For years, it’s been nothing more than an idea, but now the time is right to take your dream of running your own business from wishful thinking to reality. The first step the business plan, is the most crucial. As we tell you in our series on business plans (see “Smooth Operator,” Enterprise, this issue), a plan is a living document that details the expected growth, revenues and scope of your business. Where do you start? Knowing what should be included in the plan is difficult to decide, especially for novices.
However, with the help of Business Resource Software Inc.’s Plan Write Expert Edition 5.0, even a novice can create a professional, well- presented business plan. Like many similar applications, Plan Write 5.0 walks you through a business plan, but that’s where the similarities end. Not merely a fill-in-the-blanks template, it analyzes your plan and provides advice on marketing strategy to aid your plan and your business.
Plan Write forgoes the fill-in-the-blanks format for a question and answer session; the results are used to create the plan. The over 60 questions that a prospective business owner must answer forces the user to consider meaningful and useful business issues. Questions about the life cycle of your particular market (i.e., untapped, mature or declining) and the reliability of your channels of distribution go beyond the building of a business plan to the real life concerns of running a business.
First, the program asks if you’d like to do a preliminary analysis of your plan. The answers to questions pertaining to unit cost and expected sales are then presented in a chart which shows whether the business will be profitable in its first year. Variables such as cost per unit and retail price can be changed to generate an earlier break- even point. Once you get into the meat of the program, it tests your knowledge of your market by asking questions about competitors’ offerings, their quality, perception in the marketplace and potential for creating an advantage by employing various marketing strategies. The majority of the questions are answered on a sliding scale of 1-10. The program instructs you to answer either in an aggressively optimistic or aggressively pessimistic manner since noncommittal answers will yield a noncommittal analysis of your potential for success. The program interface breaks the plan into six sections that are then integrated into the final plan:
- Text: The input section of the program prompts you to answer questions about your business, products, competition and customers. This section will tell you whether or not you’ve done your homework. Be prepared to provide a description of your product, the current market status, its value to the consumer, cost to produce, and maintenance and support. But the program doesn’t stop there. You’ll be asked to provide information on everything from access to distribution of your product to technological, demographic, governmental and economic trends that may affect your product or service. Consider this section a prep for the inquisition you’ll have to weather from potential investors