Business Reviews

Palo Alto Software LivePlan Review: Business Plan Software

LivePlan from Palo Alto Software will help you flesh out a realistic business plan - Read our Full Review with Pros & Cons
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Having a great business idea is the start of any successful venture, but there is a lot of work between an idea, and your first profitable quarter. LivePlan from Palo Alto Software is a purpose-built platform that will help you take just about any business concept and flesh out a realistic business plan.

The vast majority of businesses will require at least some amount of outside investment. That could take on the form of a partnership, an investment from a Venture Capital company, or a simple old bank loan. No matter what kind of support you are looking for, your young company will need to have something on paper to back up your vision and goals.

Putting together a business plan might sound simple enough, but it takes a lot of effort just to get to the point where you will have all the information that a potential investor would want to see.

That is where LivePlan from Palo Alto enters the picture. LivePlan is built to help you put together a solid business plan, and a whole lot more.

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What is LivePlan?

If you are looking for an all-in-one business planning software that will be affordable for just about any business (or start-up) Palo Alto’s LivePlan is one of the best options your business has. Priced at just $19.95 per month, with discounts for annual purchases, and a free trial plan, the platform is all but perfect for businesses of any size.

The platform that Palo Alto designed is set up for companies that are just getting started or have already created a working business. It offers integration with industry-standard accounting platforms QuickBooks and Xero, though it won’t allow you to import information directly from a spreadsheet.

LivePlan

LivePlan isn’t the only business planning software out there, but it is certainly one that you should consider if your business needs to get a professional plan together, or is just getting set up.

Let’s take a look at what the cloud-based platform does, and why it has been chosen by so many SMEs as their go-to business planning software.

Get Started With LivePlan

Despite all the customization options that LivePlan features, the platform is very easy to use and straightforward. Workflow on the platform is based on choosing templates for your business plan and then responding to prompts that the software provides for you.

If you are still wondering where your business idea might fit, don’t worry.

LivePlan has a questionnaire that will help you to find the right place for your business to develop its market. The questions you answer will help the platform to find the right kind of business plan template, and also give you some idea of where your business could operate successfully.

Perfect for a New Venture

We know how much pressure you need to confront when starting up a new business in a market that is getting more competitive. There are loads of great ideas out there, and you need to get noticed.

Look around and you’ll see how many startups have survived and been successful over time. It is definitely not a huge number, While some are able to grow, most are out of the game within three years.

The fact is that new ventures never fail to amaze us with new wonderful ideas, but there’s a big difference between having a great idea and turning it ideas into a successful business, and of course, keeping the business going each year.

Small Business

That being said, it’s helpful to have a set of instructions that you can follow at the beginning to help you understand how business works and how your decisions your entire business image. LivePlan helps you develop business plans that range from start-ups to strategic marketing to funding plans.

If you’re not sure which form of strategy is better, this program will help you decide if you need funding or an investment plan and then provide models for each situation.

Ready to Work With Existing Businesses

Even a successful business can have problems as it works to adapt to a changing economy. Let’s say you’ve been running your business for a long time. At some point, it may encounter problems that require outside help.

These challenges can come from accounting, customer demands or even conflicts arising between co-workers. LivePlan can make it less struggling to find solutions to business challenges your company may face.

The platform’s scope is wide, with high-level strategic planning, full business plans, financial modeling, benchmarking, and dashboard reporting, which compares predictions to real accounting information.

With software assistance, a small business owner can think through a detailed strategic plan and then uses plan versus actual data to measure performance, identify issues and keep track of the company.

Business Plan

LivePlan: A Platform with Loads of Features

Business planning is a key element for any successful entrepreneur.

Let’s face the facts: business planning can be a hassle. Not planning your business would be like packing up for the trip without a destination in your mind. You aren’t going to go anywhere, and if you manage to get your project off the ground, it won’t last long without a solid plan.

Planning your business is critical but instead of opting for a traditional business plan, LivePlan replaces it with a planning process that works much better, and ensures that you spend less time on planning and focus on building your business: Lean Planning.

It is probably much easier to go with lean plan than a traditional business plan, whether you’re a startup or you already own a business. The Lean Planning methodology developed by LivePlan is a powerful tool for assisting you as your business grows and needs to develop a smooth and efficient business management system.

