Webinar Series: “Compare Your Business Plan to Reality”

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On Oct 30th we hosted a webinar exclusive to our LivePlan customers to demonstrate how to keep your business plan alive and compare your financial reality to what you’ve projected in your plan. Mike Duncan, our product evangelist, hosted the webinar and showed how easy it is to connect your LivePlan Scoreboard to your QuickBooks account, and how with one-click you can update your actuals and track your growth.

There were so many great questions asked, that we didn’t even have time to answer all of them. Below is a recording and transcript of the webinar for those who missed it – as well as answers to questions proposed during the webinar. Please post any additional questions you may have to this post, or send them to marketing@paloalto.com.

Webinar Transcript:
Let’s go ahead and get started this morning. It looks like we’ve got a great group who have joined us. I really appreciate it. I appreciate all of your time. I also appreciate the opportunity to share some information with you. My name’s Mike Duncan. I’m the product evangelist here at Palo Alto Software. I do a lot of talking about Live Plan and explaining to people the various features of Live Plan and why we believe it’s the absolute best tool for business planning and ongoing management. We know i­t’s very important for companies to continue to track their actual results against their business plan, and quite a bit of research out there surrounding this. Businesses that come up with a good, solid plan and actively manage against that plan, revisit it to see what things have changed to be able to change their assumptions and validations. We know that those businesses tend to be more successful than businesses who don’t do that. In particular, we’ve seen studies that say that businesses who actively plan and continue to manage against that plan grow, on average, 30% faster than those who don’t. I think that that’s a very powerful statement.

Now of course, every business is different, every industry is unique. It still speaks to the strength of coming up with a good plan. Allowing yourself to take a solid view of what your expectations are and to test your assumptions as you get ready to start this business. Then as you get the business up and running, to be able to go back and see “Hey, how are we doing based on where we thought we’d be?” That kind of information is extremely valuable for you to be able to make those kinds of decisions as your business grows, and Live Plan is a great tool to be able to help you do just that. We’re really proud to be able to introduce to you the ability to import data directly from your QuickBooks account into your Live Plan plan, to be able to compare your actual results against your expectations. I’m going to go through that here with you this morning. Again, I really appreciate the time. Now let’s talk just a little bit about Live Plan and QuickBooks.

Now the first thing we want to do is log into our Live Plan account and start a new plan. Or, for most of you who are on this call, you’ve probably already got a plan started. This will be a step that you’ll be able to skip or that you’ve done well in the past. For the sake of this morning’s demonstration, of course, I’m going to start from scratch. I’ve got the name of my plan. I’m an existing business; because I’m going to bring some real-world data into my scoreboard to compare against. And I’ve chosen a start date of December 2011 for when I have opened up my business that I’m going to use for the sake of this morning’s demonstration. Hit create plan. As Life Plan builds out our plan, you know that it will give us the option of starting with either the strategy section or the financials.

Now normally for the sake of a product demo I would go ahead and start with the strategy section, but given that we’re all Live Plan users on the call this morning, or we have some familiarity with the software, I’m going to go ahead and start directly with the financials. Now as we know, each Live Plan account starts with what we call basic financials. We do this for a couple of reasons. The main reason why we do this is because we don’t want anyone to be intimidated by the prospect of coming up with a financial plan as part of their business plan. It can be a little bit daunting, and it can cause some anxiety for some people. We like to do things that help relieve that anxiety and help walk people through building their business plan as easily as we possibly can with as much help along the way as we can offer. Towards that goal, we start with a very simple set of financials. Sales Forecast, Personnel Plan, Budget, and a profit  loss statement.

