Five Business Planning Tools Available Through an RISBDC Partnership

As part of our mission to support and partner with entrepreneurs, we hold licenses and have access to a number of helpful small business tools that we offer to our clients. Here’s a preview of five great tools integral to planning a new business, conducting marketing research before launch, and forming a business plan. Our clients can access these valuable tools – and so much more – through partnership with our expert business counselors. We invite you to register for one of our upcoming workshops or contact a business counselor so that you can get to know us better, and begin using these tools to propel your pre-venture or existing small business to the next step.

          1. Growthwheel

This online business development tool is a powerful alternative to a business plan template for fleshing out a business idea. Visually based and dynamic, it helps entrepreneurs — of both pre-launch and established businesses — break their enterprise down into four categories (concept, organization, customer relations, and operations), and 20 total focus areas within these groupings, for a “full 360 degree view” of all the major elements required for a solid launch or growth, with no blind spots. Need help with a staffing plan? IT Systems? Customer portfolio? Growthwheel helps users identify decisions and actions needed, and prioritize implementation to weave the elements together in the right order. The visual platform and targeted, customizable features provide the flexibility, specificity, and clarity entrepreneurs need to plan steps for moving forward.

Growthwheel’s cloud-based service is accessible by both clients and their business counselors, enabling clients to work individually and also closely with us for assistance in refining plans, generating task lists and timelines, and tracking progress. All RISBDC business counselors have been trained and are certified to work closely with clients using Growthwheel.

          2. FIN 8.1

This proprietary program, developed by a regional SBDC and available only through the SBDC network, helps clients generate accurate and clear financial projections. For clients working with a business counselor, FIN enables entrepreneurs to present financial information in a consistent format that many lenders are familiar with. All RISBDC business counselors are trained to use FIN with clients to complement and complete a polished and professional loan application.       

           3. Market research databases

Through our partnership with URI, and other channels, the RISBDC has access to a number of databases that provide detailed geographical market research information. While working with a business counselor, our clients can use this data to gather thorough and accurate information about populations and customer preferences to outline the potential market for nearly any business.

          4. LivePlan

This robust online business plan development software is an advanced tool that focuses on planning, pitching, and tracking business growth. It helps advanced entrepreneurs get down to the brass tacks of testing numbers, validating an idea, and creating a pitch. Visual dashboards assist with conceptualization, and LivePlan syncs with Quickbooks for accurate tracking without double entry. RISBDC holds a limited number of licenses to this tool; access may be available to counseling clients and workshop attendees who are ready to take this step.

          5. ArcGIS

Esri’s meaty GIS mapping tool provides detailed, sophisticated data mapping. One example of how RISBDC uses this tool is to use data about consumer expenditures and customer profiles to beef up a client’s business plan to strengthen a loan application. While consumer expenditure data is widely available through government websites, this mapping tool makes the data easy to comprehend geographically and share. Customer profiles come through the Mosaic tool, whose “tapestries” analyze and categorize consumer expenditure (and other demographic) data to give a sense of the dominant consumer groups by census tract.

Register for our small business startup workshop, The Right Foot, or contact us about one-to-one small business counseling, to learn more and gain access to these powerful business planning tools available through a partnership with the RISBDC!