The first step on the road to building a successful startup is to develop a solid business plan. This document should outline your plan for growth over the next three to five years, according to the US Small Business Administration. Your business plan is important in attracting investors so that you don’t need to fully fund your dream with credit cards or loans from family and friends.
Documenting every aspect of your business is a daunting prospect, but there are business plan apps and software that can make the process a little easier. Here are a few to consider.
1. The Small Business Administration Business Plan Tool
According to the SBA, creating a clear business plan that identifies what makes your business special is one of the most important steps for a start-up. There is a long way to go and knowing where to start is often a challenge.
Using a generic plan template helps you focus your thinking by making it easier to define important aspects of your business, including management structure, product lines, sales strategies, and financial projections. SCORE, a nonprofit created to help small businesses get started, offers free templates.
The SBA goes further by offering its free online business plan tool. You start by creating an account, then the tool guides you step by step through the creation of your plan. All content is secure and you have the flexibility to update your plan whenever needed, which is important as your business grows and adapts. You can save your plan as a PDF file for easy distribution.
2. Premier Business Plan
Cost: $ 9.99
Business Plan Premier is an iPad application from AppIt Ventures LLC. It provides functionality to organize your ideas into a logically formatted business plan. The interface divides the outline into sections which you can access from a list of tabs on the side of the screen. Selecting a tab brings up a series of questions, edit boxes, and instructions to create a detailed and cohesive plan. Each edit box also has an “example” button, which displays a complete example of what the content in that section should include.
When you’re done, you have the option of exporting your plan as a formatted PDF or Word document for emailing to investors and partners. You can also upload your plan to Dropbox.
Cost: $ 19.95 per month; $ 11.66 per month if you choose to pay annually
One of the biggest hurdles when writing a business plan is providing all the necessary information in a structured format that investors and potential business partners can access immediately. Various apps and software applications make it easy to organize your thoughts, but don’t necessarily focus on the most important aspects of your business, making it harder to define what sets you apart.
LivePlan from Palo Alto Software Inc. is a web-based subscription service with sliding monthly fees. The service maintains the simplicity of “filling in the blanks” of many other programs, but also provides access to over 500 business plan templates and examples to create a plan that accurately defines your business structure and goals.
After creating a new business, you have the option of using LivePlan Pitch to create a one-page summary of your strategy before developing your plan by following a series of steps with the ability to customize the sections. LivePlan manages financial projections, generating charts based on your data without the need for spreadsheets and formulas. The tool’s Benchmarks system allows you to use actual data from competitors to see how your plan compares. Once your business is up and running, the LifePlan dashboard tracks your accounting information.
It’s important to read the terms and conditions of any application or software platform you are considering to be sure you understand the costs and if it’s right for you. You can also verify the services by reading reviews online or by viewing a specific business on the Better Business Bureau website.
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.