Meghan Wood, a business consultant at Columbus, Ohio-based SBC Consulting.

“Each meeting starts and ends with LivePlan.”

Throughout America, business guidance organizations serve one purpose: Help people start and grow businesses. But sometimes those organizations need help too. When they do, they may turn to the team at SBC Small Business Consulting, also known as SBC Consulting. Based in the Buckeye State, SBC advises and assists with business coaching, lender support, and more, and most of their 15+ consultants are women or minorities with backgrounds in entrepreneurship.

The results come through: From July 2021 through April 2022 alone, SBC Consulting facilitated over $10 million in sales increases and capital infusion for existing businesses and startups. Their efforts led to either the retention or creation of 402 jobs.

Yet even SBC needs the right tools to do its best work too. And that is why they turn to LivePlan.

“Each meeting starts and ends with LivePlan,” says Meghan Wood, one of SBC's small business consultants.

Drawing on an extensive background in marketing and business strategy for Fortune 500 corporations, Meghan both consults for SBC and runs her own small business. She has seen firsthand the challenges that companies of all sizes face, from startup to expansion. No matter an owner's passion or experience, the planning process can be daunting. Working with LivePlan though, Meghan has seen over and over how projections and forecasting can be more approachable.

Forecasting can be especially intimidating, especially when it comes to generating financial statements and understanding what they mean for the actual, day-to-day business.

“By having an easy-to-use tool, we can guide clients on inputting numbers and then work through the financial statements to help them understand what it all means for their business,” says Meghan. “LivePlan's forecast tool enables entrepreneurs to focus on items in the standard financial sheets without having them be overwhelmed.”

Working with CDFIs, SBDCs, and other local organizations fostering business development, the SBC Consulting team has seen firsthand how critical it is to meet business owners where they are. Whether starting a new business or planning an expansion, SBC starts the process by helping the business owner create a business plan in LivePlan.

The SBC team has designed their services to “bolt-on” to other organizations. With a sole focus on partner interests, they can focus on the business owner who needs to refine the vision and plan. In addition to business plan creation and advising, SBC supports organizations and entrepreneurs with QuickBooks training, website design, online marketing strategy, and loan document preparation.

Yet over and over, Meghan has seen how critical the entrepreneur's business plan is to the progress they can make.

“Small businesses greatly benefit from having a written business plan,” she explains. “We work with startups to help them understand their markets, forecast potential growth, and show potential financial statements based on the forecast we help them generate. We also use business plans as a vital tool to include when businesses look for capital infusion. Having a plan sets them up for success when lenders are evaluating their needs.”

SBC Consulting consultant Meghan Wood
LivePlan helps SBC Consulting consultant Meghan Wood show her clients how various financial scenarios might play out in their business.

Securing financing by developing pitches and forecasts in LivePlan

Business planning can seem like something owners, founders, and entrepreneurs do only when they are starting up. However, creating or updating a business plan can be just as essential for the existing business that wants to expand operations or add a new line of business. By working with entrepreneurs in LivePlan, Meghan and the SBC team can explore different scenarios, modify numbers, and put together the documents businesses need to secure additional financing.

SBC consultants have clients enter estimated revenue and expenses into their LivePlan forecasts. Instead of trying to keep the numbers in their head, putting the numbers into LivePlan can show the client exactly how a given financial scenario can play out, good or bad. Going through each financial line item displays its impact on potential outcomes, says Meghan.

With existing businesses that already show revenue and profitability, SBC Consulting can help them evaluate their current path and potential growth. Or, they may also be able to identify future challenges or adverse circumstances that could put the business on a more difficult path. Through LivePlan, projecting financials a year, three years or even five years into the future becomes clearer and more concrete for the entrepreneur.

“Whether startups or those that have been in business for many years, businesses struggle with forecasting and planning. With LivePlan's forecasting tools, they can easily see what may be coming down the road and better prepare.”

“Whether startups or those that have been in business for many years, businesses struggle with forecasting and planning,” says Meghan. With LivePlan's forecasting tools, “they can easily see what may be coming down the road and better prepare.”

LivePlan's forecasts can also show business owners options they didn't realize they had. One client came to SBC Consulting seeking help with writing a business plan to secure a loan for her business. At the time, the owner thought financing was her only option to improve cash flow.

“By leading her through the forecast and various scenarios, it became clear that a slight increase in sales would eliminate the need for a loan,” says Meghan. “We helped her develop a clear sales strategy and avoid debt.”

SBC Consulting consultant Meghan Wood in her home office
The interactive features of LivePlan streamline the regular planning meetings consultant Meghan Wood holds with her business clients.

Thinking through challenges and opportunities with LivePlan templates

Clients coming to SBC Consulting may need a variety of coaching, training, or other services. An owner might need help optimizing QuickBooks, planning how to secure financing, or figuring out their overall business plan. The SBC team tracks each entrepreneur's progress. This allows them to advise on other programs that further help the entrepreneur get what they need.

It can be hard for owners to understand the interactions between their market, current products, competitors, and overall sales opportunities. When SBC Consulting begins working with clients, part of that process is having the entrepreneur work out what they're trying to accomplish, and identify potential setbacks. Inside of LivePlan, SBC can steer owners to a template of questions that help entrepreneurs set out circumstances and factors that can guide their plans.

“LivePlan does this by providing an excellent business plan template,” says Meghan. “It forces them to look at the environment in ways they may not typically consider.”

“Giving them an easy-to-use template, along with our advice along the way,” says Meghan, “greatly improves the small business owner's ability to demonstrate improvements in job creation, job retention, sales growth, and capital infusion.”

Business plan clients can then focus on developing and drafting their business plan through LivePlan's Plan tool and Forecast tool. During weekly or bimonthly meetings, SBC consultants guide the owner or entrepreneur. LivePlan's suggestions of how to begin writing each section of the plan “are always a hit,” and each client can use the tips to get them underway or move past roadblocks.

SBC Consulting puts particular focus on aiding entrepreneurs who are women or minorities as well. LivePlan's onboarding process has been an effective way to help them start and strategize their businesses.

“Giving them an easy-to-use template, along with our advice along the way,” says Meghan, “greatly improves the small business owner's ability to demonstrate improvements in job creation, job retention, sales growth, and capital infusion.”

SBC Consulting consultant Meghan Wood in her home office
Researching industry benchmarks in LivePlan gives Meghan Wood extra tools to help her consulting clients identify market opportunities.

A business plan helps owners adapt even when the planning isn't working out

People who want to start a business may have an amazing idea. However, it could also work out that the timing, market conditions, or other factors simply do not add up to a path to success. Seeing that an idea isn't going to come to fruition, or a business vision might not have a path to viability, can be a demoralizing setback.

Fortunately, even under those challenging circumstances, Meghan and the SBC team can work side-by-side with the entrepreneur in LivePlan. Inside of LivePlan, they can review why a scenario won't work out. They may also be able to modify other facets of the plan, business, or financials, and perhaps find a way forward when they thought they had hit a dead end.

“Having a quantitative tool to aid in these discussions greatly helps the conversation,” says Meghan. “Talking through this, or even making changes to the forecast to show when things can be positive, helps both parties feel more assured of the decision to move forward or not.”

When clients are willing to run through different scenarios, understand why something didn't work, and be open to other possibilities, they may also find another way — even if it's not what they originally expected or thought possible.

“By going through each line item in LivePlan, they can see the potential outcomes and their numbers come to life on paper for them.”

“A client we had was focusing locally on sales and having a hard time seeing a bigger picture,” explains Meghan. It turns out the business was easily expandable over state lines.

“By helping her research the competitors across a larger geographic area, we helped her see opportunities that went well beyond our local Columbus region,” says Meghan. “She ended up securing a six-figure retainer contract for a client in California, and continues to see success nationwide.”

When entrepreneurs are referred to SBC Consulting by SBDCs and CDFIs, they can be at one of many different stages. They might be in the concept stage, formulating their vision for the business they want. Perhaps they've moved into the tricky space of figuring out how to turn that vision into day-to-day operations supported by the right business entity, management team, and financing.

Wherever each entrepreneur is, from start to finish, the SBC Consulting team is there to support them with LivePlan. Numbers, logistics, and more all go from being a concept to reality.

“By going through each line item in LivePlan, they can see the potential outcomes and their numbers come to life on paper for them,” says Meghan. “They see what needs to happen to ensure a positive cash flow, a positive net income,” and the other building blocks they need to start and operate a successful, profitable business.

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