James P. Shelley creates business documents for a living. He writes full business plans, financial plans, summaries, even Web copy and employee/employer documents (like employee manuals). He works with startups and ongoing businesses to craft their documents, and explains, “my specialty is to work with principals and key employees of existing businesses of all types to create changes that will help them reach their next level of organization, leadership, and performance, and to improve their profitability.”

Back in 1996, Jim was launching a health information consulting company with a few partners and used Business Plan Pro to write the plan for that business. Since then, he has used several versions of the software to write plans for his own businesses, as well as all business and financial plans he writes for his clients. “I like the simplicity of Business Plan Pro,” he notes.

“In 2004 I engineered my own business plan for a venture separate from my writing business. The lending institution told me that it was one of the best plans they had ever seen; very detailed and easy to understand. This resulted in a business loan that included the purchase of a business and the associated real property.”

A business plan is an important document, according to Jim, because it helps to determine if a business idea will work. “Many people have great business ideas, but until everything is fleshed out — until they look at how all the numbers gel together — it’s a guessing game.” But almost as important as the plan is for determining the course of the business for the business owner, is the tremendous impact it has on lenders and investors. “Having a properly prepared business plan has ensured my clients present their ideas to the proper people in a proper format. It must be perfect. There is no un-ringing the bell.”

Writing a business plan is an everyday thing for Jim, but he experiences the same difficulties as anyone who sits down to the task. “The biggest challenge of engineering a business plan without Business Plan Pro is the financial plan component. Engineering a financial plan as comprehensive as that in Business Plan Pro, using a workbook with spreadsheets, is simply too time-consuming.” He tells the story of a client who handed him a bundle of 36 spreadsheets, prepared by a CPA. Though it was challenging, he was able to cull the information from all those sheets and use Business Plan Pro to create a finished product that made his client happy. “I’m not a CPA, but when everything folded together in Business Plan Pro, the end result was a comprehensive financial plan easily understood by most any banker.”

While the financial tools were his favorite part of the software, he says the flow of the program was really helpful as well. “The outline feature is very appealing. I like to see where I’ve been, where I’m going, and enjoy being guided towards a conclusion. I also like the review feature… which identifies the success or failure of your work.”

One feature of Business Plan Pro that Jim doesn’t use is the plan versus actual comparison. Since he’s writing the plans for other people, he doesn’t usually have the opportunity to follow up. “However, for my clients, I encourage them to purchase Business Plan Pro Premier Edition so they can use that feature once they’ve established their business.”

Jim has been writing business plans for clients for over four years and says he has not written any of them without Business Plan Pro. “While I consider myself very organized, I found the intuitiveness of Business Plan Pro quite appealing.  It really is a smart approach to engineering such an important document.”

Before starting his writing business, Jim says he labored in the corporate world — “Been there, done that.” He finds a great deal of satisfaction in what he’s doing now. “I enjoy helping people identify, reach, and enjoy their hopes, dreams, and aspirations through proper planning.”