Of course, each Live Plan account also gives you the ability to expand to full financials. Your full financials are going to include your balance sheet information, your cash flow information, and then a very nice loan and investment table for those of you who are going out and securing funding from places like venture capitalists or angel investors. Let’s switch to full financials. It’s nice to know that within Live Plan, any time you’re faced with a decision, you can almost always go back and change your mind at a later date. If we enable full financials now, but we later decide that we don’t necessarily need them we can always go back and forth, I’d like to point that out. When you’re faced with a fork in the road in Live Plan, you can almost always go back and choose the other fork if you decide to later on. Now it takes the software just a moment to update my plan to include all of the full financial tables, but now that that’s done, you can see they’ve been added to my financial plan section of the outline, and they’ve also been added to my financial statements. Now, in order to compare our real world results against what our planned results are, we need to have a plan. So, let’s start by building a very simple sales forecast.

Sales forecasts, within Live Plan, for those of you who have not yet built any of the financial tables, very, very simple table building. We walk you through a set of assumptions, designed to help you think very critically about your business.What you sell, how much of it you sell, what you charge for it, what it costs you to deliver. We did have a question from the gallery here, even before we got started this morning. They said, “How do you come up with the numbers for your sales forecast?” That’s a great question. It’s also a question that is somewhat challenging for me to answer, because, of course, every business is different. The numbers that build into that sales forecast are largely going to be driven by your particular industry, or the service or product that you’re providing. It’s also going to be weighed against your market.

How many people can you reach? Are you dealing with a product that you’re going to sell locally, out of a retail storefront; and if so, what’s the size of the town that you live in? What type of reach may you have? How likely are customers to come and purchase your product or service? What other competitors are out there that allow those same consumers to make choice that may impact your sales? What are your costs associated with delivering this product or service. How much can you charge for it, so that you can, of course, create a market for your product or service, and you can charge something that the market will bear, and the consumers will be willing to pay, but also it allows you to earn a profit.

These are all very, very critical decisions that you’re going to make, but I’ll tell you the nice thing about Live Plan. You can go through and you can built a sales forecast, based on the assumptions that you have and the things that you think that you know, and if you decide later that you’ve changed your assumptions or you have new information now that is come through that’s allowed you to make a little bit more of an educated estimated as to what that sales expectation is may be, you can go back into Live Plan and you can make those changes. You can make them quickly, and you can make them easily. The software will update all of your charts and graphs, so that you don’t have to, not only saving you time, but also giving you that freedom that you need to test different assumptions. Hey, I can change my mind. I can go through and change numbers, and see how that impacts my outcome, and I can do that really, really easily from within Live Plan. So, while that’s a great question, “how do we come up with the numbers for our sales forecast?”, the answer is very, very unique to you and your particular business and your industry.

Now, for our demonstration here this morning, I’m going to use some very, very basic numbers to build a simple sales forecast. Now, each of you as you build your sales forecast, for those of you who haven’t already done so, the process that you follow will be just like what I’m going to do here this morning. If I have more than one product or service that I want to forecast, very simple, I can add them in here. I can add as many of them as I’d like. We do encourage you to keep the number of products and services that you build into your forecasting table, keep it to a reasonable level. It becomes more challenging to forecast when you’re breaking it down into this incredible level of detail across dozens and dozens of products or services. Particularly, when you’re getting started with your plan, it makes some sense to consolidate those products and services into some general categories, so that you can track them, but so that you don’t get so weighted down in the detail, particularly since, when we build our sales forecast, we’re going largely off some assumptions and less grounded in actual real, real numbers.

I’m going to go ahead and start, though, with just one product or service. We’ll build our sales forecast and the first thing it’s going to ask me is, how much of this do I expect to sell? Well, for our demonstration this morning, let’s say that I’ve got a product that I deliver, approximately, 100 units a month; and I’m going to build some degree of seasonality into this, so that we can see some fluctuations in our tables and charts, but also so that when we import some data from QuickBooks, it gives us an opportunity to compare against how we’re doing with some numbers that we can actually look at.

