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LivePlan: Budgeting, forecasting, and financial dashboards that help small businesses grow

Since its creation in 1988, Palo Alto Software has grown to a respected provider of small business tools worldwide with the single goal of helping other small businesses grow and become successful. They help people succeed in business with market-leading software from their headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. Their flagship software product, LivePlan, was developed from more than 20 years’ experience in the business planning software market. They now offer several software products and an extensive library of free expert content to help small businesses succeed.

“We understand small business because we are a small business," the team says. "We know what it’s like to start from zero, with no outside investment, and build a company from one employee to nearly 80. Our products are tooled for small businesses because we understand the challenges of startups, and we also know what it takes to be successful. We are committed to providing that knowledge, experience, and expertise to as many other small businesses as possible." 

Functionality and main features

LivePlan is a lean business planning and management software tool. It works for both start-ups for pure planning for access to capital, as well as operational businesses for lean planning + management. The scope of LivePlan is high level strategic planning, full business plan, financial forecasting, benchmarking, and dashboard reporting, which compares forecast vs actual accounting data (as well as period over period). LivePlan helps a small business owner think through a comprehensive strategic plan, and then uses plan vs actual data to measure performance, identify problems and keep the business on track.

What sets them apart

Lean Planning is a powerful protocol for developing a complete business plan. It helps business owners think through the differentiators of their business. That strategic thinking helps them build a better business plan, and understand the drivers and levers in their business. And, once in operation, a business needs a simple, straightforward way to measure performance and ties back to their original strategic plan. LivePlan delivers all of that. It brings the type of planning and reporting that big businesses do for their boards and management, to a small business owner, which does not have that type of training or staff to handle it.

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Customer feedback

Palo Alto Software has a robust user feedback process. They gather feedback through marketing as well as through their customer advocacy department. They provide all customers with a toll-free number to call them directly, as well as chat and email support. Their customer advocates are based in their headquarters and are all trained college graduates.

Working with QuickBooks

When Palo Alto Software decided to move from a windows product to a SaaS-based cloud solution, they knew linking the planning to the actual accounting data would improve the product and provide a better tool with s better customer experience. The integration of QuickBooks® data was key to adding more value to the product.

“We are also very excited about the partner approach Intuit® seems to take with app developers and accountants," the team says. "We look forward to a strong working relationship. As QBO becomes more robust, and continues to dominate the accounting market, Palo Alto Software is excited to continue to add value to LivePlan with more access to the right QBO data. We believe that every business needs QBO, but that all business owners also need a tool to help them plan a strategic roadmap, understand their fiscal opportunities for their business, and manage their financials more strategically. LivePlan with QBO is the perfect management package, providing everything a small business owner needs to stay in business longer, and not just survive, but thrive.

Who they cater to

LivePlan caters to any type of small business, pre or post revenue. They work with entrepreneurs who are ideating or planning for possible investment, to operational businesses looking for simple ways to plan and track their growth. Typically, their clients are less savvy about business management and more knowledgeable about their particular trade. LivePlan guides them through a process of planning that they have never learned.

Way forward

Small business owners are busy and their resources are spread thin. They need to make quick decisions about things like spending, but they also need to make long-term strategic plans so their day-to-day decisions are more effective. Public and large corporations plan. They know they must. Small companies need to develop a similar discipline, but one that fits better into their environment: Lean planning.

At LivePlan, we are passionate about educating small business owners about how to do this work simply and effectively, and bringing them tools like LivePlan + QBO, which make it possible.

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