Business Plans – where’s the value?

There is an emerging trend that business plans are no longer necessary. Indeed, there is something to be said in favour of this view in a fast moving world with disruptive business models.  To my mind, critics of the business plan overlook its advantages.

A business plan forces an entrepreneur (it should be them and not someone they employ) to write down what the business is going to do, how it is going to work, the consumer demand that it will satisfy, the evidence of market demand, the competitors, the market size, how it will make money, what resources it is going to require and the relationships that will need to be built.  These are not easy things to write down and require a lot of thought.  The writing of a business plan forces the entrepreneur to think.

Of course parts of it are likely be wrong, but that is not the point.  Once a business plan has been written it can easily be shared with others.  Their thoughts and perspectives can be gained and the business plan amended where appropriate.  It can then be shared again and inconsistencies and improvements identified.

Once the business plan is starting to take shape it can be used to create a series of financial projections.  Doing this will provoke further questions and the need to obtain further answers, which in turn may lead to the business plan being modified again.

It is this iterative process which gives the business plan its principal value.  By thinking through how the business will operate, how customers and competitors may respond, strategies can be developed which avoid making costly mistakes.  What is important is not to turn this into a burdensome exercise which loses its value.

The […]

By |January 16th, 2015|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #19

I have registered two domain names for my business, and, using Go Daddy ( ) as they are well established and had some attractively priced plans.  I chose the suffix as I operate mainly locally in the UK.

The following article was the best I found giving a good overview of all the steps required:

Having given some thought to my requirements, the various options and the gaps in my knowledge, I came to the conclusion that I had a choice to make.  I could either invest a fair amount of time getting to know a Content Management System (CMS) and develop the website myself or I could find someone with the necessary knowledge to do it for me.  Feeling that there was a high probability that I would make some mistakes and need to re-trace my steps, I chose to use the professionals.

Having looked at a few firms, I decided to use Footprint on the basis that they understood my brief, I liked some of their other designs and they would give me a website which I could then maintain myself, but with the ability to ask for support when required.  I have been very pleased with the support provided and the speed with which the website has been delivered.

Let me know what you think of the finished product by using the contact us form on the site.

By |November 18th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #18

Some of the books that I have read and recommend are:

Brand You – John Purkiss and David Royston-Lee

Confessions of an Advertising Executive – David Ogilvy

Getting to Yes: Getting Agreement Without Giving In- Roger Fisher & William Ury

Hedgehogging – Barton Biggs

How to Build a Business from your Kitchen Table – Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker

Rebel Entrepreneur – Jonathan Moules

The Zulu Principle – Jim Slater

Some further guidance on setting up your own business can be found at

By |October 10th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #17

Getting “Investor Ready”
Many companies need to raise external finance in order to fulfil their potential.  Generally for start-up companies this is equity or share capital as there is insufficient back-up to support borrowing from a bank.

Finding investors can be a difficult process.  It is therefore critical that when you get in front of a potential investor you make it count.  Most entrepreneurs want to talk about their business idea, but an investor will, in addition, need to understand the investment proposition, the management team and the market in which the business operates.  Having anticipated the potential questions and incorporated the answers into the pitch will improve your chances of securing the investment.

One of the key documents to get ”investor ready” is the Business plan.  In fact, it should be a key part of your thinking process, not just at the time of setting up the business but moving forwards as well.  Being able to write down how the business will function is very important and will help you to highlight areas that you may have not thought about.  Whole books are available on writing a business plan and I don’t intend to go into the process in this post.  Some entrepreneurs I know have initially resisted this process but have seen great value afterwards from the disciplined thinking that is involved.  The financial projections, especially the cash flow forecasts and sensitivities should improve your understanding of the business model and the key drivers between success and failure.

There are some attractive tax incentives for investors in early stage businesses and structuring your company to qualify can again make the fund raising task easier.

When the business is generating sales, the banks may be willing to lend money […]

By |May 9th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #16

Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance are the key policies for my business.  You might also need Employer Liability Insurance.  I obtained quotes through my bank and also from a specialist insurance company, Dallas Kirkland.

By |May 2nd, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #15

Providers of Accounting Services
I chose to establish my company myself but there are a variety of people who will do this for you.  Competex and the Interim Hub are specialists providing this service to interim professionals.  Many accountants also provide this service on a more general basis.

By |April 30th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #14

P11D & tax year end tasks
The P11D is a form which is used to report the expenses paid to directors and “higher paid” employees (those who earn over £8,500 p.a.) at the end of the tax year to HMRC.

To complete the form requires significant re-analysis of the expenses as the amounts to be included are the VAT inclusive amounts, not the VAT exclusive amounts in the accounting system.  This was time consuming and was the first time I felt the frustration that many express about unnecessary “red tape”.

