I had an interesting exchange with one of the top two-dozen professors of entrepreneurship in the country, over email, related to “canned” business plans. I won’t include his name because that’s awkward, but here’s what he said in email:

I have encouraged entrepreneurs to use your software and a common reaction is that it includes “canned” business plans and language.  However, I know the product is very customizable and let entrepreneurs know that they can make use of the tools and templates.

Ouch, it’s a real problem, that “canned business plan” thing. He’s just relaying what he hears from others. Damn! That’s not what Business Plan Pro wants to be, certainly not if you use it right at all, you’d have to twist it, but I think we’re still getting lost in the stereotype of business plan software, lost in what people imagine it does instead of what it actually does. And of course there are a lot of examples. Here’s my answer, which I put here because I think this is a common issue:

Thanks for taking a look at it.  I think you make an important point, and it touches on one of the more paradoxical elements of Business Plan Pro.  It does contain examples, a lot of them, which means that people can use it, if they want to, to create a business plan made entirely out of somebody else’s words and numbers. Which sucks. Still, the right way to use Business Plan Pro, and the default, is with your own words and your own numbers and your own outline so that every business plan is unique. That is the standard usage. People who get the canned stuff out of it are twisting examples and using it wrong.

I’ll spare you the rest of that, give you just the highlights. I also referred to a post I wrote on this blog back when it was just getting started, straight from the heart, titled Sample Business Plans Suck.

— Tim

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.