Planning for Success
Why a Business plan?
A well-thought-out business idea must have considered marketing the product or service, as well as
the financial implications for the survival of the business and the controls
within the business.
Is there a market?
Once you have decided on your business idea and aims, you
must look at the likely market for your services. Talk to other people,
including potential customers, to get their views on your products or
services. Do they like the ideas? If they don’t can they say why not, or what
other possible products or service could be produced? If there are no alternatives,
then it is back to square one – but at least you have avoided an expensive mistake.
Who wants my product?
Effective marketing is necessary for the success of any business.
Without marketing, how would you expect your customers to know about your
product or service? Marketing also
helps you find out who wants your product – vital if promotional activities are
to be used to the best possible effect.
Talk to your family, friends and possible customers about
your business idea. Check on market trends with your local Business Link,
Training and enterprise Council or Enterprise Agency and look in the trade
journals in your local library. If your line of business is in a declining
market, think whether you can still make it a success.
If you appear to be in a rising market,good. But remember, you will still
need to persuade customers to buy from you rather than from competitors.
Think about who is going to buy your product.
If your product is very expensive, then your sales may be
limited. Where you trade and advertise depends on the price of your product and
your position in the market. These factors are important when comparing your
product to the competition.
What is my ‘USP’?
The USP is a famous marketing term invented when American
advertising was at is height. The idea was that a product had to have a Unique
Selling Point (USP) which made it different from the competition and persuaded
people to buy it. You should think about why customers might buy from you and
not someone else.
If you are marketing a product which has a USP that can be
easily identified (a totally new product) or that can be given a USP, advertise
and promote it. If you are in a business where there is not much difference
between products, or you sell the same things as everybody else, your USP could
be better service, more convenience, car parking, fast delivery, delivery to
the door, after-sales service, a wider range of products and so on.
Be careful of just competing on price. After all, it is
easy for your competitors to cut prices too.
Where should I locate my business?
Location is usually the most important part of a retail
business, and it can be very important to some other businesses too. Even if
you are working from home, you will have to think about things like planning
permission and access.
If you intend to lease or buy a retail outlet, check out
the location thoroughly. Look at the number and kind of shoppers, and
facilities such as car parking, as well as local conditions such as the crime
rate. Don’t forget to ask the owner the big question, 'Why are you selling?'
Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages of
setting up your business in different locations. Consider the following points
when deciding your business location:
- Few overheads.
- No commuting.
- Still may need planning permission.
- Objections from neighbours.
- Clauses in lease may not allow business use.
- Family life may interfere.
- Not close to market.
- Greater passing of trade.
- Better image.
- Nearer to like businesses
– so there is a current market.
- High rent and rates.
- Near to competition
- Easy to get to.
- Good image for cheaper rent.
- Cheaper growth opportunities
- without relocating.
- More overheads.
- Cost and time of travel to work.
- Access to other services.
Who is my competition?
Competition cuts both ways - on the one hand, it means
that there is already a demand for your product, but on the other, it means you
have to try harder. Direct competition comes from businesses that offer the
same product or service as you. Indirect competition comes from all the other
ways customers might spend their money, instead of with you. It is important
that you know your competitors strengths and weaknesses if you are to compete
with them effectively.
Will I make a profit?
To make the most profit, you need to know what the
customers will pay, what competitors charge and the costs of making each
product. You will soon find out if you set the wrong prices. If you set prices
too high, people will not want to buy your product. If you set prices too low,
your product may look cheap and you will lose money.
When setting your prices there are a number of elements
that need to be remembered.
Price setting can be separated into 5 different stages;
these stages will help you to work out your own profitable prices:
Stage 1-Household And PersonalOverheads Per Year.
* National Insurance
Stage 2 – Business Overheads And Costs Per Year.
* Your salary (household and personal overheads)
* Rent and rates
* Heating and lighting
* Interest on bank loan or overdraft
* Other expenses, such as legal and accounting fees
* Estimated number of sales during the period
* Cost per item = business overheads
* Profit you would like (say 50% of cost) =Cost per item x 50
Price per item, therefore = cost per item + profit
Pricing tactics can be a useful way of increasing sales and profit.
