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SMART ANSWERS
By Karen E. Klein
FEBRUARY 29, 2000


Yes, You Can Find Good Business-Plan Software

Plenty of options are available, but you'll have to work to make sure your plan doesn't sound canned

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Biz-Plan Software for the Perplexed

Smart Answers Archive


Q:  Any suggestions for an easy-to-use, yet comprehensive program for developing a business plan?
-- L.D., Los Angeles

A:  Writing a business plan doesn't have to be difficult. Free business-plan outlines are offered by office.com, bulletproofbizplans.com, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov). Counselors are on hand at the SBA's small-business development centers or the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Books such as How to Really Create a Successful Business Plan, by David E. Gumpert (Inc. Publishing, $29.95), and Instant Business Plan, by Gustav Berle and Paul Kirschner (Puma Publishing Co., $15.95), feature case studies and other tips. Additional book titles are listed at: www.e-businessplan.com/books.html.

Business-plan software provides interactive templates and automated financial calculations. But be careful: Such programs can result in a canned document that may not reflect your business nor impress potential investors. So start with software, and then personalize it to make the plan your own. Popular software titles include Business Plan Pro($89.85 at www.businessplanpro.com) and Automate Your Business Plan ($80 at www.business-plan.com).

If you're looking for investors, consider hiring a professional business-planning consultant -- someone who specializes in startups. To find one, get local referrals, do an Internet search, or contact an agency like National Consultant Referrals at referrals.com. "Home-grown or boilerplate plans won't fly with VC firms," says Barbara Lewis, president of Westwood (Calif.)-based Centurion Consulting, which charges from $5,000 to $30,000 to consult with you and write your business plan. But you needn't spend that much. E-businessplan.com, for example, advertises custom business plans for as low as $2,500.



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