“Business Plan Pro Premier Edition Review”

Business Plan Pro Premier 2005

Top Pick

From: Palo Alto Software, Inc.

Headquarters:
144 E 14th Ave
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 683-6162
Fax:(541) 683-6250

Technical Support:
(541) 683-6162
Fax:(541) 683-6250

General Impressions

I've tried various Palo Alto software products over the past couple of years and have become quite familiar with the software. Palo Alto is a well established and respected company that specializes in books, software and interactive tools designed for business and marketing.

The products at Palo Alto are pretty solid and the prices are very reasonable. The software is very user friendly and the help is terrific. I've tried the Palo Alto's software in the past and have never been disappointed. I've used good and bad business planning software and this product rates pretty high.

Palo Alto is dedicated to making sure their customers are 100% satisfied. By providing a quality product and fantastic technical support, Palo Alto makes business planning a breeze (well... a lot easier). Alright, let's get on with the review for a full description of how easy it was to complete the business plan.

Who's it designed for?

- From beginners to more advanced business planners

- Team collaboration

- Consultants

Business Plan Pro 2005 Premier is designed for those individuals and businesses who don't want to leave any stone unturned. The Business Plan Pro 2005 Premier Edition is one serious business planning software that covers all the bases of your business planning venture.

From the cover to the financial projections, you can bet that the Premier Edition has got your business covered. The Premier edition has multiple user capabilities which means that you can collaborate with a team to write your business plan.

What's in it?

The Premier Edition comes with a comprehensive business planning book and manual. Both are very useful and will come in handy. I got the CD with the business planning book and extensive manual. The software was a breeze to install with no hang ups.

The software presents an easy to use interface that is very easy to read and understand. This is what I loved about this software, it was easy to follow and understand.

The Business Plan Pro 2005 Premier Edition is loaded with valuable features. When you first start the Business Plan Pro Premier Edition, you are presented with an "easy plan wizard". The wizard guides you every step of the way and provides easy instruction and specific examples.

By asking you certain questions, the wizard sets up an optimal outline of your business concept including plan financials. The wizard takes you through the business planning process in a logical step by step sequence. From the industry and markets to the financial assumptions and break even analysis, you'll be guided every step of the way.

What I liked about the business planning wizard was the ease of use and the specific examples it presented to you. As you go from one section to the next, you are presented with specific examples that you can use and modify to fit your particular needs. Simple hit the edit button and the example shows up on your screen.

Simply edit the text to match that of your own and presto, you have your section. For those of you who are stuck for words, this is a great tool to have. It will cut down on the amount of time you have to spend on each section and will help avoid a lot of confusion.

“Easy Business Plan Set Up”

When you first start up the program, you are presented with the plan set up. The plan set up is designed to ask you a set of questions that will be needed in order to set up your financials and plan outline. The plan set up allows you to set the “tone” of your business plan and is very simple to follow.

Once you decide on an answer, simply hit the next button and your taken to the next screen. If at any time you would like to change your answer, simply go back to that screen. Personally, I find this a very useful tool since it gives you a direction for your business plan.

The plan set up asks you such questions as:

• The amount of detail in the business plan

Some business plan require more detail than others. This feature allows you to add more or less detail according to your business planning needs. Of course, if you choose a less detailed plan, you can always come back and change the information for a more detailed plan.

A more detailed plan includes such items as units-based sales forecast, operating expenses divided into categories, additional income and expense lines in the profit and loss table, cash pilot and many other items.

• Do you want one or two years of monthly financial data included?

Usually, financial forecasts call for one year of projected monthly data. On certain occasions, however, the business plan may call for additional financial monthly data.

This option allows you to go a little further to include two years of monthly projected financial data. If you want this level of detail in your financial data, select yes. By selecting two year financial data, your projections are updated to include:

-General assumptions 2nd year
-Sales forecast 2nd year
-Personnel 2nd year
-Profit and loss 2nd year
-Cash flow 2nd year
-Balance sheet 2nd year
-Cash pilot 2nd year

The charts are also automatically updated to include the projected two year monthly data.

