When starting a new business, one of the most important things to develop is an effective business plan. This business plan will guide your new company through all your activities through many years of sales.
These business plans can be quite intimidating to make if you have never written one before, and it is important to keep them organized so that they are easy to refer back to and present to other people.
One of the best ways to organize a business plan is with a software that is specifically designed for this purpose. There are many on the market right now that offer services such as financial planning, business presentation guides, and more.
In this article, we’re focusing specifically on cloud-based business planning software, which uses online storage to manage data, helping keep more space on your computer free.
We’ll specifically be comparing LivePlan and Enloop, two of the top cloud-based business plan softwares, as well as SBA Business Plan, which is an easy-to-use free service that creates basic business plans.
Best Business Plan Software: LivePlan
While both LivePlan and Enloop have great features that make them useful for planning your business, we recommend LivePlan because of its great range of features. With LivePlan, you get an extensive amount of guidance when putting together your plan, and there are also plenty of sample plans to refer back to during this process. It is also very user-friendly and comes with great customer support.
What features should you look for in a business planning software?
When choosing a business planning software, there are certain features that you should look for when shopping. These include:
- Financial planning: This is one of the most important features you should consider when buying a business planning software. You’ll want a feature that can help you put together your financial projections for several years in advance, just by plugging in basic statistics about your product and your sales model.
- Charts and visual features: It is crucial that your business plan is presentation-ready, so the software should make it easy to add charts, diagrams, and images to your business plan.
- Sample plans/guidance: Additionally, it is very helpful when putting together a business plan to have samples to refer to throughout the process, or some sort of tool that guides you through step-by-step. The ideal business planning software should help you along every step of the way.
|Cost||$140/yr if paid annually or $19.95/mo. if paid monthly||$132/yr if paid annually or $19.95/mo. if paid monthly||Free|
|Industry Samples||500+ samples||None||None, but few examples sprinkled throughout|
|Easy to Build Financial Projections||Yes (up to 5 year projections)||Yes (up to 3 year projections)||No (manual input)|
|Business Plan Can be Easily Shared||Yes (unlimited recipients)||Yes (up to 5 recipients in Advanced edition)||No.|
|Business Plan Can be Easily Customized||Yes||Yes, but limited.||No.|
|Customer Service||Phone, email, and live chat support||Email support (only in Advanced edition)||No.|
|For More Information||www.LivePlan.com||www.Enloop.com||www.SBA.gov|
Why We Recommend LivePlan
LivePlan is specifically designed to support small businesses, with intuitive features that really address the needs that these young, up-and-coming companies are facing. It was developed by Palo Alto Software, which has created many online business plan services in the past and has now expanded to create this cloud-based software program.
It has easy-to-use features that allow you to input basic information about your business and create an effective plan quickly, so you can get your business started more quickly.
We particularly love LivePlan because it has such a great range of features that other services simply don’t offer.
It gives you step-by-step help and advice while going through the process of making your business plan, so if you get stumped, you’ll know how to push forward. You’ll fill in guided information about your business to create an effective business plan that will not only keep you on track, but will also be very easy to pitch to investors.
LivePlan also comes with a huge range of sample plans to browse through, which is something that really helps it stand out from the competition. It’s easy to find a business plan that is similar to what you want to achieve, which is perfect for helping you get started.
The software also provides tons of small examples throughout the planning process, so you’ll always have an idea of what to enter.
The financials feature for LivePlan is very easy-to-use, even for the financial newbie. All you have to do is input some basic information about your business, and the software will put together projections spanning up to five years. You can also put together financials on a product-by-product basis, which is a feature that is very unique to this program.
Finally, LivePlan makes it very simple to track your businesses’ progress. The software has a very intuitive dashboard that gives you detailed reports on many different aspects of your performance. It is designed to easily integrate with QuickBooks and Zero, so you don’t have to spend time inputting any information.
This is one area that might be considered LivePlan’s downside – it is slightly more expensive than many comparable products on the market. However, the sheer number of features it provides makes the expense well worth it.
If you sign up for a year, the cost is $11.66 per month, which is billed once annually at a cost of $140. If you prefer a month-to-month plan, the cost is $19.95 per month. The yearly plan provides the best deal, particularly because this is the type of software that you will want to use over a long period of time.
The thing we love the most about LivePlan is that it is designed to address the concerns of a small business owner throughout the planning process. The huge library of examples and guided templates take all of the guesswork out of creating a business plan, and it is very easy to customize to fit your personal needs.