We continue on to, how much we’re going to charge. Well, I’m going to charge, approximately, $100 for each of these units. And, in order to deliver this product it costs me, approximately $25 a unit. But for the sake of our demonstration this morning I’m not going to charge any tax. Now, it takes Live Plan just a moment to build up this sales forecast table, but when it’s done, what we see is a table based on the information that I included. I love the way Live Plan builds charts. Within Live Plan, anytime you see this blue vertical line, anything to the right of the line is going to be exactly how this is reflected in your finished plan. So you can take a look at this chart and a couple of nice things jump out at us. Everything is lined up perfectly. All of our lines are weighted correctly. All of our financial calculations are done for us. All of our numbers line up. And, information that we’ve entered in this table, if other tables rely on this information, Live Plan will automatically carry those numbers through and populate those subsequent tables. So that you, as the entrepreneur, when you reach those tables, work you’ve done in earlier steps is saving you work down the road. I always really like to point that out, because that’s a key feature of Live Plan that helps make your life more efficient.

We get down here and we can see it builds our corresponding graph exactly the same way. This is precisely how it will look in the finished plan. We know all of our graphs line up perfectly with where they need to be, relative to the axis, based on the information we put in here. I love the fact that, you put in the numbers, we build the graphs. It allows you the freedom and flexibility to change assumptions without having to go through and, by hand, change all your graphs and charts to see how that looks. I think that’s a really key, key point.

Now, let’s go back into our scoreboard. And, let’s see how we compare our planned results against our actual results. We open up the scoreboard and it brings us to our get started screen. When we click the big, green get started button, it gives us some choices. Do we want to enter our actual data in manually or do we want to bring it in from QuickBooks? Now, I’ll tell you that if you already entered information in manually, then you decide to go ahead and bring information from QuickBooks, the information that you bring in from QuickBooks will overwrite the information that you put in manually. I like to bring that up, because what we do is, we assume you’re bringing information in from QuickBooks that your QuickBooks data is the most current and accurate data that you have. So, the system defaults to overwriting information that you may have manually input.

Now, click connect from QuickBooks and it asks us if we’re sure. And, we are, so, we’re going to click the little connect to QuickBooks icon, from the lower corner, here. It’s going to ask us what our QuickBooks account is. Now, I’ll tell you, the way this particular interface works, you have to have a QuickBooks account for Windows that’s 2009 or newer and you have to have the QuickBooks Intuit Anywhere. It’s a little account that you can get for free that allows you to access your QuickBooks data online. And, the reason why you have to have that enabled is, because that’s the way that we’re also accessing your QuickBooks data and bringing it from your QuickBooks online and into Live Plan.

So, I’ve got my account here. I come in and put in my password. I sign in. Now, if, within my QuickBooks account, I have multiple companies that I have QuickBooks accounts for, I have to select the one that I want to import the data from. Now, for our demonstration here, today, I only have one company in my QuickBooks account, it takes just a moment to bring this in.  And that’s Live Plan test account. So, I select it. But, if I had multiple companies that I was tracking within my QuickBooks account, I would have to select which of those I wanted to extract data from to bring into Live Plan. I click continue. I authorize to pull the data from my QuickBooks account and it takes just a moment to bring this in. When I’m logged in, it gives me this little message here that says, “Congratulations, I’ve connected with QuickBooks.” I see the Intuit logo here with the little drop down menu and I’ll show you what’s under that in just a moment.

You can see from my status bar that I’m currently bringing in my actual results from QuickBooks. It takes it just a moment to bring all of that in, and once it’s done, it charts your actual results in blue against your planned results in orange. You can see in some cases we’re doing better than we expected. In some cases we’re not doing quite as well as we expected. Now we built in some information here within our QuickBooks account in order to show some fluctuations in the graphs. You’re probably not going to have big giant dips like this in your actual real world results. If we click here for more details it brings up not only that chart in more detail but we can hover over and see how we’re doing relative to our plan. In some areas, we’re up a little bit, and in other areas we’re going to be down a little bit. See, we’re down 5% here in July of 2012. I can also track that month by month, and I can see my fluctuations down below. If I go back to the overview, I can do that same thing within any of the charts or graphs. Some of these are empty, and the reason for that is because I haven’t completed all of my financial tables in my actual plan; despite the fact that we have information in QuickBooks that corresponds with each of these.