For instance, it is usually more effective to mark prices clearly
than make customers ask for them. Price breaks can also be useful. For some
products, it is better to break prices at 99p rather than round them up to the
Cutting prices is not normally a good idea for any business. If your profit
margins are small, your cash will be tighter and you will have less room
to move. It is better to sell good products at a fair price and make a
decent profit. For the long-term, remember that your customers have selective
memories. They will forget the good price, but they will remember the
bad product forever.
Check what price your potential customers might pay. If
they are not willing to pay your price, you may need to:
- Reduce your costs.
- Highlight the difference between your product or service
and your competitor’s - to justify the higher price.
- Improve the value of your product/service.
How do I promote myself?
People need to know what you are selling, where you are,
and why they should buy from you rather than anyone else, so you will need some
form of advertising and promotion. Your advertising should create an image that
attracts attention and is easy to associate with your business.
Advertising methods include:
- Promotional gifts such as pens or stickers.
- Local or national press.
- Local radio.
- ‘Word of mouth’ - advertising that money can’t buy.
- Business Directories such as the Yellow Pages.
Whatever your business, word of mouth is likely to be very
important indeed - how do you encourage word of mouth? You can do it by:
- Satisfying your customers with work well done.
- Having a good relationship with your customers.
- Building up a good reputation and protecting it, by
sorting out any problems quickly.
- Getting your name mentioned in trade magazines, or by
local press or radio, possibly through community public relations activities.
The following points will help you think about how to
promote your product or service:
- What features of your business can you use to offer people
a better deal?
- Where can you advertise?
- Your customers are not just the people who pay for the
product, for example, with children’s toys.
- Think of an eye-catching campaign to advertise who you are
and what you sell. Make it easy to remember.
- Make sure you can support your claims about your product
and you keep in line with the Trade Descriptions Act and Advertising Standards
Authority Code of Practice. Your local Trading Standards Office can help.
- Measure the success of your advertising by asking new
customers where they heard about you. Change where you advertise and your
message if necessary.
- Remember the power of signs.
- Think of ways to reach people when they need your product
- What public relations activity could you do?
- How can you encourage the most powerful advertising of all
- word of mouth?
Why do I need a business plan?
You need to plan your business. Trying to run your
business without planning is like floating aimlessly at sea in a fog. You will
not know where you are going, any more than where you have been or where you
are. What is worse, sooner or later you will hit something.
Working out the cash you expect to get is part of the
planning process. It will show you whether you need more finance. If you do, it
will be easier for your bank or any other organisation to help you if you can
give them a Business Plan which covers all of the information in a logical way.
How do I prepare my business plan?
To help you gain experience at completing Business Plans
it is possible to download a sample plan from this site, which allows you to
fill in the sections and submit the plan to an on-line advisor for
comments. This business plan is written to support the vast majority of self employed and start-up businesses.
How do I use the Business Plan?
We recommend that you download this business plan and work
on it off-line.To do this you will require Microsoft Excel.
After completing the plan come back to the service and, after registering on the site, submit an enquiry with the
''Business Plan Review request''
N.B. There is no requirement to provide the Estimate of Personal Wealth or the Survival Income Schedule unless the plans are to be used to
obtain the finance.
The service will identify to an Accredited Business Adviser in your locality who will contact you by email within a day or so
and invite you to submit your plan for review (with instructions how to input your plan).
The NFEA has permission from Watford Enterprise Agencies to use the attached Business Plan, which is subject to copyright 2000-2004
Users have permission to download the Plan and submit it for comments.
We would like to thank Watford Enterprise Agency
for the support they have provided us.
Please read the following notes before completing the Business Plan:
An outline of your business proposal
To start your Business Plan it is useful to write down the background information to your plans. Areas of particular importance include
your business aims for the coming 12 months and beyond, and an outline of your business proposals.
