Updated · Aug 03, 2022
Best for: Startups and small to medium businesses
What Is LivePlan?
Created by Palo Alto Software, LivePlan aims to help individual entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses succeed every step of the way. The company has been providing software as a service for around 15 years and has had a hand in business development since the 80s. Moreover, it’s steeped in the business community, giving away funding at various events like the “Oregon Small Business Boost”.
The online LivePlan Dashboard is its current flagship product. From formulating a basic business plan for startups to a highly intricate and interactive showcase that’ll blow investors away – all LivePlan features can help you get the job done and will stick with you at every stage.
All packages include a wealth of guidance, automated financials, business plan templates, and other samples. In addition, help with pitching and financial forecasting is a click away.
While you don’t get a LivePlan free trial or hands-on demo, there’s a generous money-back guarantee.
Now, let’s dive into our LivePlan review.
I cannot overstate how tool-rich this platform is. So, let’s take a closer look at the LivePlan features list. Will its suite benefit your current business or budding idea? It’s certainly worth considering if you’re in the dark about business plans and ongoing strategies.
LivePlan is all about creating business plans that work in the real world. It chops things up into easy steps, and you can invite collaborators to work on specific areas of the plan. It’s up to you how much access you give them, thanks to the simple permissions setting.
You can set goals, track your progress, work with and test budget plans, and forecast your financials. Then pat yourself on the back for reaching those milestones.
The LivePlan one-page plan gets you going with your business strategy. It guides you in the creation of a short summary of what your business is and how your strategy will work. It’s a handy tool to help you pitch your idea and get your foot in the door.
This isn’t just a text document, either. It lets you include professional logos, graphics, and charts, and the base template makes it eye-catching to potential stakeholders.
One simple but powerful feature is the “target market” form. All you do is fill out your target demographic, your estimated size of this audience, and how much you believe they spend annually on the type of product you offer.
LivePlan then spits this out onto your page plan in a lovely pie chart.
It’s a very modern approach that permits sharing the link, which LivePlan hosts. On the other hand, you can export to PowerPoint and do a presentation in a more traditional environment.
From the moment you first launch, the LivePlan step-by-step guidance helps you start with confidence. You get hints, explainers, and video tutorials embedded within the dashboard.
You can edit every section of your plan, and you’ll also get useful suggestions and examples.
Business Plan Template
With the platform’s sample plans, you never have to do anything off the top of your head. There are over 500 LivePlan samples, so you can see exactly what sections a typical business strategy includes. You’re then able to add your own information or delete and customize where needed.
Samples include entire real-life plans for different types of businesses. Some are suitable for freelancers, nonprofits, and small to medium-sized businesses in multiple industries.
In addition, you can focus solely on specific elements like the executive summary, marketing strategy, financial forecasting, and more.
You can also make any template your own, e.g., modifying a noodle restaurant template to fit a bar and grill.
Palo Alto handles LivePlan financials automatically. It calculates your finances and annual forecast behind the scenes and displays them in a comprehensive manner.
For example, using the drag-and-drop LivePlan sales forecasting tool, you simply position each dated point on the premade graph to your liking.
LivePlan smart budgets walk you through each step. Say you’re doing an expense. The software first asks what you want to call it. Then you specify the type of expense. And finally, you can choose to enter it as a constant, varying, one-time, or revenue percentage expense. In short, it explains every field, with little business or accounting acumen necessary.
You can also forget about all that annoying time spent on Excel, making charts and graphs. LivePlan creates stunning visuals based on your data and includes them in the most appropriate parts of your plan. You can delete or move them around, but the default positions tend to be the best choice.
Most importantly, everything banks, investors, and venture capitalists need to properly appraise your key metrics is there. Other aspects include:
- Forecast Revenue
- Profit and Loss
- Balance Sheet
- Asset Purchases
- Direct Costs
- Funding Sources
- Key Financial Projections
Particularly impressive is its support for multiple languages and currencies, including tax rates.
Competitors and Comparisons
Another valuable feature is the LivePlan industry benchmarks. This takes real-world data so you can make accurate comparisons and forecasts based on the markets.
LivePlan plan themes are a different type of template aimed specifically at lenders requiring SBA approval. Using them doesn’t only ensure your plan looks professional. It also gives lenders and investors everything they need to properly evaluate your business before investing or providing loans.
You can export these plans to Word or PDF for printing or emailing.
Financial Performance Tracking
The LivePlan performance dashboards let you see your progress in real-time, with an overview of key metrics, trends, profit and loss, balance sheets, and cash flow.
With its easy-to-understand graphs, you gain the insights necessary for refining your strategy. Is revenue slipping? Perhaps you’re spending too much in a certain area? It’s all here and easily digestible.
What’s more, you don’t need spreadsheets, pivot tables, and multiple documents to make sense of that data. The software automatically builds visual reports from its wealth of analytics.
You can even run scenarios based on your analysis and get accurate projections in return. Would hiring more staff result in more revenue? What would happen if you cut back on orders from a particular supplier? LivePlan lets you test important decisions in advance to spare you potential headaches.