If I want to disconnect from QuickBooks, I can do that at any time by clicking down here on this little disconnect from QuickBooks icon. Now a couple things that I like to point out. If I’m working in QuickBooks at the exact same time I’ve got Live Plan open and I make changes to my QuickBooks account, I can re-import that in and re-update my plan just by clicking the update now button. If this little intuit icon remains and I have not disconnected from QuickBooks, my QuickBooks connection is still active, each time I log in to Live Plan fresh, I log out and I log back in, and I access my scoreboard, as long as this connection has been maintained, the first time I access my scoreboard on each log in to Live Plan, it’s going to automatically update your results, if you’ve made changes to your QuickBooks account. That’s only for the first time you log in. The first time you log in fresh and you access your scoreboard, it will bring in new data if new data is available.

However, each time after that for that same session that you’re logged into Live Plan, if you’re making changes in QuickBooks and you want to re-import that data into your scoreboard, you’ll need to do that by hand. It’s very simple to bring information in. You can come up here, click the intuit button, wait just a second for the menu to load, and we can switch back and forth through our sync, we can manage our intuit account with certain limited functions from the intuit menu up here. We can go back and forth between our plan’s scoreboard and this information will still be here. If you have invited a collaborator to your plan, and granted the collaborated access to the scoreboard, which you know if we go to manage users and we invite a collaborator to our plan. One of the options we will be given is what level of privileges do we want to grant that contributor. If we grant that contributor privileges to access to the scoreboard, when they actually access the scoreboard they’ll see your intuit results from QuickBooks that have been imported in there. However, that contributor won’t be able to import your data directly. Now the first time they log in and access the scoreboard, if the little intuit connection remains, it’ll update all of this for them, but they won’t have the ability to actually import that data themselves. You’ll have to do that as the QuickBooks account owner and the plan originator. It looks like we have quite a few questions and so I think I’m going to go through a few of those now and see if I can’t answer them for you. Let’s start, and take a look at what we’ve got here. I’d like to introduce my assistant Bailey who’s been taking questions here this morning. Bailey, say hello to the crowd.

Bailey: Hello everybody.

Mike:  And she’s been transcribing questions from you as I’ve been going through our demonstration this morning. So with that if I’m going to ask Bailey if we’ve got some questions here that I can address. What do we have on our list of questions?

Bailey: It looks like we have a question here from Dwayne. It is “Do you have a roadmap for future integrations?”

Mike:  Yes, in fact, we don’t actually have a road map that we have published for future integrations. We have different releases that we’ve come out with on a regular schedule that’s usually averages every couple of months or so that we’ll do a release. Things like the QuickBooks integration was certainly on that road map, and we’ve got plans to be able to add additional features and functions as we go forward. Our ability to publish an actual product road map that gives us some visibility for you, the user, is limited to a certain extent; because we like to remain flexible on our side. As we see things within the market and receive feedback from our users of features that they want, we try to remain nimble in our ability to adjust our development schedule to meet those changing needs of the market, and this is a great example. The ability to import rather, real-world financial data into your scoreboard was feedback that we received from a lot of users that said, “Hey, it would really make the scoreboard feature more useful for me and really allow me better visibility in terms of comparing my plan to my actual results.” And so then of course that very quickly bumps up on our priority list, and moves up on our road map accordingly.

Bailey: All right. Following up to that, does it auto-update?

Mike:  It does auto-update in terms of, as we said, the first time that you would log in. For example, if I log out of Live Plan without disconnecting from QuickBooks first, the next time I log back into Live Plan to that particular plan that I was working on and I access the scoreboard, it will automatically bring in any changes that I made to my QuickBook accounts that first time. Following that first time, for as long as I’m logged in to that plan on that session, I would have to bring in the information manually.

Bailey: Okay, and a question from Jennifer. “Regarding QuickBooks, what about Mac users?”

