Business Plan Pro Premier Edition Review
From: Palo Alto Software, Inc.
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
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.
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.
-General assumptions 2nd year
The charts are also automatically updated to include the projected two year monthly data.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 startis 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cash Is King
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
The software allows you to easily plan activities. The easy to use interface easily guides you from section to section for easy planning.
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.
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
Expanded sales forecast
Expanded personnel planning resources
Expanded profit and loss statements
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.
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, 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.
Highly Recommended - Top Pick
Windows® XP, 2000, ME, NT4, 98, 95.