Benchmark search results are based on the industry codes and descriptions established by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). (To learn more about NAICS, read About the industry benchmarks.) NAICS codes and descriptions are updated every five years, and the last update was in 2012. Despite these updates, many of the NAICS industry titles still contain somewhat outdated terminology.
For example, if you are writing a business plan for a coffee shop, and you search for "coffee shop," NAICS will return a category called "Snack and Nonalcoholic Beverage Bars." This is the correct category for a coffee shop, but it might not seem intuitive based on the title. Likewise, if you search for "web design," NAICS will return a category called "Custom Computer Programming Services." It's important to read the entire description for a category so you can choose the correct one.
We have added some current terms as keywords for LivePlan's custom search algorithm to make it easier to locate the correct category for your business. But, if you have any difficulty finding a NAICS category that seems correct for your business, please contact us, and we'll be happy to help you.
To search for your industry:
- Click on the Benchmarks tab.
- Enter the keyword(s) for your business in the industry search box, and click the green search button:
From the list of results, locate the industry category that most closely matches your business, and click Select:
If your search for an industry doesn't have any results, you'll see the following message. At this point, you can either enter another keyword to search for, or select All Industries:
The description of the industry you selected will appear in a box above the search tool:
- To change your region or company size settings, click Next (or, click I'm Done if you don't wish to change those settings).
Changing the region
LivePlan automatically selects your region based on your location (using your IP address). If you are in the United States, you will be assigned the appropriate region for your state. If you are outside of the United States, your region will be automatically set to Entire U.S.. However, you can change the region setting at any time.
To do this:
- On the region tab, select the appropriate radio button for the region you want:
Note: If there is no data available for a particular region, that option will be grayed out.
Click Next to move on to the company size setting (or click I'm Done if you don't wish to change the company size setting).
Changing the company size
The company size is automatically set to "All sizes." However, you can change this setting at any time:
- On the company size tab, select the range of annual revenue that you want to include in your industry benchmarks:
Note: If there is no data available for a particular company size, that option will be grayed out, and you won't be able to select it.
- Click I'm Done.
Changing the date range
By default, the benchmark views will show you last month's data, both for your own forecast and actuals, as well as for the benchmarks data.
If you want to change the date range for this data, use the date selector in the upper right-hand corner of either the benchmark overview or detailed benchmark views:
Note that you cannot select a future date from this selector. So, if your forecast includes months in the future, you will not be able to select those months. However, the benchmark data should still be helpful to you as you create your forecast.
How to use benchmarks if you are outside of the United States
The industry data from our partners at Sageworks comes from U.S. companies only. More than 30% of our customers are outside the U.S., and we have users in most countries in the world. It would be great to offer local benchmark data for everyone. Unfortunately, finding reliable data providers is tricky, especially beyond the top several regions. Sageworks is one of the biggest and most prominent companies in this space. Like the other major providers, though, their core data is from U.S. companies only. They are just starting to build some other regional collections.
We are working with Sageworks to get access to benchmarks for more metrics, which will make the current functionality more valuable. If this feature proves popular, we may explore other regional data providers in the future.
If you are in a country outside of the U.S., these benchmarks may still be useful, but you will probably want to select the entire U.S. for your location, rather than a specific region.