On Wednesday 25th February, the Enterprise Centre welcomed four entrepreneurs, including business founders and company directors, to talk about the relevance of business plans in the creation of new ventures. Each panel member spoke about their experiences in setting up their own businesses and the importance of business planning.
Students heard from Steve Baker, Director of Baker and Company; Clive Summerhayes, previously a main board director and Sectoral Managing Director of Halma plc; Rana Harvey, MD of Monster Group (UK) and James Waggott, owner of the Boutique Barge Company.
When discussing the importance of planning in ensuring the success of his luxury barge cruising business, James Waggott described his business plan as “a document of persuasion”. For James, his plan enabled him to get his business ideas off the ground demonstrating to potential investors he had done his research and considered all angles of such a high-risk venture. It therefore allowed him to clearly communicate his vision to others as well as clearly lay out his ideas for himself.
Clive Summerhayes also emphasised that “planning is absolutely crucial” in securing initial start up money and convincing potential lenders that your idea is going to work. He described: “You have to convince yourself what you have in mind is hanging together. If you can convince yourself, you stand a very good chance of convincing other people.”
All the speakers touched on the theme that as well as serving to persuade other people of your business vision, business plans are as much about convincing yourself you have come across something worth pursuing. Rana Harvey explained her business plan gave her “confidence in where I was heading.”
The entrepreneurs also provided insights into what they considered the most important factor in ensuring the success of a start up. For Rana Harvey, understanding the differences between cash flow and profit and loss is paramount. Clive Summerhayes agreed, advising “Keep it simple, cash is key. However well you are doing if you run out of money, you’re finished.”
For all the entrepreneurs, successful business planning also involved thorough market research and expert knowledge of your competitors. Steve Baker in particular emphasised this point asserting that that the most successful business ventures are the ones that know their market well, locate a problem and provide a solution to it. Clive expanded on this point asserting that “Your product must be one for which there is a real need” to persuade people to keep buying it time and time again.
The event was a fantastic opportunity for students to hear insights from people with real industry experience, and learn the benefits of a carefully thought out business plan from people who have successfully done it themselves. I was struck by the remarkable stories of each guest and enjoyed hearing about the range of different projects they had all been involved in. It was also incredibly inspiring to hear how their hard work and determination translated into success.