Tag Archives: business plans

Business Coaching for Start-ups: Part 1

Start-up business coachingIn the current economic climate it can be hard for new businesses to establish themselves. Of new businesses which manage to get to the stage of registering as companies around 20-30% do not survive their first three years in business.

In order to help new companies survive and grow more quickly the government has been introducing a range of policies including business coaching. A quick search on Google, or on specialist sites like Linkedin, will reveal dozens of companies offering business coaching and mentoring to new start-ups and SMEs.

To try and understand better exactly what business coaches and mentors offer we have been talking to UK based business coaches who have experience dealing with start-ups and SMEs. One thing that quickly became clear from our conversations is that there is no standard model for business coaching. Services and approaches differ, as do methods of payment which range from straight forward fees to profit shares and equity stakes.

Paul Green Business Coach and MentorOne of the first people we talked to was Paul Green. Paul has been an independent business advisor since 2003. He typically works with the Managing Directors and owners of SMEs. He describes what he does as “implementing practical, action based strategies for growth using a working business plan and a combination of advice, mentoring and coaching”.

We asked Paul a few basic questions about what he does and about business mentoring and start-ups more generally.

The Company Warehouse: What do you think the benefits of business coaching are for start-ups and for small business more generally?

Paul Green: Business coaching offers clarity, focus, direction and targets to aim for. Any business, start-up or otherwise, can benefit from coaching – when you’re “in” the business, it is often difficult to see the woods from the trees; having an external and independent influence can only help the business owner focus “on” the business.

The Company Warehouse: Can you tell us about one of your success stories?

Paul Green: A good example would be a strategic planning project for a Telecoms company. I worked directly with the managing director of a company specialising in providing SaaS (Software as a Service) to the telecoms industry. I facilitated a strategic plan for the business to help raise funding, identify growth areas, improve financial reporting and focus the sales effort. The plan was successfully presented to the bank which enabled a loan to be offered. As a result the company increased their sales by 20% in the first year.

The Company Warehouse: What do you see as the biggest issues facing new business start-ups?

Paul Green: I tend to work with start-ups once they have secured funding (which unfortunately is not often the case). When I have worked with start-ups most do not have a “working” business plan other than what they put together to get a bank account. There is also a tendency to try and offer a product or service to almost everyone as opposed to identifying a specific target market by geography, company size, etc. This means that the business struggles to focus its’ efforts.

The Company Warehouse: What is the most common thing you see start-ups doing wrong?

Paul Green: Not monitoring cashflow.

The Company Warehouse: Finally, what should start-ups look for in a business coach?

Paul Green: They should look at the coach’s track record via testimonials and case studies. They need to have confidence in the coach’s ability.

In our next blog post we will be talking to Colin Wilkinson of Incubation who has a different approach to start-up mentoring.

Risky Ideas For a New Business


There are certain things you shouldn’t do when you’ve started a new business or registered a limited company. Starting your own business is inherently risky, but careful planning and sensible business practice will keep you out of danger. The advantages of a limited liability company make it the most appealing business model because of the protection offered by limited liability, but that protection is not absolute and it will not prevent your company going into insolvency.

I covered some of these point in my articles on company formation and business start-up myths, but it is worth reiterating them here.

Starting Business Without a Plan

One of the most dangerous ideas for a new business is getting started without a plan.

“My idea is brilliant, I don’t need a business plan.” Is the cry of the gun-ho entrepreneur.

Every business needs a plan. A business plan is a vital tool for many reasons. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, a well put together plan can help a business acquire the finance necessary to get started. A plan will also help you keep track of how much investment you need and what you are going to spend it on. Over time, a business plan will help you keep track of how your business is running, whether you’ve reached your goals or not and what changes you need to make going into the future. Without a plan, you might not know where you’re going wrong or how to correct for it.

Lying To Yourself

Another pitfall of starting a small business or limited company is lying to yourself. Many businessmen and women, fool themselves into believing they will be more successful. Exaggerating projected sales and profits and underestimating overheads. Including such errors in your plans could lead to problems in the long terms. Investors and other people reading your business plan are likely to be more realistic with regards to your figures.

Assuming There Is No Competition

Making an assumptions about the competition is a very dangerous game when it comes to starting a new business. Failing to do the necessary market research and convincing yourself that there is no competition or that the competition that exists are no threat is a very dangerous business idea. You will soon find your business struggling as you battle to compete with other businesses in the market. On the other hand, analysing the competition can make all the difference to your business. You can learn from their success and failures and possibly even spot a niche in the market that you have failed to notice before.

Experience Isn’t Necessary

Diving head first into a business you know nothing about is never a good idea. Starting a business, you’d be advised to have some experience of the relevant industry. If you plan to start your own restaurant, it might be a good idea to at least try working as a waiter or chef for some experience of what it might be like, rather than going in completely blind. You can do all the research you like, but nothing can replace good, solid experience. Plenty of new business owners have succeeded without experience, but those with some experience are generally more successful.

A Business Cannot Survive Without External Investment

This is another idea you should get out of your head. Plenty of people have started their own business with personal funds and no need for external investment. Although investment from outside the business might be useful, it is not necessarily true that your business will not survive without it. Similarly, many believe that investment from a venture capitalist or business angel means success and survival of their business is guaranteed. Again, this is a falsehood. Without proper management, these businesses are just as likely to fail. The only advantage is the experience and input of the venture capitalist.

Careful Planning and The Path To Success

If you’re thinking of starting a new business or carrying out a company formation, then we’re here to help. Hopefully you’ve found the advice in this blog article helpful, there is plenty more if look around. We also offer a number of services to help get you started, including a business finance database and a business plan wizard. Get started with your new business today, with a little help from the UK’s leading company formation and business registration agent.