LivePlan integrates with QuickBooks and other accounting solutions – like Xero – to bring your actual results and financial forecasts together. Then it automatically displays key data. And once again, regularly reviewing these metrics will help you make strategic decisions and keep your business on the path to success.
Ease of Use and Interface
A lot of business software is moving away from installations to providing everything online. The LivePlan Dashboard is your central hub and is quite straightforward to use.
It presents various parent categories at the top, such as:
- and Options
Clicking any of these brings out subcategories. For example, under Plan, you find the Plan View, Cover Page, and the opportunity to Download or Print.
Similarly, the left-hand side displays a series of parent categories with further options once clicked.
Despite the intuitive user interface, there’s so much there that beginners may get overwhelmed. However, the amount of support available won’t keep you in the dark for long.
To start, fill out the basic fields like company name and language. The LivePlan collaboration feature emails those you wish to invite to the platform. After that, simply set your desired start date.
The final setup step is your goal. This section asks whether you require funding, want to create a strategic plan, test a business idea, manage your existing business better, or prepare a sales forecast. The software will walk you through the rest.
This includes pitching before moving on to create a full business plan. Then it’s all about finances. What makes this so good is you don’t need to be a math genius or even adept at spreadsheets. LivePlan automatically creates your financial statements, as well. Once you key in your figures, it’ll produce a reasonable plan to mull over.
Additionally, the LivePlan integrations for tools like QuickBooks and Xero mean you don’t have the hassle of learning new software if you already have a favorite.
Once you get familiar with the interface, you can customize it more to your liking.
The LivePlan customer service options include live web chat and the US and international phone numbers. It only mans both of them from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Pacific Time), Monday through Friday, though responses are prompt and helpful.
Of course, trusty email support is available via web form and guarantees a response within one business day.
You can learn more about the platform yourself through the help center, which includes FAQs, written guides for every area of the platform, and a helpful search function.
I found the video tutorials particularly helpful and to the point, though these are only text overlays without narration.
As we’ve mentioned, LivePlan’s dashboard walks you through each step. Therefore, onboarding is not a problem.
Customer support also ranks pretty high in user-written LivePlan reviews. Overall, its reps are easy to reach and provide accurate answers.
Palo Alto bills LivePlan pricing each month or year, which is convenient for those who don’t want to lock into a contract. There are two simple packages to choose from, so let’s see what you get with each:
$20/month or $180/year ($15/month equivalent)
Step-By-Step Instructions, Automatic Financial Statements, Full Financial Forecasts, One-Page Pitch Builder, and 500+ Sample Plan templates.
You can cut the cost of LivePlan by 25% if you opt for annual billing.
All plans come with a 35-day money-back guarantee. However, there’s no free trial option.
The key complaint is that LivePlan doesn’t offer a demo account, so you’ll have to part with your cash upfront to fully test it out.
LivePlan Review – Verdict
If you need to create a business plan with little prior experience, LivePlan has everything you need. Its templates, forecasting, and ease of use all deserve praise. Moreover, its straightforward pricing and packages are suitable for a variety of businesses.
While dedicated mobile apps could help, any device with a decent browser should be able to access the dashboard just fine.
Furthermore, integrations with QuickBooks and Xero are an excellent start, but extra add-ons would make an already great product even better.
If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or a small business owner looking to grow – LivePlan can take off the pressure of planning logistics, so you can focus on the idea itself.
When was LivePlan founded?
Its parent company Palo Alto Software was founded in 1988, though the products available today began their first steps in 2011. It swiftly grew to 40,000 paid customers in just over a year, and now a wide range of small to medium businesses use its services. These include Reason Digital, SchoolHub, and charities like MicroAid.
Is LivePlan secure?
Yes, LivePlan security is top-notch. It keeps you and your customers’ data safe and adheres to common regulations on privacy.
It backs everything up to multiple servers daily and uses SSL encryption for all front-end operations. Your password is yours only; none of the staff has access to your account.
It promises 99.9% uptime as redundancy measures are in place. If one server goes down, another pops up to handle the load.
LivePlan also submits audits for PCI compliance, and you can request to see copies of these, which is reassuring.
It even actively encourages users to report any vulnerabilities.
Does LivePlan have an app?
No, you access the entire platform via the web. There is no LivePlan desktop or mobile app. The good news is you can log into your account from virtually any device with a browser. That means Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari on Windows and Mac. Although not advertised, it’s also functional on other operating systems like Linux.
However, LivePlan iOS officially supports the Safari browser.
Mobile device optimization is also a non-issue. There’s no over-the-top pinching and zooming.
How do I unsubscribe from LivePlan?
Testing LivePlan for our reviews showed that you could unsubscribe at any time. Moreover, you retain access to the platform for the duration you’ve already paid for.
You can also export your plan to Word or PDF format before leaving. However, if you just want to go on a break, you can use the “hold” feature to pay a smaller monthly fee and still keep your data for later use.
A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.
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