Product Update: Secret Menu

Posted By

Our latest product update went live on Thursday evening. In addition to the usual bug fixes and minor improvements, this release added these notable features:

Introducing the “secret menu” for advanced financials
We strive to keep the financials in LivePlan as clear and understandable as possible. At the same time, we want to support the kind of real-world situations that you may need to represent in your business plan. In this release, we have added three additional financial options: other current assets, dividends, and sales of assets.

These features are not present until you turn them on, since most users will not need them. To enable any or all of them, just click the Options link below the Plan tab, then click Table Builders on the left. Scroll down and you will see a set of checkboxes to turn them on. (We have been referring to this as the “secret menu,” like those special items you can order from fast-food chains if you know how to ask for them.)

Here’s a quick explanation of each option:

Other current assets
This option allows you to properly account for prepaid expenses, security deposits, and other short-term purchases whose value will last beyond the month in which it is paid. When you turn this option on, a Current Assets step will appear in the Budget table builder, where you can add these purchases and indicate how you want to spread out their value to be expensed over time.

Dividends and distributions
If your company plans to return a portion of its past or projected profits to the owners or shareholders, you can do that with the new dividend feature. Enabling this option will add a new step to the Budget table builder, where you can specify how much to issue and when for dividends (or “distributions,” as they are more commonly known for LLC partnerships). This will not change your P&L, but will affect your balance sheet — reducing both cash and the Retained Earnings value — and your cash flow to reflect the money spent.

Sale or disposal of assets
In LivePlan, it is easy to add major purchases (that is, what accountants call “long-term” or “fixed assets”) to the budget, provided you have switched your plan to full financials. Until now, though, there has been no mechanism to remove a major purchase from your books in cases of sale, loss, theft, or disposal. Turning on this plan option causes a new question to appear in the Budget table when you add a major purchase. You can indicate whether you plan to sell the asset, and if so, when and for how much. The app then updates the financials appropriately, removing the value of the asset, clearing off its accumulated depreciation, adding any gain or loss from the sale (compared to the asset’s book value) to the P&L, and updating the cash flow statement to match.

If you have questions about this functionality and how it works, give us a call or drop a note, and we’ll be happy to walk you through it.

Easier access to chapter setup
In the plan outline, you will see a new link at the end of each chapter: “Add more…” This provides faster, clearer access to the Chapter Setup view, which some users have had trouble finding. That’s the place where you can add more sections to your plan as well as remove, rename, reorder, or otherwise reorganize the content in your plan. You can also get to it from the “Change what’s in this chapter” links on the chapter overviews, but now it’s even easier with the “Add more…” links.

Longer idle timeout
By popular demand, the amount of time that the app waits when your session is inactive before it logs you out has been increased. Instead of 60 minutes, it will now wait four hours. If you are concerned about the possibility that someone might sit down at your computer when it is unattended, get in the habit of logging out (using the Log Out link on the Account menu) before you step away.

Coming soon: QuickBooks integration
The Dashboard tab does a nice job of showing how your actual results compare to what you planned. If you (or your accountant) are already using an accounting application to track your sales, expenses, profits, and the rest, though, it makes sense to pull that data in automatically, rather than entering it by hand.

As a first step, we are integrating with the Intuit Anywhere API, which connects to QuickBooks for Windows 2009 and later. That work is in testing now. We also have a few steps remaining to get the connection approved on Intuit’s side, then we’ll do an interim release to make the functionality available.

If you are interested in this feature — or would like to lobby for similar connections to other accounting apps that could populate your Dashboard — we would love to hear from you! As always, you can just click the Give Feedback link at the top of our app to send us a note. Or you can contact us in whatever other way you prefer.

Like this post? Share with a friend!

Josh Cochrane
Josh Cochrane
Josh Cochrane is Vice President of Product Development at Palo Alto Software, where he manages development of the business planning tool LivePlan. He writes for this site and elsewhere on product design, small business and entrepreneurship, and related topics.
Posted in LivePlan Updates

Join over 1 million entrepreneurs who found success with LivePlan