You have your excellent business idea ready to go. Now you need funding. So the next step is to create an investor ready business plan. There is the hard way to do this and there is the easy way. You’ve decided to make things easy and sign up for LivePlan. This guide will walk you through quickly setting up your account and creating your first investor ready business plan.
LivePlan is safe and secure. There are over 500 sample plans and templates. You can access it anywhere, from any device (as well as allow your team to work on the plan with you). You can also integrate your LivePlan business plan with QuickBooks, for really easy financials. And Tim Berry’s “Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan” ebook is included with your subscription.
Step 1. Signing Up
- Go to LivePlan. Click on either the green “Start your business plan” button or the “Sign Up” link. Fill in your contact information.
- LivePlan will confirm that your data is not a duplicate of someone else’s as you enter your information.
- Enter your credit card information, including your zip code or postal code, and your three-digit security number (found on the back of your credit card).
- Press the green “Get Started” button in the next screen that opens up.
- Download your free ebook (bottom right corner): Then make a note of the Help phone number and times, and finally click on the green “New Plan” button.
Step 2. Preparing to Build Your Plan
You’ll build your plan around what author Tim Berry calls the “core” – market, identity and focus. This will help you create a dynamic, active plan – not a “ponderous document” that is guaranteed to put your investors to sleep. Yet it will contain all the hard data you need.
You will love planning with LivePlan, whose aim is to help you “keep it simple and practical”.
Before you go any further, take the time to read Berry’s ebook. If you’re in a hurry, go to Page 14 and treat the three points he makes as an exercise: Brainstorm and write down your core competencies and focus.
Step 3. Getting Started
Once you’ve read through the book (which is not a long read at all) and done your preliminary brainstorming, return to your LivePlan screen and continue creating your first Business Plan, using the easy Wizard.
- Name your plan, indicating whether or not it is for a new business.
For our purposes here, we are going to create a simple Start-up Plan.
- You may find it easier to start by selecting “Strategy” – though jumping immediately to your financials is also an option.
- The next frame that opens up presents a myriad of options. Don’t let this throw you. What the Chapter Set-up Page does is allow you to work organically.
You can add, remove, re-order or rename the sections shown on the Chapter Set-up page.
This interface allows you to work in whatever way works best for your methods of processing information. It also allows you to organize your chapters.
You can jump straight to:
- Your Pitch
- Your Plan
- Your Schedule
- A Scoreboard – all using the horizontal tabs at the top of the interface.
If you want to manage your Users, simply click on the anchor text at the top right.
- We are going to create our sample Start-up Plan in a chronological, linear fashion, beginning at the beginning.
Select “Cover Page” up in your horizontal menus: Then click the green “Get Started” button.
- Enter your contact information and other cover page data; then press “Save Changes”.
Be sure to keep the radio button checked in the yellow Table of Contents box, if you want to include a fluid TOC, which will grow or shrink as your document does.
- Once you’ve saved your changes, you won’t see any sort of prompt as to what to do next. Simply go up to the top-left area of your screen, and click on the “Plan” tab, to return to your Chapter Set-up overview.
- Next, write your Executive Summary. Remember Chapter 14? It’s broken down, section by section, into an easy-input Executive Summary creation tool here. If you made any notes, now is the time to copy-paste them into your sections.
Just click on “Go to this section” within the “Who We Are” field
- Confirm your selection.
- Type or copy-paste in your data.
It’s a good idea to open a simple text-editor such as Notepad, and copy-paste sections back and forward to your business plan Wizard entry fields. Keep referring to the left-hand menu for prompts as to what information should go in each field.
Don’t worry about putting the “wrong” information in each field. You can always move text around by copying and cutting your text, selecting sections in the left-hand, vertical menu; then inserting your clipboard text.
You may also decide – at any time – to include a section detailing what your business is not, in order to narrow the focus for your market. These differences should be limited only to key discrepancies that might affect your investors’ decisions; not minor ones. They should dis-qualify specific elements in your potential target market.