Mike:  That’s a great question. Unfortunately at this point in time, we’re limited in our ability to import data into Live Plan from QuickBooks through Windows. And the reason for that is because the Intuit Anywhere API, which is what we use to transfer the data from QuickBooks into Live Plan on Intuit’s side is currently only available for Windows and it’s got to be used on Windows 2009 or newer. We are a little bit at the mercy of Intuit and QuickBooks in terms of their development. So it’s difficult for me to make promises that we may have that available in the near term because we are really relying on them to make that option available to us. But, what I can tell you is that this type of development is always on-going and we’re very hopeful of the ability to allow Mac users to also bring their QuickBooks data into Live Plan.

Bailey: And here’s a question from Jerry. “We are an insurance agency and have commissions for revenue, and we’re wondering how you put that in as a model, and what class you would use to get the forecast?”

Mike:  Yeah. That’s a great question. You know, you can model those sales commissions out just as any other product or service within your sales forecast. The more challenging part in very specific terms, I think, for your business will be determining what your costs associated with delivering your service are going to be so that you can come up with a margin. Depending on which insurance companies that you represent, they may have some guidance that they can give you in terms of being able to build that model out. That’s a great question, but it’s very specific and not knowing more details relative to your specific industry and business, it’s a bit of a challenge for me to address that in much more detail.

Bailey: And a question from Tony: Will Live Plan also update your regular business plan that has been completed?

Mike:  As far as the plan numbers, no. It will update, as you bring information into your scoreboard, you know that information can be updated automatically because, in theory, you’re entering it into QuickBooks. But, if you wanted to change your plan, itself, you need to go through and do that manually. But here is the good news. That’s not difficult to do, and one of the things that’s really, really nice about Live Plan Is, you can go through and change certain numbers, and change certain assumptions, and because Live Plan maintains your financial calculations and maintains the relationship between the tables, you’re not responsible for finding every single instance of where that number changes and every other number that’s impacted based on the change you’ve made. You can make those types of changes with the sort of freedom that you need to, because the software is going to help you update everything accordingly. So, I don’t want you to be afraid to go through and start changing your assumptions, or making changes based on new information that becomes available to you

Don’t become intimidated by that. I don’t want you to think that that’s going to create a tremendous amount of work for you. It’s going to be a little bit of work, but the software is going to take away a tremendous amount of the work that’s going to go along with making those types of changes, so do so. I mean, we really encourage you to be flexible. Business plan is a living document, and it isn’t a snapshot in time. It should be the type of thing that you feel like you have the freedom to go back and revisit.

Bailey: Here’s a question from everybody. “Does this work with QuickBooks Online?”

Mike:  That’s such a good question, too, and I need to be clear about that. It doesn’t work for QuickBooks in the Cloud and there’s a cloud-based version of QuickBooks, and again, that’s not a choice that we’ve made. We would certainly love to be able to have you bring that information in from your QuickBooks Cloud account into Live Plan, but again, because of the data transfer API that we use that’s provided to us by Intuit and QuickBooks, we are limited to QuickBooks that’s installed on Windows machines 2009 operating system or newer.

Bailey: Okay. Here’s a question from Jerry. “Will Live Plan be able to decipher the different classes in QuickBooks because we use the classes in QuickBooks as identifiers of each of our locations? Can Live Plan handle multiple locations?”

Mike:  That’s a really, really good question. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I’m not 100% sure of the answer to that. That’s a great question from someone who obviously is a very experienced QuickBooks user, and fantastic question. I’ll tell ya, I’m going to have to research that one, and we’ll see if we can’t do a little bit of a blog post that updates that particular question. That’s a great question. My instinct tells me that if they’re set up as different operating divisions or different companies within QuickBooks, you would be able to bring them in one at a time, and one per a particular plan, but I really have to be candid. I’m going to have to check that answer out a little bit more.  I don’t want to offer information that turns out later to be inaccurate. We’ve got that question recorded. That’s a great question, and we’ll update that via our blog here very, very soon.