Estimate of personal wealth
There is always an element of risk when starting a business. Depending on how much risk a lender thinks there is you may need to give
security as insurance against things going wrong. This security will often come from personal assets, so if you intend to borrow money be prepared to look at
the business and personal assets you own.This form will help you to calculate your personal wealth and estimate the security levels that this will
Few businesses break-even in their first year.Calculating your survival income using the attached form in the Business Plan will help you to work out how much money you will
need to make in order to cover all personal overheads.
1. Nature Of Business
This section will involve completing basic details about your business’s trading activities, VAT consideration and dates for business
2. Owner– managers/Key personnel
Include brief details of the personal and business backgrounds of key personnel. If necessary, add more details about experience,
job responsibilities and health on separate sheets of paper. You need to give a clear summary of the experience people in your business have, including your
own. The exercise will also help show whether any of your staff need training and if so you will need to give details of any specialist training that will be
needed. Be ready to answer questions about your own abilities and skills.
This section describes how you hope your business to develop and grow and what you hope to achieve over the next one to three years.Be realistic about your objectives.You
should be able to achieve your aims and they must agree with Cashflow forecasts and Operational Budgets.
One of the most important parts of any business plan is how you see your market. It shows how much you have thought about your product
and its place in the market. Basic details must cover a description of the markets, information about competitors,
an explanation of how you expect to achieve market success and knowledge of the industry.
There needs to be brief details about your product and service.These details could include:
- Product or service description.
- Proposed price.
- Reasons for the choice of product.
- Market trends that will influence product sales.
- Material costs and mark up percentage.
- Payment methods.
- Description of how the product will be promoted.
- Information about who will buy your product and why they
will chose to buy it instead of competitors products.
5. Premises, plant, fittings and vehicles.
Your plans will need to show that your premises are in the
right location. They must also include justification of any large amounts of
money that need to be spent on your premises.
With plant and machinery, you need to show how old it is,
its present value, hire/lease purchase commitments and how much it will cost to
replace it, its condition and whether it can cope if you expand. Be open and
realistic when you give these details.
6.Pre start-up costs
In this section you need to give a breakdown of what you will have to buy and spend money on before
This section needs to include a breakdown of the finance that you will require, with specific details about finance that will be
required for equipment.Installation, carriage charges and VAT must all be calculated and added to this section.
It is easy to underestimate the amount of money you will need to get going, but not having enough finance is one of the
most common problems in small business, and can be fatal. Producing a Cashflow Forecast is the best way of estimating how much money you will need (an
explanation of Cashflow Forecasts is given in the next section).
If you are already in business Operational Budgets can be useful as a planning tool, as can breakeven points and profit
and loss forecasts:
Budgeting gives you a useful planning tool. By comparing your actual performance with the budget, you can spot difficulties early on and
take action to put them right. However, all forecasts are based on assumptions, so these must be specific and as realistic as possible. Also think about
"building in" unforeseen costs in case the worst happens. This can be shown as a separate item or by building it into the individual cost figures.
Whatever you do, you must explain your reasoning. Remember, this is an operating budget is a plan for your trading operations. It is to do
with profit and loss, not cash. Include any item that gives a profit, or is a cost against profit. Do not include any other items, such as capital expense,
if they will not directly affect your profits.
You must also be clear about the difference between the various costs of running your business. Some will vary depending on how well
your business is doing (variable costs). Some will not change (fixed costs or overheads).
At this point, we must explain the term ‘depreciation’, as it will be used when compiling an Operating Budget.
Depreciation takes into account the reduction in value of an asset over its working life. It is an expense the business must pay regardless
of how much business it does, and so you should include it in the Operating Budget as a fixed cost.
Now that you have looked at the different costs, you can work out your break-even point Break-even is the level of sales you need to
cover all of your costs (both fixed and variable). Let's see how to work it out, using an imaginary manufacturer. The same calculation applies to any
|Forecast for next 12 months
|Less closing stock
|Goods or materials used
|Wages or salaries
From these figures, you can work out your projected gross
and net profit. That is to say, your profits before (gross) and after (net) you
allow for your fixed costs.
|Goods or materials used
|Wages or salaries
|Less variable costs
(profit before fixed costs)
|Less fixed cost
(profit after fixed costs)
Now you need to work out your gross profit margin. This is
your profit before allowing for fixed costs. It is written as a percentage of
Gross profit of £28,000
x 100 = 25.9%
Sales of £108,000
If you can reach the gross profit margin and your fixed
costs do not change, the break-even turnover is worked as follows:
Fixed costs of £10,360
x 100= £40,000
Gross profit margin of 25.9%
Therefore, this business will need a turnover of £40,000
to cover all fixed costs, as long as it keeps the same gross profit margin.