Don’t be afraid to use specific industry terms – this shows you know what you’re talking about – but do avoid jargon and “filler” phrases, whenever possible.
Be clear and direct.
Also be sure to proof carefully as you go. While LivePlan will underline obvious spelling mistakes, just as MS Word does, it doesn’t catch such errors as a missing initial capital letter in titles.
- Once you’ve finished, pressed the green “I’m Done” button. You’ll immediately be able to see how your text will look as a finished product.
Note you can easily edit anything you want to check, simply by pressing the “Edit” button. (Tip: Single-space your sentences to avoid unwanted indents.)
- When you’re finished editing (or if it’s fine, the way it is) press “Go to Next Section”.
Repeat this process with the next section; and the next – all the way through the left-hand vertical menu – to complete your Executive Summary.
Pay particular attention to the tips contained within the “Instruction” area above the textarea box (highlighted in orange).
Note also that you can apply common formatting commands to your text from the format bar – as well as add images.
Step 4. Adding Images
You can go back to any section at any time and add an image as easily as you add them to Facebook posts, or to your blog – in much the same way. Simply press “Add an image” in the formatting bar above the textarea box…
You’ll be prompted to upload your image. You can either do so from your hard drive, or simply drag-and-drop your image from an open file or from your desktop into the image area.
Resize or align your image as you wish. Click the green “Insert Image” button when you are satisfied.
Once you press the button, you’ll see your image nicely positioned within your document.
As you go through each section, be sure to pay attention to the “Instructions” box. In addition to tips for creating the most effective text, you will sometimes also find helpful video instruction from Tim Berry.
Step 5. Your Progress
Every section is as easy as the one before – even the financial data (which many people dread tackling). LivePlan does all the calculation and formatting for you. All you have to do is input your raw data and add it to your forecast or chart, one piece at a time.
Notice you can check a preview at any time. (Remember to press the “I’m Done” button when you’re finished entering data!)
It’s painlessly easy to create charts, tables and forecasts. You can even connect directly to QuickBooks to integrate your data without having to manually input it.
Scheduling – This is a wonderful feature, of which you can take full advantage. Your LivePlan Business Plan is a fluid, active document; and as your business progresses, you can refer to your Schedule and add achievements and Milestones.
Your schedule can be a wonderful tool for making sure you proceed on track and on time.
You can create as many business plans as you like, as well as returning to them any time to update, edit or even delete plans, simply by clicking on “My Plans” in your top menu bar.
And that’s really all there is to it – everything is made easy as clicking a button.
Step 6. Extras and Resources
But wait, there’s more… Specifically, a Resource section.
Here you will find the Sample Plan Library, the Help Center, LivePlan’s toll-free Help number, an email contact link and a section packed with free resources such as:
- Industry research data sources and authority sites
- Legal resources and advice
- Legal forms
- Startup advice
- Funding sources
- Financial management instruction
- eBooks and reports
- Planning Tutorials – and many more resources and options
You can also send feedback to LivePlan.
Finally, be sure to read the instructions above every textarea box in your planning Wizards. Not only do the instructions tell you specifically what to do and how to do it, you’ll also sometimes find helpful video links.
LivePlan is much more than a piece of Business Plan software – it’s a resource kit, mentor and business education course, all in one go.
Canceling Your LivePlan Account
You can cancel your account at any time… but with all the resources and its ease of use, you may find you don’t want to.
When you do cancel your account, you retain access for the rest of your paid month.
After that, your data is deleted.
A Viable Alternative – What do you do, if you don’t want to lose all that data, but you’re pretty sure you’re not going to access your account for several months (or even a couple of years?)
LivePlan has one more gem of a solution up its sleeve: It allows you to place your account “on hold” for however long you want, for a nominal monthly sum ($2.99 at time of writing).
That way you retain all your data and archives – and you can restart your monthly subscription any time you like.
LivePlan is a superb example of good business planning and growth – and that’s just one more reason why you will find it exceeds its monthly value.