Business planning just became easier with new software available for free use at U.S. Small Business Administration training and counseling centers.

Atlas Business Solutions Inc. of Fargo, N.D., designed the business-planning application, called Ultimate Business Planner. It guides the small business entrepreneur step-by-step to create a business plan that can be presented to a lender, other financial backer, employees and managers.

"A good business plan is the heart and soul of every successful small business," said Hector V. Barreto, SBA administrator. "Therefore the SBA is committed to making available the tools to guide small businesses at start-up and sustain their growth."

ABS donated to the SBA 1,000 CD-ROM copies of the software, valued at $100,000. The software has been loaded onto workstation computers at many of the agency's Business Information Centers, Women's Business Centers, Tribal Business Information Centers and Small Business Development Center offices around the country. For the location nearest you go to www.sba.gov/services, or call 1-800-U ASK SBA. At locations where Ultimate Business Planner is unavailable, other small business planning software and a wide variety of reference and research materials are available. Many of these sites also offer free counseling and free or minimal-cost training courses and workshops for small business clients in areas that include business planning, marketing and sales, product expansion and exporting.