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. Despite these updates, many of the NAICS industry titles still contain somewhat outdated terminology.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.
When creating your company or adjusting your company type, LivePlan’s AI Assistant will automatically generate the industry code most closely aligned with your business’ industry. You can also manually search for your industry within the U.S. The benchmarks will then display metrics showing how companies similar to yours have performed in the past.
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.
Finding your industry
When you begin a new business plan, LivePlan will prompt you for your company name and a short description of your business:
LivePlan Assistant will pre-populate your benchmark sector based on your input:
Changing your industry
If you would like to change to a new industry, click Change next to your industry name and NAICS code near the top of the Benchmarks section:
- 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, the results for all US industries will be displayed. At this point, you can either enter another keyword to search to find a more specific match or continue with the averages:
The description of the selected industry will appear in a box above the search tool:
- To change your company size settings, click Next (or, click I'm Done if you don't wish to change those settings).
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, click Change and select the range of annual revenue that you want to include in your industry benchmarks:
- Click I'm Done:
Changing the date range
You can also view your benchmark data for different periods of time. This allows you to see larger data sets, and also see if your industry has any seasonal fluctuations.
Note: If you change the start date of your forecast, you'll also need to change the time frame of your Benchmarks data to match.
To access a different date range, use the pull-down menu in the upper right corner:
Viewing Industry Benchmark Results
Once your industry is set in the Benchmarks section, you'll see a results summary that looks like the one below. In this view, you can see industry averages for key profit, cash, & spending metrics, as well as current ratios:
Note that you can see two kinds of data compared to the benchmarks:
- Projections from the forecast you're prepared
- Actual results that you've entered from your accounting solution
What does each metric mean?
From the metrics tables, you can click through for more details about any of the metrics. When you hover over a metric on the overview, you'll see a blue bar and the option to Click for details:
When you click, you'll open a detailed view for that metric:
The example chart above shows two values from your data:
- Your results, which comes from your accounting actuals. You'll only see this value if your business is currently running and you've imported your actuals to the Dashboard.
- Your forecast, which comes from the data you've entered into the Forecast section.
The metric above shows how your data compares to your industry average.
If you're not sure how to read the metric, the right-hand sidebar tells you more about how LivePlan calculates the metric, what it means, and whether a higher/lower number is better or worse.
For an overview of all the available metrics, read About LivePlan's Benchmarks.
Frequently asked questions about benchmarks
How to use benchmarks if you are outside of the United States
The industry data from our partners at Vertical IQ 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. While we continue to search for sources of international benchmarks data, we haven't yet found any data sets with enough scope to be as useful to our international customers as they are to our U.S. customers.
That being said, if you are in a country outside of the U.S., these benchmarks may still be useful to you to give you a real-world sense of what kind of metrics different types of businesses can expect.
Why can't I see my forecast data in the benchmarks section?
When you first set up your company and build your forecast, the Benchmarks display will default to the same start date you choose for your forecast, even if that start date is in the future.
If you change the start date of your forecast, however, then you may find that you see "No Data" in the Forecast column of the Benchmarks page, as shown below:
If this is the case, all you'll need to do is manually change the date range of your Benchmarks display to match the new forecast's start date:
- Locate the pull-down date-selection menu. Select Specific months:
- In the menu that appears, you can select a date range, as shown below. First, choose your new forecast starting month as the end of that date range (from the To field on the right), then select a starting month to compare in the From field on the left. Then click Apply:
- With that change of date range, you should now be able to see your forecast data in the Benchmarks display:
Why can't I see forecast values for revenue spent on rent or marketing?
In the Benchmarks section, under Spending Metrics, you may see "No Data," in the Your Forecast column, as shown below. This can happen in one of two ways:
- You haven't yet marked any of the Expense entries in your forecast as "Rent" or "Marketing."
- You've identified your rent or marketing expenses in the forecast but have not yet entered any numbers for them.
In order to calculate the forecast spending metrics, LivePlan needs to know which of the expenses in your forecast are rent and marketing expenses. To identify them in the forecast, follow these steps:
- Click on the Forecast section and choose Expenses:
- Click on an existing expense you have set up for marketing or rent (or create one if you haven't set it up yet):
- In the overlay that appears, under What sort of expense is this, select Marketing (or Rent or lease) :
- Click Save & Exit:
- Go back to the Benchmarks section, and your forecast value for Revenue spent on marketing will display: