Introduction to business planning for retail businesses
The importance of a business plan
Implementing the plan (abstract – Chapter 8 –Navigating Your Business Journey)
Starting or restarting a business is an exciting time for those involved in turning an idea into a business opportunity. The business owner feels passionate and enthusiastic about what they might achieve when embarking on such a promising adventure to transform their idea into profitable and successful outcomes.
Such excitement and enthusiasm of embarking on a business adventure may feel somewhat similar to Bilbo Baggins setting off on his adventure of unknown challenges. The enthusiasm of entering a new business tends to raise the endorphin levels of those tasked with creating successful outcomes, boosting the energy levels of the individuals to something more than normal, as they head into the battlefield of the business environment as the strongest warriors of the day, donned with their armour of boldness, surrounded by their army of positivity and waving the battle flag of confidence that their ideas will be the next most successful business in the world of business.
The high levels of vigour and enthusiasm might provide the right frame of mind and drive to get things done that need to occur with some urgency when starting or restarting a business, yet the rush of enthusiasm can also overrun sensibility from time to time when new ideas and opportunities are put into practice.
The business owner feels empowered by the opportunity, driven by perceived successful outcomes, and further fueled by the urgency that success must occur as soon as possible so as to maintain a platform of financial business sustainability and to capture the lion’s share of the market before the competitor does.
After enduring the onslaught of market entry in the battle for business success, then finding that things haven’t gone the way the business owner wanted them to, tiredness and despondency can fog the pathway forward to better outcomes. Going into battle without a battle plan would be madness for any general to even think of doing as the losses would be great with few benefits, yet some enthusiastic business owners feel that marching forward whilst blindfolded might be worth the risk.
Passion and enthusiasm should not be confused with strategically planned drive and determination, as there is a mountainous difference between acting on impulse and acting on a measured approach.
Simply relying on passion to succeed can also cause the downfall of the very outcome the business owner was hoping to achieve. Passion and enthusiasm can easily override sensibility and a measured approach in starting a business borne from an idea, yet it is also passion that is one of the most important ingredients needed for a business owner or entrepreneur to initiate and grow a business.
What is a Business Plan
The meaning of the word ‘plan’ as described in the dictionary is “the representation of anything drawn on a plane, and forming a map or chart; a scheme devised; a project; disposition of parts according to a certain design; a method or process; a way; a mode. To invent or contrive for construction; to scheme’ to devise; to form in design.”
Why have a Business Plan
Developing a plan prior to initiating a business would assist in identifying any risks that may arise and how those risks could be reduced should they occur. The plan can also guide the business owner to issues such as how to sustain the business whilst moving through various hurdles once the business has been established, and the identifying financial impacts of the business from conception, through to profitability.
There are many levels of planning that may be applied to a business from the simplest one page plan that may indicate the most basic intentions of the business owner in starting the business, through to a comprehensive business plan with all of the details required for third party stakeholders such as investors, banks, shareholders and others.
Types of Business Plan
A basic plan may be used for an individual starting their own business in providing goods to an organization or collection of organisations. It may be that the individual has left employment and is offered a long term contract with the organization they had left or another similar organization. For the individual to provide such services, they may have to initiate a business entity as a sole trader or possibly a limited company.
In doing so the individual may consider developing a basic plan for their business, as there may only be a low level third party (i.e. accountant, lawyer) requirement to view such a plan. The basic plan would simply entail the steps taken to transition from past employee into a business entity, and further maintain a level of financial sustainability that suits the individual.
A basic plan might include information such as:
- Who owns the business (individual or shares)?
- What type of business entity is required?
- How will the financial matters be managed?
- Are there any medium or long term liabilities that need to be managed?
- What are the products/services of the business?
- Are there any constraints in conjunction with the customers?
- What are the business liabilities and risks?
- Will the business plan for any further employees in the future?
- What is the duration of any long term contracts, and what happens when the contracts expire?
- What is the exit strategy of the business?
If the business has no intention of employing staff, does not operate from a leased or purchased facility (operated from home), does not require any marketing input to gain or maintain a customer base, and has no or low equipment overheads to maintain the product/service, a basic plan may provide all that is needed for the business to operate.
When wanting to initiate, restart, or grow a business that has employees, regular overhead costs, or a need to gain and maintain a customer base, having a plan for the business would be valuable.
As with all business entities in NZ business ownership carries a significant level of accountability. The business owner is entirely accountable for all actions within the business and carries the responsibility for anything that occurs within the business they own, whether the business is new or long established.
A component of that responsibility is the business owner being aware of the risks the business may be affected by, having enough financial support to ensure the business will survive the start-up process, implementing and monitoring all regulatory and compliance measures, and ensuring that all employees and other stakeholders are protected by the required employment and safety measures required of the business.
If things go wrong within the business, it is the business owner’s responsibility to show they had taken all practicable steps to identify the possible risks and have a plan to mitigate them. If no evidence can be provided showing the due diligence the business owner has taken, it is likely the business owner could be held accountable by the current government Laws and Acts for negligence of operating the business at risk.
As a business grows to a size needing employees, and further requiring a director, or board of directors that are not owners of the business, liability for any adversities within the business will reflect on the directors initially, then liability may continue through to the shareholders of the business, depending on the adversity and business structure.
One of the mechanisms to reduce negligence is to construct a business plan that would indicate the risks that have been considered and the actions to be applied to mitigate the risks, should they occur.
The business plan should include the critical operational components of the business that need to be managed, supply chain requirements, and the financial impact of implementing the business as well as any growth strategies. Prior to constructing the business plan, identifying who will view the plan and why, will influence the level of detail required. Third party stakeholders viewing the plan will want to understand the direction the business in heading in, and will seek to gain confidence in the soundness of the business, including the competency of the business owner.
Stakeholders that may seek to view a business plan:
- Shareholders (Stock Market listed)
- Management team & employees
- Regulatory & compliance stakeholders
- Banks (for borrowing)
- Suppliers (supply agreements)
- Large Customers (supply agreements)
- Community (based on the product/service)
The business plan should provide enough detail for the plan to clearly indicate the information required to specify what type of business entity it is, what is the purpose of the business, who owns the business, is there enough financial input, what are the risks and have they been mitigated.
There are many types of templates for business plans for a wide range of businesses ranging from owner operator sized businesses through to multi-national corporations. Small to medium business entities wouldn’t be expected to produce the depth of detailed documentation more commonly produced in businesses listed on the stock exchange, or the multi-national corporations, yet there is a framework with minimal information to provide a clear pathway and intent for the business, without the need to document details that may not be significant to the business.