I first completed the P11D paper form which I have retained for my own personal reference.  Looking through the HMRC web site I saw that there is an online filing option and completed the P11D online, then the P11D(b) which was completed for me.

In addition, I went back into the Basic PAYE Tools programme to complete the P60 Form, printed it off and gave it to myself.

I had already made my year end payroll tax submission and printed the P35 form, so having double checked that all the necessary forms had been completed, I updated the Basic PAYE Tools to the 2013/14 RTI version following the process laid out on the HMRC web site.

I also completed the P11D dispensation application online which hopefully will mean that I can avoid completing the P11D form next year.

By |April 29th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #13

PAYE Year End Submissions
This was all pretty simple.  Having run my payroll for month 12 and checked the data in the system, I selected the year end option on the main menu.  I was presented with a checklist of questions and was able to answer them all positively.

I was then presented with the deductions that I have made in the various pay periods during the year and confirmed them.  I entered the PAYE and NI payments I had paid and scheduled to pay up to and including 22 April.  I declared that I am operating a service company.

Cross checking against the HMRC website as I went, I was able to declare that I was submitting P14s, did not need to submit P38As  and that I would need to complete P11Ds.  These forms obviously mean something to regular payroll practitioners but not to me.

I was informed that the P11D had to be submitted by 6 July which I duly noted.

After a few more confirmation screens, I was asked if I wanted to make a test submission and thought that this would be sensible.  As prompted I entered my online gateway details, made the submission and was relieved to read the message that it had worked.  I then did it for real.  After a couple of attempts the HMRC computer responded and I had submitted.  I noted the confirmation number that was provided.  I tried to print the calculation results which produced an error, but I was not concerned as I already had prints of the payroll and the electronic backups.

By |April 26th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #12

I decided to register for VAT from the outset.  My rationale behind this was that it seemed sensible to get everything set up and running smoothly before I was forced to register having hit the turnover threshold of £77,000.  Being VAT registered can also give a level of credibility to a new business and if customers are also likely to be VAT registered, it will not impose an additional cost on them.

Having done some background reading (the HMRC web site is quite helpful here) and spoken with some contacts, it looked as if I would be best to register and also apply to use the flat rate scheme which makes the administration considerably easier.  I made a note that if my annual turnover is expected to exceed £230,000 in the next 30 days then I will have to stop using the flat rate scheme.

To register for VAT, I was told that you need to have your company bank account details.  Also, it is not possible to register for VAT and the Flat Rate Scheme at the same time on-line, so I sent the following letter:

Wolverhampton Registration UnitHM Revenue & CustomsDeansgate62 – 70 Tettenhall RoadWolverhamptonWV1 4TZDear Sirs

Application for VAT Registration and joining of the Flat Rate Scheme

Please find enclosed, completed forms VAT1 and VAT 600FRS in respect of VAT registration for 19 Corporate Finance Ltd.

We are applying for initial registration, together with joining the Flat Rate Scheme at the same time as we wish to use the Flat Rate Scheme from the start of registration, as advised in section 5.2 of notice 733.

We look forward to receiving confirmation, together with VAT number in due course.


Yours faithfully


The VAT Registration number came through 11 days after posting the […]

By |April 23rd, 2013|Business|0 Comments

Diary of a UK Start Up #11

The first step is to register for the online services.  This is done by creating a Government Gateway account and then registering to handle the relevant taxes online at

I received the employer registration reference 4 days after registering.

HMRC have a free basic payroll program.  This has been amended in April 2013 and the new version, which handles RTI submissions, is available at  The notes below largely relate to the previous version.

I set the company up as the employer and checked the P11D.

You need to have your online PIN before starting the payroll process.  Something that I discovered too late and had to delete my payroll and re-enter the information once the PIN had been received.

In summary, to save you the errors I made.  As soon as you have the employer registration reference you can set up the employer.  You can also check the P45 figures using the P45 Checker in the Calculators.

The PIN came through 9 days after registering. I set myself up as the employee, entered the P45 details and submitted these electronically.  I then entered the pay details in the P11 calculator, separately created a payslip in excel , generated P32 records for each month of the tax year to date (all of which were nil) and made submission.  The accounting entries were recorded in the General Ledger.

The following month, the company paid me again.  This time PAYE income tax was deducted.  It was very unclear whether this had to be reported to HMRC in some way or whether the Basic PAYE Tools program does this automatically.  I later discovered, while reading an article in the FT about “Real Time Information” that currently the payroll information is reported once a year […]

By |April 18th, 2013|Business|0 Comments

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