When Bob Long decided to turn his 5-year-old company from a mortgage brokerage into a mortgage bank last year, he needed to show the New York State Bank Department a business plan that outlined his intended client services. But despite 16 years in the industry, Long says, the idea of writing a business plan was intimidating. "I didn't know where to start," he admits.
Therefore, Long, one of three partners who own the 20-employee Hanover Mortgage Corp. in Williston Park, New York, visited his local Staples. "I bought a great-looking box, but the business plan software itself was terribly unwieldy," Long says. "It didn't give me any ideas."
Determined to find a solution while avoiding the time and expense of hiring a consultant, Long went back to Staples and picked another box, a winner this time: Palo Alto Software's Business Plan Pro 3.0.
"Pro asked us questions like 'Who are your competitors?' and forced us to look at all the crevices of our business," says Long. With templates for dozens of business types, Business Plan Pro focused on Long's industry and led him from one step to the next, asking questions and providing explanations.
Long would recommend Business Plan Pro to all entrepreneurs who want to think about the direction of their businesses. "A good business plan lays out a condensed version of what you should be doing, whether it's for next week, the next month or the next year," he says. "And for entrepreneurs, who are often tempted to do too much, focus is everything."