Palo Alto – Business Plan Pro 2006 review

plan your business before you start trading
Photo of Palo Alto – Business Plan Pro 2006

If you’ve ever thought of going on that Alan Sugar TV show for budding entrepreneurs, but were scared that he might chew you up and spit you out at the first barrier, then maybe it’s time you did your homework.

Palo Alto has been producing guides to writing better business plans for several years and the latest edition has several new elements to help you along the thorny path, including a book on the same subject (Hurdle: The Book On Business Planning) by the author of the software, Tim Berry.

As well as an initial talk-through video which gives you a brief overview of how the plan works, there’s a detailed and thorough tutorial which takes you step-by-step through the setting up of a business plan for a fictional company. Incorporated into this tutorial are some sample text inserts which you can then use as templates for your own fledgling company.

Designed along the same lines as the Help menu in various office applications, it is simplicity itself to produce the information you need in a clear and concise manner, with the guide running alongside in a parallel window. At any stage in the process you can modify, correct or expand your data and various short-cuts are explained for upgrading sales figures, projected costs or salaries without having to go through every line of your tables.

Amongst the improvements in this year’s version is the automatic Plan Review feature, which checks for even more of the common financial-planning mistakes made by entrepreneurs, offering tips and suggestions on improving your plan. In addition there’s a SWOT analysis which assesses the Strengths and Weaknesses of your plan and measures it against the Opportunities and Threats posed by the opposition in your area of trading.

There are also expanded financial options, including detailed Exit Strategy and Financial risks and contingencies. Business Plan Pro 2006 also allows users to be creative by devising the type of plan they need for a particular situation such as loan documents, new product or service descriptions, financial plans, marketing plans, or complete business plans.

Although the software was originally set up for American business people, the UK edition does have British-related inserts including guides on choosing the right legal status for your business and an introduction to VAT. If you’re not sure you’re entirely heading in the right direction for your particular business, there’s a large online database that contains more than 500 sample business plans that should cover most options, from bakeries and nightclubs to aquariums and day care centres.

Once you’ve finished, all or part of the plan can be exported to Word or Excel files, edited, and then returned to the main folder. It can also be viewed as a PDF file.

Company: Palo Alto

Contact: 0845 351 9924

Writing a business plan is a daunting enough prospect but it's hard to imagine a guide through that jungle that could be more helpful or comprehensive than this. It points out the pitfalls and reassures you that something impressive can be achieved relatively easily - at the planning stage, at least.