• Quick Books?

If you use Quick Books Pro 2002, Quick Books Premier 2002, Quick Books Premier: Accounting Edition 2002, or newer versions of these products, you can import your Quick Books balances into your plan. A great option if you use these accounting packages.

• Start up or ongoing?

This option allows you to identify whether or not you are a start up company or an existing business. A business plan for a start-up business has requirements that differ from a business plan for an ongoing business. A very important option to have.

• Non profit?

If you are going to start up a non profit company, this is a very important option to have since a nonprofit business is typically focused more on obtaining funding and less on sales of a service or product.

If you choose yes, the financials will be modified to accommodate the "funding" activities of the nonprofit business type. Also, the business plan will be modified to include fund raising activities such as fund raising activities, programs, and forecasts.

• Product, services or both?

The plan set up wizard will ask you if you are selling products, services or both. Once you decide on what you are planning on selling, the plan wizard will set up your plan according to that product or service.

This is a very important option because every industry type is different and quality business planning software must be able to identify different industries and be able to work with that information.

• Inventory?

Do you purchase, receive, or manufacture inventory? If your business involves a lot of inventory than this option can be very important since it will cater to this part of your business.

• Sales on credit?

Does your business operate of credit sales such as net 30, 60 or 90 days. If you business operates on credit sales, your financials will be modified to accommodate sales on credit. Accounts receivable will be added to your balance sheet, sales on credit % will be added to your general assumptions as well as sales on credit.

• Website?

If you plan on implementing a web site for your business, this useful tool will allow you to include a web plan summary, web site marketing strategy, and development requirements.

• Starting date?

This date will be used as your start date for your financial data.

• Standard or long term?

This is a pretty interesting option. This allows you to choose whether or not you want to include the standard 12 months of monthly financial forecasting and two years of yearly projected data or long term settings. The long term settings include an additional two years of forecasting for a total of 5 years.

• Business plan title?

The plan title will display at the top of every printed page. The title will also appear on your cover page. Of course, you can change this at any time.

• Business name and location

This information will be included in your business plan.

At the conclusion of the plan set up, you will be presented with a summary and the business plan software will provide you with what it thinks is the best business classification types.

There are six classifications: Distributor, Manufacturer, Mixed, Nonprofit, Retailer, and Service. The software will choose the most appropriate type based on your answers. Of course, you can change this at any time.

Once the plan is set up according to the type of business you are in, the software generates a format for the rest of your plan. Firstly, you are presented with the “concept kick start”. The “concept kick start”is a basic business assessment. I think this is a great idea because you get a quick assessment of your business plan before you actually start it.

Even for an ongoing business, this allows you to take the time to step away from the business and look at the basics. At this point you get the opportunity to ask yourself, do your business numbers make sense?

Here, you'll establish your objectives, mission, and keys to success. In addition, you'll complete a quick break-even analysis. A great tool that will give you a quick look at the overall viability of your business which is very important.

After the “concept kick start” you get into the nuts and bolts of the actual business plan. You are presented with a format that is organized in the following manner:

• Your Company

Here you'll describe your company ownership, legal establishment, facilities, and basic numbers.

• Your Product or Service

This section gives you the opportunity to describe your product or service. This step in the process is much more important for a plan going to external readers, banks, or investors, than for internal plans. A complete business plan describes what you sell: either products, services, or both.

• Your Market

This section allows you to describe your market. This part of the business plan is very important since it is crucial to properly assess your market and market strategy. The software allows you to divide the market into workable market segments - age, income, product type, geography, buying patterns, customer needs, or other classifications.

• Describe Your Business In More Detail

This section allows you to expand on the description of your business and fit it in with your market analysis.

• Sales Forecast

This section tends to scare people a little. Not too worry, the software will help you through the entire process. I thought this section fit in well because it makes you think a little bit about your business. You have to understand the in's and out's of your business and this section helps bring out the information.