Bailey: Okay. Here’s a question from Mary. “Can the collaborator build the plan and the user review it, or does it have to be the opposite?”

Mike:  That’s a great question. Yeah, you know what? If you are the account owner, and you originate the plan so you would be the “user” in this case and you invite a collaborator or contributor to your plan, depending on the level of privileges you grant them, and if you just select all the boxes, you know, access scoreboard, can invite other users, that type of thing, then they have the exact same privileges that you as the account owner have. So the answer to the question in that regard would be yes. They could build out all of the information. They could build the entire business plan, and then you, as the account owner or as the QuickBooks account owner as well; you could then import information directly from Quickbooks into the scoreboard. That’s a great question. We encourage you to do that, you know, particularly if you’ve got a business partner or you’re working with an adviser or a mentor. Yes, invite them as a contributor to your plan, and work together on the plan and the information that you can bring in from QuickBooks to help compare that against reality.

Bailey: Okay. Here’s a question from Monica. “I took over an existing business and have basic data from the previous owner in Excel. Can I import Excel data and graphs into Live Plan to show how I’ve grown sales since I took over?”

Mike:  You know, not yet can you import directly from Excel. That’s one of the items that’s on our development wish list.  I don’t want to promise exactly where that falls on the development schedule. But I do know that it’s one of the things that we’ve discussed here internally, and it’s a question that we get commonly from users. As an aside, congratulations on purchasing the business, and I really applaud your approach at being able to demonstrate how you’ve done after you’ve taken over it. Live Plan can be a great tool for that. One of the things that we don’t talk a lot about but we really should is the importance of having a business plan when you purchase a business that’s already in existence. The business is new to you even though it’s been around for a while, so for you to develop a business plan that’s what you expect to do with this business going forward, and then if you’ve got some actual data from previous owners that you can bring into compare historical information against what you think you’re going to need to do going forward that’s an incredibly sound practice, and I really applaud your desire to do so.

Bailey: Here’s a great question from Jennifer. “Is Live Plan designed for particular kinds of businesses or a range of business sizes?”

Mike:  Absolutely a range. We have… One of the nice things about Live Plan is your plan outline is customizable. We allow you to move things around within this outline. We allow you to add sections, rename them; that gives us this incredible amount of flexibility to fit a number of different businesses, a number of different industries, and a number of different maturity levels. I think it’s a misconception that Live Plan is a tool for brand new businesses, businesses that haven’t started yet. It is a great tool for brand new businesses. It is an incredible tool for people who are looking to start a business. But, it’s also a really good tool for people who have been in business, and find themselves in need of a business plan, and there’s dozens, and dozens, and dozens of reasons why you may find yourself in need of a business plan, even if you’ve been in business for a while.

The same is true for the size of the company. We work with a lot of customers who are single owners, sole proprietor, owner-operator and Live Plan is a fantastic tool for them. We also work with Fortune 500 companies that build elaborate, yearly operating plans within Live Plan. They collaborate with multiple users in all kinds of areas, all over the country, all over the world. So, we do view it as a very scalable solution, based on your type of business, and it’s also the type of thing that can grow with your business. As you grow your business and it changes, you can always go back into your account, update your plan, re-validate your assumptions, it’s just good practice. There’s nothing worse than losing sleep over the things that you don’t know, when you could put them into a plan, and get that little bit of clarity, and not have to be afraid of the unknown, and be able to have that visibility into what to expect. It’s definitely a good thing.

Bailey: Here’s a question from Andre. “I have different services broken into classes, because there are many things that go into each one. How is that reflected across the forecast table? ”

Mike:  Ah, you know what? You could add each of them in as individual products or services. The way that I’ve done here, with this example, where I’ve added in a second product or service.It’s relatively easy to do. The other thing that you could do is, based on the question, and again, these are fairly specific question and without having a lot of detail on the specific of this business or industry they become challenging to answer, but based on the fact that it does appear that some of your products or services fall into certain classes or categories, you could forecast them as a class or a category. For example, you know, if you open up a salon and you offer a particular service, but you offer levels of that service, let’s say it’s waxing services. You wax eyebrows and you wax all kinds of different things. You could just include that all into one category and average out your prices and costs associated with that. If you really feel like there’s variances there and you really want to forecast those things individually, the software certainly allows you to do so.

