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Don’t Start a Venture Without It

Richard O' Reilly designs microcomputer applications for The Times

Going into business with not much more than a personal computer and a good idea is not that farfetched a plan these days. There are hundreds of products and services on the market that attest to the possibilities.

Your chances of being successful will be greatly enhanced if you have a sound plan before you start, one that foresees most of the pitfalls and accurately gauges the potential market and competition. Now there is a personal computer software package that helps you put together such a plan and manage a business’s daily operations.

For an investment of $349, you can obtain the expert services of “Venture, the Entrepreneur’s Handbook” from Star Software Systems. Based on an entrepreneur curriculum at the University of Southern California, Venture runs on IBM and compatible personal computers with graphics monitors.

Along with guiding you through the creation of a business feasibility study, Venture gives you a spreadsheet, a database, a word processor and a general ledger accounting system. Within each of those programs is a series of forms that the entrepreneur will find helpful in running the business.

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To bring all of these features together in one package, Star Software licensed an integrated software system from Tandy Corp. called DeskMate, which provides the word processor, spreadsheet and database. The result is a seamless system that is very easy to learn and use.

Comprehensive Set of Questions

The planner, which is divided into feasibility and business operations sections, seems quite thorough. It forces the user to answer so many questions and think about so many issues that it boggled my mind. If starting a business is that complicated, I thought, it’s a good thing I’ve got a job.

And that’s the point, of course. Anybody can start a business that will fail. But it often takes a complex strategy to start a business that will thrive.

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The feasibility plan covers the concept, its technical feasibility, the market, availability and cost of supply, price/cost analysis and anticipated profitability.

If the idea survives the rigors of that section, you then answer more comprehensive questions to create the business plan with which financing will be sought.

Among the topics dealt with are management and organization, production, competition, pricing, operations, financing, scheduling, growth and contingency planning. In the feasibility and business planning sections, the manual contains helpful tips labeled “common mistakes to avoid” for each topic covered.

As anyone who has started a business knows, the planning process takes weeks of thought and research. Venture can guide you, but you must do the homework. Don’t expect to buy Venture one day and have a business plan ready to present the next.

Once the question and answer phase is done, a unique feature of Venture comes into play. It takes the answers you have typed into the computer and converts them into a word processing document, complete with nicely centered and underlined topic headings. You then flesh out the plan in the word processor, assured that the final draft will look professional because of Venture’s text formatting. That final plan will likely be 40 or more pages long and include a number of financial tables pasted into it electronically from the spreadsheet module.

Once you go into business, the word processor will serve many needs. It even comes with a number of forms that you may need, including employee non-competition agreements, employee invention agreements, non-disclosure agreements, employment contracts, partnership agreements, stock sale agreements and many more.

Two Files in Database

The spreadsheet section is similarly endowed with forms. They include pro forma income and cash flow statements, a balance sheet, a work sheet to calculate a dozen basic business ratios, a forecasting model, expense account forms and a rental real estate analysis model. Any can be modified to suit your needs.

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In the database module are two files to get you started. One is an entrepreneur’s bibliography of 165 agencies, books, articles and magazines to aid your research. The other allows you to create a database listing business prospects.

The general ledger contains separate charts of accounts for four kinds of business ventures: distributors, manufacturers, retailers and service businesses. It’s a full double-entry accounting system from which you can prepare your checks by computer.

When your new business outgrows the accounting power offered by Venture, the publisher, Star Software Systems, has a full-blown accounting system available into which your accounts can be easily merged. (The company started as a publisher of accounting software.)

All in all, Venture is a worthy package. It can’t guarantee you business success, but used seriously, it ought to save you from wasting much time or money on half-baked schemes.

Computer File welcomes readers’ comments but regrets that the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Richard O’Reilly, Computer File, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.

THE PRODUCT

Venture,the Entrepreneur’s Handbook

A $349 integrated software system for running and planning a business. It includes word processing, database, spreadsheet and accounting functions.

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Requirements: Any IBM personal computer or compatible computer with 512 kilobytes of random access memory, a hard disk, a graphics monitor and DOS version 3.2 or later. A mouse is optional and helpful.

Publisher: Star Software Systems,

363 Van Ness Way, Torrance, Calif. 90501. Phone: (800) 242-STAR.


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