Pitch

The first step for any business is to build up an understanding of the business model that will get you off the ground.

For that reason, LivePlan offers you a clear explanation of the target customers, marketing and sales activities that your company may be able to reach. The platform can help your company find a fit for a product or service offering with a simple one-page business plan, starting with a pitch.

A pitch is a presentation of a business venture to potential investors. People need to pitch a business as they need resources, and they need to do it quickly.

The pitch target is an investor if the goal is to raise startup cash. Many companies are marketing their services to potential customers and a pitch is a great way to start finding investors to back your ideas.

Example Business Plan
An Example Pitch

Another way to use LivePlan Pitch is to attract talented people who you want to collaborate with you in your business.

You may need a partner or other human resource to help fulfill your mission, so having a ready-to show document is a wonderful thing to demonstrate what you’re building and why your potential partners should join in.

In addition to presenting your business idea to your team or investors, a pitch can be used in order to test out the effectiveness of business strategy.

If you have an idea but you’re not entirely sure it’s going to work, filling out a pitch document in LivePlan will give you a sense of whether or not your business concept will be able to proceed.

Easy to Use

With LivePlan Pitch, you can easily craft and update your pitch at any time so you can follow the development of your business, and see if it is in-line with the pitch you created.

The ability to easily create a one-page business pitch is no doubt a noticeable feature, however, if you prefer a more traditional style, LivePlan can help you write a detailed multiple-page business plan document.

Once you complete your pitch (no matter what kind you choose), LivePlan can export your key business strategy, competition, financial insights, team and resources to a professional PowerPoint version, which will be ready for a solid presentation.

Plan

Have you ever struggled with the idea of starting your new business, but you come up with no clue how the business will play out in the real world?

LivePlan proves that you don’t need a business background to build your own empire, the platform will present to you every aspect of a business and have your plan completed with help from the software itself. Once you’re done creating your business pitch, you’ll then receive step-by-step instructions on how to go further.

LivePlan has everything a startup needs to fill the gaps at the beginning of a business. The platform itself is much more than a tool to build a simple business plan. LivePlan has a handful of valuable tools on the business planning side of things that are built into their system.

Tell Your Story Visually
Tell Your Story Visually

You can create a more in-depth plan with fill-in-the-blank forms once you have created your one-page plan within the program.

Writing a business plan is never an easy task, particularly for those who’ve never crafted one before. This part of the process may take you a lot of time to consider which elements should be in your business plan and to ensure that you don’t miss anything important.

Real World Capabilities

Fortunately, LivePlan provides more than 500 plan samples and examples, giving you plenty to choose from in terms of setting out your company specifics.

Plus, these forms come in SBA-approved formats, making it easy if you need to build documents for SBA loans. From auto insurance business to dentist clinics, LivePlan gives you the ability to search real sample contents for any kind of business.

Another great thing that sets LivePlan apart from most of the other business software programs is team collaboration. The platform allows you to add multiple users, such as your team or business partners so they can get access to your business plan or make adjustments.

But if you don’t want to permit others to modify the business plan, it’s no big deal, they can just send suggestions without altering content through a comments tab.

Forecast

The role of financial forecasting is a critical step in business planning.

A financial forecast is an assessment of a company’s future financial results. In addition to external business and economic indicators, a financial forecast is the best estimate of what will happen to a company financially over a given period of time, using historical internal accounting and revenue statistics.

The theoretical assumptions and expectations of the forecaster will also be used to predict future growth rates and possible events impacting the figures on a financial statement. While no forecast is perfect, forecasts are a vital part of any business.

Create Financial Forecasts
Create Financial Forecasts

LivePlan has financial calculators and software for automated evaluation of plans. You can enter or import your financial information manually from your accounting program, such as QuickBooks, and LivePlan can calculate your financial projections automatically for up to five years in the future.

Figures and Graphics

The business plan program can also generate graphs that display your financials visually and then directly enter them into your business plan. The “what if” type questions that the platform provides have an impact on your forecast and it will give you further information in case you need to plan for potential market changes.

With LivePlan, you don’t have to worry about all the work that goes with making complicated tablets or equations in Excel. LivePlan guides you step-by-step through the process of creating powerful financial statements that you need for your business plan, even if you have no previous business knowledge.

