not always the case for small business software platforms—in many cases, providers try to get business owners to purchase service tiers at a monthly or yearly fee. Instead, LivePlan only charges you for the length of time you plan to use the platform.
LivePlan has a ton of helpful and informative features for small business owners who wish to better understand and track their company’s financials. The LivePlan website breaks these features into two categories: business planning and financial performance tracking. Both complement one another in terms of the information they need, the data they interpret, and what they offer the user in terms of key takeaways.
On the business planning side of things, LivePlan has several helpful tools that are baked into their platform. Once you’ve created your one-page plan within the system, you can create more in-depth plans with fill-in-the blank forms. There are more than 500 plan samples and examples within the program as well, giving you plenty to choose from in terms of laying out the specifics about your business. Plus, these forms come in SBA-approved formats, making it easy for you to create documents for SBA loans if that’s your goal.
You can also create visually stunning pitch presentations right from the LivePlan platform itself. With custom and pre-designed options available, making an investor deck has never been easier. Best of all, you can share these presentations right from within the app as well.
LivePlan also allows for customized dashboard creation, drag-and-drop formatting, milestone tracking, and industry benchmark measuring. Plus, you can track customized milestones to make sure your business is on track against its goals.
Financial Performance Tracking
LivePlan offers several useful tools to help you keep track of your company’s financial performance as well. These include smart financial forecasting tools to keep track of your future profits and losses. You can forecast multiple scenarios as well, each tailored toward giving you more information about how prospective business decisions or economic factors could make a difference for your company’s financials.
The LivePlan platform also makes it easy to keep track of your most important data in one place. From their dashboards, LivePlan allows users to keep an eye on revenue, expenses, operating and net profits, cash flow, and other financial numbers that are always helpful to have on hand.
Lastly, LivePlan’s financial reporting features also include reporting that can be shared with the entire team, exported for view outside of your system, or sent to your inbox at a regular interval that you determine.
There are only two main plug-ins that LivePlan supports at the moment: QuickBooks Online and Xero accounting software. QuickBooks Online syncs with LivePlan to provide up-to-the-minute financial information about your business. This helps LivePlan have a better impression of your current money situation and how it tracks with your forecasts and trends. Integrating the two platforms is as simple as logging into QuickBooks Online from your LivePlan interface.
LivePlan’s Xero integration works similarly. Xero and LivePlan work together to provide richer reporting and financial information that’s only a mouse-click away. Getting Xero and LivePlan to integrate follows the same protocol as QuickBooks—log into your Xero account from LivePlan and you’re on your way toward getting a more robust look into your business’s performance.
If you’ve been looking for LivePlan reviews, you’ve likely sifted through plenty of user feedback. Odds are this has been a mix of both pros and cons. People have plenty to say about most small business software solutions, and LivePlan is no exception. Here’s a rundown of the top cheers and jeers from LivePlan reviews.
Positive LivePlan Reviews
LivePlan offers a ton of helpful features for small business owners. This also means that, on average, most users have something positive to say about their experience with the program. Many of the positive LivePlan reviews mention how great the program is at providing a helpful, straightforward business plan with actionable objectives. The platform is easy to set up and dive into right away, which is good news for the less tech-savvy or entrepreneurs who are short on time.
Negative LivePlan Reviews
Like most programs, LivePlan isn’t perfect. There are a few areas in which users would love to see improvements, such as more integrations beyond QuickBooks and Xero. If you don’t use either of these two programs, you’ll have to import your financial information manually. That could be a major sticking point depending on how you intend to use LivePlan. Others have voiced concerns about the challenges LivePlan has with entering your own financial modeling projections into the program. This could pose a challenge for companies that have already worked on projections before onboarding LivePlan, as the software’s system may not jive with what currently exists.
LivePlan offers a pretty interesting set of features, but it’s not the only game in town that does so. There are a few alternatives to LivePlan out there in case you want to get a better sense of what all of your options are before taking the plunge.
GoSmallBiz offers many of the same business plan and tracking features as LivePlan. This app provides industry-specific templates, as well as a business plan creation tool that takes you through each individual step in the process. With GoSmallBiz, you’ll get a Word or PDF document at the end of the process containing your business plan, which you can then share with investors and lenders. GoSmallBiz is better suited toward generating business plans than managing finances and creating projections, however, so it’s worth bearing that in mind before moving forward with the program. This software costs $39 a month and comes with a free trial as well.
Bizplan is the business planning and setup tool under the startups.com umbrella. This program also uses a step-by-step setup plan to help entrepreneurs devise a functional business plan. The interface is reminiscent of drag-and-drop website creators, which means you’ll have plenty of room for customization and a unique look and feel for your business plan. Also, Bizplan provides a financial dashboard to help you keep track of your income, spending, and revenue. The program starts with a seven-day free trial, and costs $29 a month afterwards. You can also get a 30% discount if you purchase a full year’s worth of service for $249.
If you’re looking for a business plan software option that’s heavy on the financial side of its tool set, then PlanGuru might be the right LivePlan alternative for you. This platform doesn’t come with pre-made templates, however, so you’ll have to do significantly more work to get your setup to look exactly how you want it. There are more integrations with leading financial and accounting programs than LivePlan, however, as PlanGuru supports QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks, Xero, and Excel as well. PlanGuru comes with a 30-day free trial and costs $99 a month. This makes PlanGuru one of the more expensive options around, but it also provides a more robust financial toolkit than their alternatives.
LivePlan Review: The Bottom Line
Whether you’re working on your first business plan, drafting up materials for investors and lenders, or simply want a tool that can help you keep your finances straight, LivePlan has a solution for you. This program is affordable, flexible, and powerful, which makes it a solid choice for most small business owners. It’s hardly the only option on the market, however, and the alternatives to LivePlan all come with their own advantages. No matter what you choose, be sure you’re getting the right amount of software and support for your needs—and most importantly, your budget.
Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera.
Prior to Fundera, Christine was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. There she wrote and edited on topics such as debt, budgeting, insurance, taxes, investing, and retirement. She has written for print and online on topics ranging from personal finance to luxury real estate.