Finally, work out the amount you need to sell every month
just to break even. This figure is important because you can use
it to check whether or not you are on target, or need to
make some adjustments. But remember that this calculation does not take into
account any seasonal changes which might affect your business.
To work out monthly targets, simply take your break-even
sales figure for the year and divide by 12.
= £3,333 per month
Compiling An Operational Budget
The Operational Budget can now be prepared.This will help you to forecast your profit
and loss and means that you can compare your projections with actual
performance. Include everything that produces a profit or is a cost against profit.
The headings for the budget are seen below:
A. Total sales (1+2)
3.Goods or materials used
4.Wages and salaries
B.Total variable costs (3 + 4)
Gross profit (A – B)
Gross profit as a percentage of sales (C % A x 100)
6.Other fixed costs.
7.Selling and distribution.
E.Total fixed costs.
F.Net profit before tax ( C – E).
Sales you need to break even (E –D x 100)
Once you have worked out your Operating Budget, you are ready to move on to your
Cashflow Forecast. Cash is the lifeblood of your business. Managing cash badly is
one of the main reasons for business failure.
Like your Operating Budget, your Cashflow Forecast will be based upon assumptions.
Again you must be realistic. Think about the best and worst cases and explain
the assumptions you make. The more realistic your forecasts, the better any bank
will like them.
Unlike your Operating Budget, your Cashflow Forecast is not to do with profit
and loss. It is just your best estimates of how the cash will go in and out of
our business over a certain period.
Things to bear in mind when completing your Cashflow Forecast:
Think about the period of credit you give your customers or take from your
suppliers. For example, if you can keep your customers to 30 days' credit
(which will not be easy), your Operating Budget could show the sales you invoiced,
say, in January. But this cash should not be in your cashflow projection until
February. And then only if you are sure your customers will pay on time.
If you have never had dealings with your suppliers before, you might have to
settle their bills immediately. Obviously, this will affect your cashflow.
Your forecast should show all cash you will pay and
receive, including your own salary, capital spending and loans. These are all
part of your cashflow. However, depreciation is not included in the cashflow
because it is only a book entry. It does not mean real cash coming in or going
out of the business.
VAT will be shown in your Cashflow Forecast but not in
your Operating Budget. This is because it is not a charge against profit and
loss, but a cash settlement.
Now you need to work out your Cashflow Forecast.
To make this process easier, it is possible to download a sample Cashflow Forecast
that will perform all the calculations after having inputted the necessary figures.
Business Planning Downloads
When entering figures it is important that all cells contain at least a zero if
the formula is to work correctly. The initial calculations will display the income
less expenditure; you also need to enter your starting bank balance here. The final
months bank balance will be calculated and transferred automatically into next
months starting bank balance.
Download Cashflow Forecast here!
Profit and Loss Accounts
Profit and loss accounts are used to show how a business has performed over a specific
period. It can be forecasted to be used as a planning and monitoring device for your
business. A profit and loss forecast can be downloaded for your use from this site.
To start this Microsoft Excel working you must enter in your start-up figures into the
relevant columns, even if they are zero. The first section will calculate your initial
gross profit and the second section will calculate the total of your overheads. At the
bottom of the spreadsheet you will be given the Trading and Net Profit figures.
Download Profit & Loss Forecast here!
Now you have worked out your Cashflow Forecast, you can finally decide on the 'finance'
part of your Business Plan.
Sources of finance
Banks are usually wary of lending money if there are no personal finances entering
the business. This section needs to breakdown your sources of finance and will include
private sector funding, such as your own resources and bank loans, as well as public
sector funding such as grants and enterprise allowances.
Download the Business Planning template here!