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Create a business plan on the cheap with Enloop

Don't know the first thing about writing business plans? This service will help you craft a masterful one--free of charge.

Whether you're launching a startup or expanding your existing enterprise, a good business plan is essential.

Of course, many entrepreneurs don't know the first thing about writing one. That's where Web service Enloop comes in: Enloop helps generate business plans suitable for banks and investors alike, at the same time predicting your overall chances for success.

The tool's plan builder walks you through each step of the process, which is divided into sections like Business Idea, Product & Sales, Management Bios, and so on.

As you answer various questions along the way, Enloop generates a real-time performance score using predictive algorithms, which essentially help forecast the likelihood of success for a business. The higher the score, the better your chances.

A recently added feature called TextSync automatically updates your financial-forecast data within the business plan, based on any changes you might make to your figures. That will potentially save you the time and hassle of having to manually re-enter all your numbers as your forecasts change.

What I especially like is how you you can modify your planning decisions as you go and see how that affects your score. In theory, Enloop will help you craft a business with the best possible chances for success.

The service also offers automated financial forecasts for things like sales, cash flow, and profit & loss, all formatted for easy review by banks and investors.

Enloop's Free service plan lets you build a single business plan including 3-year financial reports, three financial ratio analyses, the aforementioned performance score, and PDF downloads of your plan, both while it's in progress and after it's completed. Those PDFs will include a small Enloop logo on each page.

If you want to be rid of the logo, write more plans, collaborate with up to three users, and so on, Enloop Basic costs $9.95 per month. There's also an Advanced plan, which includes the aforementioned TextSync, for $19.95 monthly. (See Enloop's pricing page for more details.)

I've never fully understood the logic behind Enloop's subscription model, as most startups just need to generate a business plan and be on their way. That said, you could sign up for just a month and then cancel. And I think a sawbuck for something this automated and informative is an outright steal.

At the very least, you can test-drive the free version and see if it meets your needs. (If it doesn't, check out Business Plan Pro, a $100 software package that takes a similarly wizard-driven approach.) Personally, I think any startup-minded entrepreneur would find Enloop an invaluable resource.

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