Bailey: Here’s a question from Jennifer, “If I update my plan, especially in the [text]  area, as opposed to the financial area, is there a way to keep sets of previous versions, so I can compare how things change over time?

Mike:  Yeah, you know what, that’s a good question too. What you can do is, you can take the plan that you’ve got, let’s say, we come in here and we do actually, I clicked the wrong buttoned, hold on. Let’s go up here and let’s go to my plans. We do view all plans. Let’s say I started this plan for you guys today and it’s this QuickBooks demonstration. Let’s say I wanted to make some changes to that, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve already got. Well, I can click copy and it will make an exact copy of this particular plan and then I can name that QuickBooks Demonstration Plan Version 2, or whatever designation I want to give that. And, make those types of copy changes, make financial changes, make any changes that I’d like.  That will allow me to basically start with my original plan, but make some changes and not lose the information that already put in. I hope that addresses the question clearly. The basic answer to it is, yes, you can duplicate the plan that you’ve already started and make your changes to the copied plan; and that should allow you to compare one against the other.

Bailey: Okay, here’s a question from Rhonda. “As you said, there are plans or  moving reports and can be evaluated and revised. However. Can you maintain each plan scenario on Live Plan? For example, a worst case, base case, and upper case.”

Mike:  Yeah, no, I like that. It’s the mama bear, papa bear, baby bear approach to business planning; and I’m a fan. I think that it is a good practice to make a worse case scenario, best case scenario, and then a scenario that you think probably represents the most real set of circumstances, and chances are that’s going to fall somewhere in between. Based on the same exact procedure that we have just gone through, you could start your worst case scenario plan, or your base level scenario plan, or your best case scenario plan, and then save that plan, and copy it.

Mike:  and then save that plan and copy it, and then do your next plan and then copy it, and do your next plan and so that you would have all three of those versions to compare against, or as many variations of that version, really, as you’d like. The one thing I will say is, if you get many, many variations of that, you’re going to have to move some of those plans between archived status and active status, but that’s incredibly easy to do. Come up again to the My Plans menu, and you can seamlessly and as often as you’d like, you can moved plans between archived and active status. So, I can take this particular demonstration plan we did today, and I can have infinite variations of this in theory and just move the ones that I was actively working on between archived status and active status.

Bailey: Okay. Here’s a question from Dean. “What if my costs are not tied to one income category, but all of them?”

Mike:  That’s a good question as well. If they’re tied, boy, oh, boy, that is a tough question. It’s a question I’m not completely comfortable answering, because it is, again, a very specific question relative to that particular business. I mean, you could divide that cost out across your various product categories. You could list the same cost associated with each of the product categories. You know, again, it’s going to depend a lot on your particular business and industry. What I would encourage you to do is model it out a couple of different ways, so that you can see which way you really think reflects reality, and which way you’re most comfortable with. But, that’s a great question, but again, it gets kind of into that level of detail that I just don’t have enough information to be able to feel like I could give an adequate answer to.

Bailey: First question from Mary. “I’m an FPD [inaudible 00:36:48] consultant. Can the collaborator import QuickBooks data or does it have to be the user, just to be clear?”

Mike:  You know what, if the user has enabled the QuickBooks integration, and they have left that, what we call the authentication certificate, which basically means they haven’t disconnected or severed the connection, when you log in as a contributor and you access the scoreboard, if they’ve updated their results, it will automatically update that plan accordingly so you’re looking at the most recent results. But, they would have to do subsequent updates, and if they disconnect from QuickBooks themselves, then you wouldn’t be able to update that information, unless, of course,  you had their log in ID and password for that account. So the answer is yes and no. We can do that, but within certain limitations since you’re not the account holder or the QuickBooks account holder as well.