The software is also designed so that you can easily work on it as a team. Multiple users can edit the plan, and you can send the finished result to as many recipients as you would like.
We also love LivePlan because it is very visually appealing, with great graphics and design. It nixes the complex and potentially confusing spreadsheet model for colorful charts and graphs that are easy to read.
The business plan templates also have plenty of room for images and other graphics, and use professional and appealing text. You’ll choose from ten different templates to suit your brand image.
The LivePlan annual subscription gets you access to tons of resources that are amazing for helping small businesses, such as ebooks and other helpful content. The team behind LivePlan, Palo Alto Software, are extremely dedicated to making sure that small businesses succeed, and work to provide as much help as possible for all of their users.
LivePlan also comes with very helpful customer support via phone and email, as well as live chat.
There’s not much we don’t like about LivePlan. The only potential negative for some users would be the price, particularly if you are trying to work on a very tight budget. However, we still believe that the features are well worth what you pay for them.
The software also does require an internet connection to use, so you cannot work on the go, but this is standard for cloud software.
Overall, we highly recommend this business plan software for all types of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Enloop is LivePlan’s biggest competitor in the cloud business plan software realm. Based out of San Francisco, Enloop is designed to provide many of the same services to small businesses and entrepreneurs that LivePlan does.
However, Enloop is a better fit for those who are on a budget and just need basic software planning. It does not have as many features as LivePlan does, and it is not as user-friendly.
There are many features of Enloop that we like. Like LivePlan, it provides you with a template for your business plan that you can customize with your own language as well as images and charts. It has text pop-ups that appear throughout the planning process to help you stay on track with your business plan.
Enloop also can generate up to three years’ worth of financial data and forecasting for your business. It asks you to fill out a basic form detailing your company’s current finances, including sales, expenses, and other factors, and it can generate spreadsheets and graphs to help you accurately plan for the future.
It also supports many different currencies, making it an internationally friendly software.
Enloop also makes it easy to share the business plan with colleagues, and you can also invite other team members to work on it. You can easily invite an unlimited number of people to view or edit the business plans through their email.
You can also easily convert your business plan to a PDF, so you can conveniently print it out and bring it to meetings.
One of the most unique features that Enloop offers is its unique Enloop Performance Score and report card. This feature takes into account all of the information that you’ve put into your business plan and grades it on its predictive effectiveness, so you’ll know if your business is set for success or if you need to make some changes.
The Enloop Performance Score is available on-screen as you are editing your business plan, while the report card is put together after your plan is complete.
Enloop is ideal for customers who want a range of features, but are on a tight budget. There is a free version of Enloop, which provides the simplest versions of all the features listed above.
There are then three tiers of pricing: basic, advanced, and professional, all of which offer both yearly and monthly payment options. The basic package is $72 annually or $9.95 per month. The advanced package is $132 annually or $19.95 per month. The professional package is $288 annually or $39.95 per month.
Like LivePlan, it makes the most sense to purchase an annual package to save money. Enloop’s pricing scheme makes it easy to decide how many features you really want to pay for, which is better for many small businesses that are on a budget.
The professional plan provides the best features, with live phone support, unlimited business plan creation, unlimited sharing, and the most detailed financial reports. However, this is much more expensive than LivePlan’s pricing scheme, which offers similar features for a much cheaper price.
Although there are many features that we like about Enloop, in many ways it just doesn’t quite stack up to LivePlan. It does not have the same customizable templates that LivePlan does, so you can’t choose a specific look for your plan to fit with your businesses’ brand image or industry.
Additionally, Enloop does not have sample plans. This can make it more difficult to put together a business plan, because you do not have a specific example to work from. Although Enloop does have guidance throughout the process of putting together your plan, it is not as extensive as LivePlan’s, which can make things a bit difficult for the total business newbie.
Although Enloop does have affordable pricing packages, you cannot create unlimited plans or share your plans with unlimited users if you do not have the professional package. This package is fairly expensive, and may not be realistic for all small businesses. This severely limits the functionality of the software.
Professional users are also the only users who get full live chat customer support. This can be frustrating for other users who may encounter issues while using the software, as the only option for communication is a contact form on the website.
SBA Business Plan Tool – Basic Affordable Planning
This is a free online planning tool that is offered by the Small Business Administration, which is a government agency that provides many resources to small business owners. If you have experience with creating a business plan and are able to make one without additional help or examples, this tool is a good way to save money.
Although there isn’t much guidance offered by this service, it does come with a step-by-step guide that walks you through each aspect of a business plan. There are also a few examples to look at for inspiration, although nowhere near as many examples as LivePlan offers.
Once you’ve read the plan and feel comfortable with the concept of a business plan, you enter all of the necessary information into a template. This then creates a PDF document, which is easy to print out or email to others for sharing purposes. This information is also stored online through your account, so it is very easy to go back and edit the business plan as necessary.
The SBA Business Plan tool is completely free. This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to save money and is already familiar with the ins and outs of creating a business plan.
Overall, this tool just lacks the features that LivePlan and Enloop have for putting your business plan together. It does not have the same level of guidance or examples to use, and the template is not customizable. You cannot change the fonts or add charts and pictures. Overall, it is not as visually appealing as other business plan software.
Additionally, this tool does not have automatic calculation software for your finances, so you have to enter in all of your calculations yourself. This can make things very difficult if you do not have experience with accounting, or if you just don’t have very much time to put together your business plan.
The SBA business plan tool also does not have any customer support. If you have issues with the software, there is no one that you can get in contact with to ask for help.
There is also no easy way to collaborate with others while creating a business plan, so it is not an effective choice for those who need to create a business plan as part of a team.
Other Options for Creating A Business Plan
There are a few other choices that you have when it comes to creating a business plan that you may want to consider. Many businesses choose to hire a freelancer who specializes in business plans to create one for them. This can be done through online freelance platforms or just by networking in your local community.
Although you may get a slightly more personalized approach by using a business plan professional, it is generally much more expensive and therefore not the best choice for a business on a budget.
There are also many other business plan software options on the market that you may want to consider. Some of these software options are downloadable, and some of them are cloud options like we have discussed here in this article. BizPlan, Business Plan Pro, and PlanMagic are other popular software options.
If you need marketing planning services as well, there are also many software options that provide this service as well. A marketing planning software may be a better option for you if you want to focus more on how you are going to reach out to your customers instead of financial planning and pitching to investors.
Overview: LivePlan vs. Enloop vs. SBA Business Plan
LivePlan does have a yearly or monthly fee structure that can be somewhat costly for new businesses, but you get amazing bang for your buck with the number of features that it offers.
Enloop has affordable business plans that provide a solid number of helpful features, which is a good choice for a business on a budget. However, their professional plan is double the cost of LivePlan, but does not have any standout features to offer.
SBA Business Plan is completely free, but does not offer the same level of features that either LivePlan or Enloop does.
LivePlan offers an unparalleled amount of guidance, making it ideal for anyone that needs help creating a business plan. With video and written examples throughout the process, as well as a huge library of sample plans to browse, you’ll never be at a loss for what to say next in your plan.
Enloop offers some guidance in the form of text advice, but does not have any sample plans. However, they do have a unique grading feature that lets you know how effective your plan will be.
SBA Business Plan comes with step-by-step instructions on how to fill the template out, plus three example plans to take a look at.
LivePlan offers the most user-friendly financial planning options, which makes it ideal for those who do not have experience with accounting or finances. There are no spreadsheets – the program asks you a few questions about your company’s current finances and generates up to 5-year projections in an appealing chart format.
Enloop offers a similar function that provides projections for up to three years, and it also has detailed financial analytics for professional users.
The SBA Business Plan offers financial planning for up to three years as well, but the numbers must be manually put into a spreadsheet.
LivePlan offers a wide range of customer service options, including phone, email, and live chat support.
Enloop only offers an online customer service form to fill out, unless you are a professional member, in which case you get access to online live support.
SBA Business Plan does not offer any customer support options.
LivePlan offers the most extensive customization options out of the three services. You can choose from ten templates when putting together your business plan, and you can also add pictures, change fonts, and insert graphs and charts that the software helps you put together.
Enloop offers similar customization options, but they don’t have multiple templates to choose from. They also don’t have as many options for fonts and graphs.
SBA Business Plan offers only one template to work from.
Our Final Thoughts: LivePlan Is The Best Business Planning Software
Overall, we think LivePlan is the best business planning software for most entrepreneurs and small businesses. It provides great value for money with incredibly user-friendly features and great customer service.
Enloop has good affordable business planning packages for businesses on a budget that still need some guidance when putting together a plan.
SBA Business Plan is ideal for the experienced business planner who wants to save money.
Have you ever written a business plan? What are your challenges? Share with us!