Business Start-Up Myths – “I don’t need a business plan”


There are several myths floating around the internet and around the business world surrounding starting a new business and the importance (or not) of the business plan. Whoever you speak to will give you different information. Some say a business plan is the difference between the life and death of a business, while others say it is not as important as most people think. Clearly the business experience is different for every entrepreneur. Every business is different and similarly, so is every business plan.

One of the myths of business start up or company formation involves the actual creation of the business plan. Some businessmen are under the impression that if they can find their own finance for their business then they don’t need a business plan. This sort of attitude should instantly remind you of the old proverb – “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

Planning For The Business Future

A business plan is not a “finance” plan (although finance will necessarily be part of it), but a plan for the future of your business. The important elements of the business will be contained within and in essence, a business plan is the business on paper before it actually exists in reality. Drawing up a plan allows an entrepreneur to set goals, establish the businesses identity and monitor success in the future. The business plan is a living entity and may be adjusted in years to come, when the new business owner learns about the business and the industry he or she is in. Business plans will naturally be overly optimistic or pessimistic – depending on the planner, but they are also an important business tool.

“I’m using my own money, I don’t need a business plan”

If you’re lucky enough to have sufficient money to start your own business and fund every asset without any external support then you’re likely to want to treat the business carefully and get the most out of it. With a good plan, you will know where you are taking the business, where you hope to be in 5 years, what your turnover should be in the first year and things of that nature. Without a business plan you will be going into business blind. With so many businesses failing in the first few years, it’s a big risk to take with your own money.

Using your own money, you will want to think about limiting you potential liability in an effort to protect your finances. Forming a limited company is quite often the most sensible choice for people looking to start a new business under their own steam, not least because of the financial protection offered. Take a look at our article on the advantages of a limited company for more reasons why company formation is the best option for most people.

7 Questions To Ask Before Starting Your Own Business


Before starting your own business or carrying out a company formation it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions. Not least of which is why are you going into business?

If you can coherently answer these questions then you are more likely to have a successful business than if you cannot. Many people rush into business and it ends in disaster. The majority of businesses fail within the first year. The actual figures are a bit scary, but you shouldn’t be disheartened by them. If you know what you are doing and have a good idea of why you are going into business, as well as a carefully thought out business plan then you’re likely to be a step ahead of the rest. Put in the hard work and hopefully your business will survive the hard times and grow into a successful enterprise.

  1. Why are you going into business?
  2. People start their own business for many different reasons; because they want to be their own boss, because they have found themselves redundant or unemployed or simply because they have a good business idea. These reasons alone are not always enough to start your own business. It’s important to know why you are going into business and what you are planning to do. This will give you more direction and focus and hopefully lead to a more secure business start-up.

  3. What are you planning to do?
  4. Before starting your own business or carrying out a company formation you need to know what you’re going to do. Hopefully it will be something that you are good at and have a passion for. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades, catering to a wide market by providing a large range of services. Quite often it is better to be specific and cater to a niche, especially in the early days. This will allow a business to dedicate more time to quality of a single product and thus offer something which stands out from the competition and is more likely to be successful. As the company grows, the business may expand its product offerings, widening the market, but being careful not to compromise on quality.

    Of course some businesses naturally need to offer a multitude of products. A news agents for example could hardly only offer one brand of newspaper and one flavour of crisps. Variety is important and the focus of the business will depend on the market. Knowing what you are going to do will allow you to properly plan for the future of your business as well as the beginning.

  5. Who are your customers?
  6. Knowing who your customers are (or who they will be) is an important part of starting a new business. Having an idea of your target audience will allow you to design your advertising and marketing strategies as well as the quality and design of your products and services to cater to the right people.

  7. What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
  8. It’s a bit cliché and you’ve probably heard it a million times, but to have an edge in business you need a USP or Unique Selling Proposition. If you cannot do something different from the competition, how do you hope to stop your potential customers from going elsewhere. You need an edge, even if it’s simply putting a twist on an already common product or coming up with a unique marketing strategy. Knowing what your USP is and getting it in your business plan will help your business succeed from day one. Investors will be far more willing to help your business knowing you have a visible edge over the competition.

  9. How will you finance your business start-up?
  10. This is the one thing many businesses struggle with. Getting a business started obviously requires a finance injection from one source or another. Many entrepreneurs are unsure where to acquire finance, how to go about it or find themselves turned down at every corner. Take a look at our article “Business Finance – Top 10 ways to fund your new business” for a few hints and tips on getting finance for your new business.

  11. What business structure will you use?
  12. Have you given any thought to the business structure you are planning to use? Your chosen industry and personal position might have an influence on your choice. The advantages of a limited company often make it the most common choice for starting a new business, but there are plenty of others as well. Some people might choose to start a charity or form a limited liability partnership. Whatever your choice, it’s important to give some careful thought to the benefits and the laws that will apply to you, before getting started.

  13. What are your business goals?
  14. Clearly you have some goals for your business. Probably the main one being making as much money as possible. It’s important to set some goals and make a plan. Incorporate this into your business plan so you can keep your business on track and in the future, monitor how successful your business has (or hasn’t) been.

    Business goals may well be more than just turnover or profit. You might aim to gain a certain percentage of market share or number of new customers. Whatever your business, it’s a good idea to have a goal and something to strive for.

Good Luck!

Whatever you’re doing, try to remember why you started in the first place. You’ll get further and be more successful! All the best and a dose of good luck from us!