Business Planning – on a town scale

Six months ago I joined 4 other business owners in the local pub to talk about how we could help develop business and commerce in our town to make it a better place.


I didn’t know it then but those gatherings would propel me on a whirlwind journey that would take me from my home in Market Rasen to London to meet and learn from Mary Portas, the queen of shops!


Along the way our group has engaged with the business community, consulted widely, grown our group to 57 members, and connected with local community groups and stakeholders.


We also created a town transformation plan, wrote an application and filmed a video all of which resulted in us being selected as one of twelve towns out of 371 across the country to become a Portas Pilot.


In the short periods of time I have had to reflect on our achievements I have tried to identify the key ingredients that made our plan a success, so I can share my learning’s with the business owners I work with in my day job!


Vital elements of our plan were the creative and joined up ideas the group developed. Often when developing a business plan ideas are generated by the owners sometimes with their management teams.  Our ideas were generated off the back of two consultations with over 50 business owners. The ideas were then shaped by a smaller group of 15 who weaved them together into a coherent strategy.  This strategy was finally committed to paper by 2 of us who tried to ensure our plan was clear and communicated effectively.


So what can we learn? The most important learning so far for me is that when generating ideas, involve as many people as possible; employees, suppliers, customers and key partners.


Then shape the ideas and join the dots to create a coherent strategy.


Once our plan had been formulated we spent a long time communicating it to our members and stakeholders so they could see how their ideas had been incorporated into the plan – this encourages ownership and buy-in.


Whilst business owners will not want to publicise their plans online, sharing elements internally with employees and with key partners, suppliers and customers could unlock the plan and help it become a real success.


My latest nugget of learning came from Mary herself when she encouraged us to think big, and then bigger!  If we’ve learnt anything it has to be that you can think BIG and achieve It!


For anybody that is interested in the story of MR BIG why not visit one of our markets to see our ideas in glorious Technicolor reality!


More information on this exciting time for Market Rasen and Lincolnshire as a whole, just visit or follow the team on twitter @MarketRasen_BIG

Guest Post : Banks enforce changes on 1 in 2 businesses by Corporate Finance Network Chairman and founder, Kirsty McGregor

The Corporate Finance Network has conducted some research into the way banks are managing their customers’ overdrafts and loans.  The national network, whose UK member firms advise over 20,000 SME business clients, found that the main lenders are enforcing adverse changes on almost one in two businesses. 


According to the respondents of their survey, 47.8% confirmed some changes had taken place in the last 2 years.


The average turnover of the responding businesses was just under £2.6m.  Survey participants were also asked what rate of interest they were paying at present.  The average overdraft rate was 4.75% and the average loan rate was 4.7%.  It was surprising that there appeared to be little variation in the borrowing costs between these two very different finance products.


The most common change enforced upon customers’ lending facilities was a reduction in their overall facility.  Over one third of respondents cited this as the main change.


Although I had heard anecdotally that banks were restructuring many businesses’ lending facilities, a task that many institutions need to undertake in order to repair their own balance sheets, I was shocked to see that the numbers were so high.  This is very worrying for SMEs and businesses need to communicate better with their banks.  


The reported continued decrease in net lending further supports this research, and the much-heralded launch of the National Loan Guarantee Scheme will not rectify this particular issue at all.  This research demonstrates another major shift in the lending environment and all businesses should concentrate on being well prepared for their annual overdraft renewal meeting to encourage the continued relationship with their bank on terms which are acceptable to both parties.

Better Budgeting in Xero

XERO has been updated this weekend and there is a nice new feature for those that use the budget feature. You can now extract actuals from Budget Manager into Excel apply your own budget model and then re-import the results back into XERO as a future budget.


This product update might be useful if you are looking at basing a budget on your historic performance. It will allow you to extract the data, manipulate and summarise it and then build your new forecast.

It’s certainly something I’ll be looking at … will report back.

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