Bailey: Okay.

Mike:  But, I tell you what, we do encourage you do to just that, and I really appreciate the question. I love the fact that you’re working with clients in that manner. And, hey, I really, really appreciate all the questions. These are fantastic questions, and it sure makes for a more enjoyable discussion on our end when we’ve got great questions from out in the gallery. Now there’s one other thing that I wanted to mention to you while we’re here today and that’s the fact that by joining us here today, I’ve got an opportunity for you to win something, and it’s going to be a really, really nice prize.

If you connect your Live Plan account to QuickBooks and import data into your scoreboard between now and November 9th, we’re going to do a random drawing from everyone who has done so, and by the way, I do want to mention, we don’t have access to any of your data. We don’t in any way, shape, or form violate the privacy policy that we have in place in the agreement that we have between us and our users, we simply know if the feature’s been activated. It’s a yes or no type of thing. If you have activated the feature, and you have imported the data in, we’re going to enter you into a random drawing and on November 30th we’re going to announce a winner who is going to win an iPad Mini.

I’ll be honest with you, even more value from a business standpoint, we’re going to issue a press release for you that we’ll issue via PR Web, with national distribution. That talks about your business, the success you’ve had, and congratulating you for winning our contest for successfully bringing in data from QuickBooks into your Live Plan account. There’s a lot of value associated with that. Really for small businesses sometimes it’s tough to go out and start a PR Web account and get that kind of distribution. There’s certainly costs associated with it. It can be upwards of $250.00, and so between the two you get a nice price package, the iPad Mini and the opportunity for us to write a release with your help that we’ll distribute for you as our way of congratulating you for winning the competition. That’s only for U.S. residents only, and unfortunately that’s because of some limitations in our ability to issue a contest like this. But, it is open to U.S. residents only, and we really, really encourage you to do so. It doesn’t take much for you to do it. You can see from the demo here today it’s very, very easy to bring that information into your Live Plan account. It gives you great visibility into your actual results against those that you plan; and you have an opportunity to win an iPad mini and a press release, so please do so.   Hey, thanks again for everybody who has joined us here today really appreciate it.  We have been recording today’s session, we’ll make that recording available to everyone.  We’ll post that to our Facebook page and to our Twitter account so we’ll have ways for you to be able to reach it.  You can also contact us here.  Anytime  you can e-mail us at marketing@paloalto.com.  I personally check that inbox.  If you have questions following up from here today e-mail us at marketing@paloalto.com, or help@Live Plan.com, either will get to us here.   You can also always find us at www.Live Plan.com.  You can find us at www.eplans.com, which is our educational and content site.  Lots of great tips and advice and resources can be found there for entrepreneurs, I encourage you to check that out.  You can also always tweet us if you have additional questions following this call.  We encourage you to do that because not do you get the benefit from the answer but we can share those answers others.

Oftentimes they may not have thought to ask the question, but they certainly benefit from hearing the answer.  Keep your eyes and ears open, we’re going to continue to do webinars like this as we introduce new features to Live Plan.  We really appreciate the fact that we can bring this to you as an exclusive for yourselves as Live Plan users.  We appreciate being able to work with all of you.  We’re going to continue to try to do things that are exlusive and reward you for your relationship that you have with us.  Bailey’s [SP] passing notes across to me here and she wants to make sure that I mention that our Twitter handles are @bplans and @Live Plan, that’s how you can find us via Twitter.  If there are no other questions, we really appreciate your time this morning.  Thank you for joining us and thank you for the opportunity to participate in your success.  We’re very fortunate here in that we get to play a very small role in the starts of thousands and thousands of amazing businesses.  We really do appreciate that role.  Thanks again, we really appreciate everyone joining us.  Have a great day and successful business planning.

Posted in Business Plan Writing