• Marketing Plan

I would have to say that the marketing plan is one of the most crucial elements of your business plan. Up to this point, you have identified your product and market, now you have to find creative ways to attract that market to your place of business. Believe me, it's easier said than done. However, this software helps you every step of the way.

• Your Management Plan

If you plan on using your business plan to help attain financing, this section is of utmost importance. Potential financing partners want to know who is running this operation and what their strengths are.

Expand on the strengths of your management team and have a management plan in place to overcome the weaknesses. This software helps you every step of the way and will provide some helpful hints and insights.

• The Bottom Line

A useful tool that allows you to get an estimate of your financial picture. Here you will estimate your profit and loss. Now, if you're not a math person, don't worry because the software will guide you every step of the way.

At this point you will be asked for any assumptions you may want to present. Don't be intimidated! Assumptions are there to help you clarify any information that you present. For example, let's say you project $75,000 in year one, $100,000 in year two, and $120,000 in year three, the reader wants to know how you came to these figures.

You will state your information here. This section is sort of like a “notes” section that backs up the information you have in your financial plan. Don't worry too much, the software guides you through the entire process.

• Cash Is King

Here you will do an overall cash assessment of your business. Cash is critical to your business and you must have enough of it to carry you through those first six months of operation. Always remember that profits and cash are two separate things. Cash is in the bank, profits are on paper. The software will help you through this very important section.

You will also have the opportunity to complete your balance sheets. I know, these are kind of scary if you don't know what a balance sheet is but don't worry, the software helps you through the entire process.

• The Financial Plan

At this point, you get the opportunity to summarize your financial statements; review your business ratios, and compare them to industry averages.

• Finish And Polish

The Finish and Polish section of the easy plan wizard will walk you through a series of plan topics and a table that summarize the key points of your business plan.

You might need to go back and look at some of the work you've already done before completing these tasks. At this point, you will complete your executive summary and summarize any other information you may need.

After you've completed the above steps, you can view your plan and decide what other “extras” you want. You have the option of converting your business plan to another format such as:

• Word Document
• PDF Document
• Excel Workbook
• Text
• Web Format

What makes the Business Plan Pro Premier Edition such an interesting business planning software is the quality help and support. Every topic in the business planning process comes with complete instructions and examples whenever you need them.

If you find yourself stuck or unsure of something, the wizard provides specific instruction and examples to help you overcome obstacles in the creation of your business plan. Not a math person, not too worry, Business Plan Pro Premier Edition offers powerful tools that does it for you and guides you through every entry. This is the only way to go...

“Financial Projections Made Easy”

If your like a lot of budding entrepreneurs, financial projections may seem a little overwhelming. Don't know what an income statement is? How about a balance sheet? Don't worry, simply plug in your numbers and the software will do all the calculations for you.

Not only does the software do the calculations for you, it explains all the details and methodology behind standard business planning calculations including financial terms. Business Plan Pro Premier Edition offers fully integrated financial and spreadsheet support. This way, you don't have to be an accountant or MBA to fully implement and understand the numbers and what they mean.

I was quite pleased with this powerful feature because it guides the user from start to finish. If you're not a math person, don't worry because the Palo Alto Business Plan Pro Premier Edition will guide your through every step of the way.

“400 + Sample Business Plans”

The Premier Edition software also comes with 400+ sample plans. You will never have to guess what your business plan should look like. Simply take a look at other plans that fit with your business concept.

This is a valuable tool when you are starting your business plan because if you are like 90% of the people out there, you don't know what a completed business plan looks like. If you don't have an idea of what a completed plan looks like, how you going to complete your plan?

The extensive library of plans will allow you to use similar business plans as guides. These plans can be used as examples or they can be edited directly and integrated into your plan. This way you can use existing business plans as templates and use it as a guide to help you write your own plan.

“General Features”

Sample Plans

More than 400 complete sample plans so you don't have to guess what a business plan should look like. Save hours of wasted time and unnecessary headaches by using an existing business plan as a template.

Thousands of Industry Profiles

Thousands of industry profiles so you don't have to guess which profile to choose from.

