5 tools that help with writing a business plan

Perhaps you have a good sense of the sections that go into a business plan thanks to Jotform’s business plan resources. These tools can help you organize information and create a standout final product.

But you also might need help with collecting, managing, and presenting information in an efficient, cost-effective way. If you’re not a graphic artist, professionally formatting your new business plan with impressive graphics may be challenging. And because you’re often on the go, you need to be able to work on your business plan from any location.

Business owners need tools that help them include the right information for their plan too. The good news is that there are plenty of resources that can make your plan more accessible, professional, and comprehensive. Try these five tools to create a business plan for your company.

  1. Templates: A consistent look

  2. Templates give you a framework that makes your business plan look better. After all, first impressions mean a lot. If you don’t have graphic design skills, use a business plan template. It helps ensure consistency across headline sizes and fonts, color palette, and other visual elements.

    There are many business plan templates online, including free downloadable versions. These templates can often be converted to Microsoft Word for easier input. Plus, they align with different industries and business segments. Templates also come in varying lengths and styles (from one-page business plans to more complex plans that run 40 pages or more).

  3. The best business plan software: A roadmap

  4. While you may have considered hiring a professional writer to help you with your plan, there’s another option. Use business planning software to guide you through what to fill out and where. These tools provide clear models you can follow. Think of it as a recipe for your business plan. Some of the top products and services out there include Bizplan, LivePlan, StratPad, Enloop, and PlanGuru.

    Although business plan software usually means some sort of financial investment, you get your money’s worth in convenience. You don’t need to hire a writer, an accountant, or a graphic designer. Most software bundles these services together.

  5. Graph and chart programs: A professional touch

  6. Graph and chart programs help you produce visuals for sections like a SWOT analysis or PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental) discussion. These elements can help potential investors more easily comprehend things like financial projections and balance sheets.

    Some software plans provide graph and chart capability as an integrated feature. If you don’t opt for business plan software, you can also find these tools as separate applications.

    A planning tool that takes your raw data from a source (like an Excel chart) and transforms it into visually stunning, easy-to-understand charts or graphs saves you considerable time (and frustration). It helps you build a compelling case for your business idea.

    Charting and graphing software also gives you data presentation options. Choose from pie charts, bar graphs, radar plots, and more to see which style offers the clearest picture.

  7. Database: A way to track and store critical information

  8. A database enables you to keep track of data about competitors or potential customers. You can also use a database to show current sales, cash flow, or interest from your target audience.

    A database gives you effective ways to compile, organize, and access information for your business plan. Many of today’s databases integrate with business plan software. As a result, you can easily transfer and use this info to build out your business plan, including charts and graphs.

  9. Cloud-based applications: Business plan tools that travel

  10. As a busy entrepreneur working long hours, you may not always be able to work on your business plan from one place.

    Cloud-based applications make it easy to create a business plan from anywhere you have an internet connection. Many apps keep a continually updated version of your document, or make it easy for a business advisor or mentor to add feedback through suggested edits or comments. You can then see the changes they make to your business plan, and choose to accept or reject suggestions, or respond to comments.

Selecting tools for small business plans

Before you download the first business plan tool that comes up in your search results, it’s important to know what type of technology help you need. Do you want a stronger executive summary? Or do you need help making your financial data easier to digest?

Have a budget in mind and get recommendations. Be thorough in your research and take advantage of any free trials to see what tools work best for you. Factor in things like features, the ability to collaborate online, ease of use, customer support, and cost versus return on investment.

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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