Business Plan Software Review: Ultimate Business Planner?

One of the main reasons business owners and entrepreneurs use business plan software is to simplify building their financial models. Even with an explosion in business plan software packages on the market today, "doing the financial projections" is still often cited as the most difficult part of completing a business plan. Yet, software can still simplify financial forecasting.

The question is: Which software?

Ultimate Business Planner has been touted as a dynamic, interactive planning tool that takes the drudgery out of complex, time-consuming financial forecasting and business planning. It combines easy-to-use software functions with a step-by-step approach to create a business plan.

It is designed for those individuals or businesses in need of getting a business plan done fast. The Ultimate Business Planner prides itself on being the fastest and easiest way to write a winning business plan.

Atlas Business Solutions, Inc. (ABS), developer of the business planning technology in QuickBooks® Premier 2005 and the maker of Ultimate Business Planner, is a well-respected and established business software development company. Their products are top rated and are priced moderately.

So, let's check it out?

Step-by-step approach with five manageable sections

The Ultimate Business Planner breaks the business planning process into five manageable sections: Company, Income, Expenses, Interview and Plan.

The first four sections gather information to prepare and complete your financial forecast. Interactive dialogs with plain-English instructions, questions and fill-in the blanks capture information and build your company profile. Income and expense worksheets enable you to define income and expense categories and project monthly amounts with easy to use forecasting functions.

There are three methods you can use to enter your monthly income or expense data: manually or cell-by-cell, automatically - using a combination of the worksheet functions to project amounts for you based on your assumptions, or importing/copy paste - take data from your files if you are using QuickBooks Pro/Premier/Enterprise 2003 (or later) or simply copying and pasting data from an MS Excel worksheet.

The fifth section provides several tools to write a business plan including: a business plan outline to guide you step-by-step in writing your business plan, topic guides and example tabs that explain what you should include in each topic with examples of each, and a powerful, easy to use text editor for entering and editing your text.

Includes help functions, advice and how-to hints to
overcome most business plan obstacles

The package includes many help functions for advice and how-to hints to overcome the many obstacles to writing a successful business plan. For example, refer to the twenty-five industry-specific sample business plans for suggested wording, or to copy-and-paste select phrases or sections directly into your business plan to breakthrough writers block quickly. Or, there are many financial wizards available to calculate loan amounts, interest rates, monthly payments, depreciation, amortization and more.

Complete the sections and
Ultimate Business Planner does the rest

With Ultimate Business Plan, you are free to complete each section in the order you choose. Then, when the sections are complete the Ultimate Business Planner does the rest. It evaluates the financial viability of your business ideas or strategies quickly and easily; creates complete financial statement projections (for up to 36 months) to show to your bankers or other potential investors; and, produces a professional report in ever respect including graphs to highlight the potential of your business plan.

Change scenarios for
intelligent, informed decisions

Changing scenarios is easy with the Ultimate Business Planner. For example, to quickly see how hiring more employees or adding a new product affects your bottom line simply go to period and change the amount. The software will automatically update all the related financial statements, charts and tables. In short, the Ultimate Business Planner allows you to see how your bottom line is affected by unlimited business situations.

What's missing?

Three things I wish the Ultimate Business Planner would do. First, allow users the option to enter historical financial data (an important option if you are an established business). Second, either extend or allow users the option to extend the forecast period to five years (a common time horizon for venture capitalist and equity sponsors). Third, allow users to vary gross margin assumptions on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis (in version 3.0 material, labor and overhead assumptions remain fixed throughout the entire three-year forecast period).

But don't let these things hold you back from trying the Ultimate Business Planner. You can easily work around them and the time and ease of use in other areas more than offsets these shortcomings.

For example, to include historical financial data, you can export your projections to Excel and then add the needed history directly into MS Excel®. If you want a five-year projection, simply create a new file that begins with the ending balances forecasted in your original three-year plan and do the addition two-year projection in the new file. Then, you can merge the original three-year plan with the extended plan using MS Excel®. If you want to vary the gross margin assumptions over the forecast period, you can create separate product categories for the same product and vary the material, labor and overhead as a percentage of sales for each product category and related period.

Go to the demo?

All direct purchases of the Ultimate Business Planner from ABS are backed by their 90-day unconditional, money-back guarantee (excluding upgrades which are nonrefundable). To help you evaluate whether the Ultimate Business Planner is right for you, Business Plan Secrets Revealed has prepared a section-by-section demonstration that can be viewed at http://www.business -plan-secrets-revealed.com/business-plan-software.html

The Ultimate Business Planner is a pretty simple business planning software to use. It's a quick and useful business planner that produces a well-written and organized business plan. At $99.00, it's worth giving it a shot.

Mike Elia is a chief financial officer and an advisor to venture capitalists and leverage buyout specialists. His business plan ebook "Business Plan Secrets Revealed" shows how to make your business the most appealing investment choice to venture capitalists, bankers, and other business investors. For his free business plan guide click here.

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