Marketing Research Tools

Marketing research tools are included so you don't have to sit there and wonder how you are going to put your marketing plan together. A very useful tool.

Industry Data

Industry data is provided so you can gauge your business in terms of the current industry situation. One of the big questions all investors ask is whether or not the industry is growing or declining. It's also very important for the entrepreneur because it can give you an indication of which direction you want to take your business

Venture Capital Database

A very useful addition because you have a contact list of capital venture companies that may be interested in your product or service. This way you don't have to scour the internet looking for potential capital investors. You are that much closer to realizing your business dream by attaining the necessary financing you need for your business.

Building Organizational Charts

Building organizational charts is child's play with this feature. This way you can visually display the organizational structure of your business to potential investors or funding agencies.

Complete Text Editing

You wouldn't believe the amount of spelling errors I get when I review business plans. It's very important that you present your business plan in a professional manner. Once you are done with your business plan, simply hit the text editor and you'll be able to catch spelling mistakes before your investors do.

3D Automatic Charting

Although not an imperative feature, it allows you to reinforce your overall argument.

Complete Excel-like financials

I though this feature was pretty interesting. I'm used to using excel spreadsheets so this kind of gave me a sense of comfort.

Import from QuickBooks Pro and Premier Editions or Newer

If you are using Quick Books software, you can easily import your data into the software. This is a fantastic feature if you are an existing business because you can easily import the data and complete your financial forecasts with ease.

Legal Tools and Resources Provided by Nolo.com

Always a great resource because you can easily refer to this section for some “legal advice”

Funding Tools and Resources

Access to important funding tools and resources.

Plan Activities

The software allows you to easily plan activities. The easy to use interface easily guides you from section to section for easy planning.

Forecasting

This feature allows you to plan and forecast your financial data for up to 5 years. The software will automatically update each year based on your revenue percentages or whatever else you may deem necessary.

"Ask the Experts" Resource

This feature is an absolute must. This feature allows you to get an experts opinion on whether or not your plan is up to par. A great resource to have.

“Special features”

Here are just some of the special features of the Business Plan Pro 2005 Premier Edition:

• Single author planning or;

• Collaborate with a team in creating the plan

• Support authors in multiple locations

• Manage and allocate planning responsibilities

• Track, review and edit by section

• Investment analysis

• Expanded sales forecast

• Expanded personnel planning resources

• Expanded profit and loss statements

• Quarterly Reports

• User Defined Tables

• Import from Excel

• Saving your business plan as a template

• Allows you to import and combine multiple business plans into one

• Advanced cash planning using the Cash Pilot

The Business Plan Pro Premier Edition allows you to work individually or as a team. This feature is especially important if you have multiple members working on the business plan. You can effectively complete your business plan knowing your team is not duplicating work so you don't have to worry about who's doing what.

The Premier Edition also comes with advanced financial spreadsheets. These spread sheets can be used to expand sales forecasts and produce powerful and accurate financial projections. Some of the more complex industries require more than three year projections. It's no problem with this software because you can extend your projections at the touch of a button.

You can import as many spreadsheets as you like. Expanded profit and loss statements allows you the flexibility to create accurate statements.

After you have completed your financial plan, why not have it reviewed by an expert? Simply click the review feature and the plan "expert" will review your financial plan for completeness and accuracy. A very interesting and useful tool.

Overall

Overall, this is a solid business planning software. You'll be hard pressed to find this kind of software anywhere and if you do, it'll cost you a lot more than the asking price of $199.00. The Business Plan Pro 2005 Premier Edition is like having a professional business planning consultant at your beck and call for next to nothing.

Like I said before, professional consultants don't come cheap and compared to the price of $199.00, it is money well spent and saved.

Grade

Highly Recommended - Top Pick

Click here to find out more information

System requirements

Windows® XP, 2000, ME, NT4, 98, 95.
Pentium processor® or comparable recommended.
Free disk space: 120MB typical.
RAM: Operating system minimum requirements





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