Graphs
Create graphs and charts

Although finances aren’t the only thing that matter, a thorough and reliable sales forecast also plays a huge role in your business, and how it might attract talent or investors. Additionally, your company’s sales estimates will also be a vital tool for planning your spending budget.

Whether you want to open up a restaurant, a gaming software business or a wine company, LivePlan can make sales forecasting a piece of cake. This feature can also work for existing businesses by linking your accounting software to LivePlan. A sales forecast can then be created automatically.

Dashboard

It’s important to know your goals and see your business development in real-time. The company dashboard of LivePlan offers you the information you need in an easy-to-understand format and gives you the bird’s eye view that makes the decision-making process easier.

The Liveplan Dashboard
The Liveplan Dashboard

LivePlan Dashboard feature can be incredibly helpful to map all your financial patterns in one place, so you can gain insights into how the business is performing in the real world and lets you dig into aspects of the business that may not be working out.

The platform allows you to:

  • swap between the current fiscal year or your forecast projections
  • track income and expenses
  • progress towards financial goals

All of these features remove a time-consuming and tedious process to track revenue and expenditures with a budget, past results, and additional data.

LivePlan makes it simple: synchronize your LivePlan accounting information with QuickBooks or Xero and you will receive all the reports you need to see with a single click. Not only that, historical cash flow will be used to help predict when and if a shortage of operational capital is going to occur in the future.

With the benchmarking tool, you can see how well your business is going compared to the competition. From this in-depth perspective, it’s easier for you to make any business decisions and work to reach your goals.

Dashboard Info
The Dashboard has easy access to everything you need

Instead of simply providing the accounting system with the same old financial reports, it makes sense to offer a visual overview that will inspire some team storytelling.

Plus, if you use your dashboard to periodically update your plan, your company might be working quicker than your rivals with potentially effective strategies.

If you have trouble writing your strategy, you can approach an experienced planner to assist with issues such as market analysis, tactical planning, and financial forecasting. LivePlan offers financial benchmarks for more than 1000 business markets.

The Bottom Line

Creating a compelling business plan is one of the most important parts of starting a business and attracting investors.

New ventures and existing businesses have to deal with this challenge. We all know it’s necessary, but we don’t know where to start. LivePlan fills in most of the gaps in the business planning process and automates it to a degree that wasn’t possible a decade ago.

Because LivePlan is cloud-based, you don’t have to worry about what kind of computers your company has, or if they will be able to accommodate any sort of software.

The only thing that LivePlan might need to improve is the lack of options to import financial data from spreadsheets. It only offers the ability to import financial data from QuickBooks or Xero at present. This might be a turn off for major companies, as they like to have control over all the data.

LivePlan Makes Sense for Many Businesses

Overall, LivePlan is an outstanding platform.

LivePlan offers instructional videos and text descriptions of what needs to be done throughout the creation process of the business plan. In addition, its free blog has hundreds of articles on topics related to business planning, you don’t have to get concerned about how to use it.

Starting with LivePlan is quite simple, by going to their website and signing up for either their month-to-month, six-month or annual plan, you’re ready. If you feel unsatisfied with the platform, you are covered with a 60-day money-back guarantee, no matter what program you sign up to use.

LivePlan provides you with access to the newest market analysis and business trends. It also provides step-by-step assistance and guidance on where to find financial support, making it one of the best choices available to write business plans and keep track of how a business is performing over time.

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LivePlan

9

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Fees

9.0/10

Reputation

9.0/10

Customer Support

9.0/10

Design

9.0/10

Pros

  • Simple, Easy to Use
  • Customizable Templates Provided
  • Import Data from Platforms like QuickBooks and Xero
  • Well Designed
  • Huge Range of Features

Cons

  • Requires Internet Connection
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Nicholas is an experienced Finance Journalist who has written for a number of prominent online publications. He grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a father that would read him the Wall St. Journal along side of other bed-time fare. He has traveled extensively, and been lucky enough to study a changing global economy in person. Nicholas spent many years in the Southern Cone of South America, sometimes in the middle of the countryside where livestock starts its journey to all points of the globe. Today he is thoroughly bemused with the stance that Central Banks have taken in the wake of the 2008 meltdown. There is no telling what will come out of the global financial system next, but he is glad that he lives somewhere that gold can be bought and sold readily! nick@moneycheck.com

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