From the May 1998 issue of Startups

As a start-up business owner, you may need software to help with everything from business planning to legal matters. You could buy these programs one by one, but that's not the only way.

Start-up software suites offer several programs designed specifically for launching your start-up, all in one box. These software suites generally include documents, forms, templates, worksheets, checklists and more, and the prices are no more than one of the programs would cost if you purchased it separately.

The tools in these software suites aren't as full-featured as the versions sold in stand-alone packages--but in many cases, they may be all you need. Here's a closer look at several start-up suites.


Robert Schmidt is a computer and business writer in Culver City, California.

BusinessBasics

JIAN's BusinessBasics ($19.99) is a CD-ROM collection of more than 100 word processing and spreadsheet templates you use with the software you already have.

BusinessBasics' templates come in four categories:

  • Sales & Marketing includes a product-positioning worksheet, a direct-mail analysis, a sales and marketing budget, and press releases.
  • Finance & Accounting includes a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement, a loan request letter and 65 ideas for financing your business.
  • Hiring & Personnel includes an employment application, a nondisclosure agreement, a performance evaluation and a termination letter.
  • Management & Operations includes information on creating a business plan, articles of incorporation, a disaster recovery plan and an invoice template.

Quicken Small Business Expert

Parsons Technology's Quicken Small Business Expert ($29) is a fully integrated package with three main sections:

  • Preliminary Considerations notes the advantages and disadvantages of starting a business, gives you a self-evaluation quiz and describes the typical characteristics of a business owner.
  • Starting a Business asks you a series of questions to help you develop business and marketing plans. Its one-page worksheet turns into a cash-flow statement. This section also has a start-up interview to gather business information, forms to file with state authorities, and federal and state phone numbers you can call for assistance.
  • Operating a Business briefly discusses legal, accounting, tax, employment and other issues. It links to Quicken Business Law Partner (see last month's column) and offers 30 legal documents itself.

Smart Business Start-Up

This $149 suite from the American Institute for Financial Research has four main modules you can run as separate applications or launch from the Smart Business Start-Up shell.

  • Smart Business Plan takes you through the steps of creating a business plan, including instructions for specific industries and 10 sample plans.
  • Business Organization explains what kind of corporation you need; helps you set it up through a question-and-answer session; and supplies laws, forms and filing addresses for each state.
  • Financial Advisor is an electronic book with chapters on how to find funds, state-by-state funding sources and how to apply for loans.
  • Market Research presents demographic data you can use for marketing purposes, including such factors as population, education and crime statistics by state, county and city.

Hot To Buy

  • Viaweb Store 4.0. Merchants can log onto Viaweb's site and set up a secure online store quickly and easily, using an ordinary browser. Touted as "the easiest way to build a professional-looking online store," Viaweb Store has powerful graphic-design and customer-tracking tools and requires no Web expertise. Pricing starts at $100 per month for a 50-item store. Call (617) 876-2692 or visit http://www.viaweb.com

Contact Sources

American Institute for Financial Research, (800) 791-1000, http://www.sbsn.com

Encore Software Inc., (800) 507-1375, http://www.encoresoftware.com

Jian Tools for Sales, (800) 346-5426, http://www.jian.com

Parsons Technology, (800) 973-5111, http://www.parsonstech.com