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Develop a Business Plan for a Viable Micro-Business Start-up​

Natalie Hopkins

In this learning aim, you are going to move forward from exploring potential ideas into actually developing a business plan for a viable micro-business start-up. There are several aspects you need to learn about before you can draw up a viable and meaningful business plan, and it is important that you have full understanding around each of these areas. There are four distinct areas that you will explore, including market analysis and planning, and the legal and financial aspects.Finally you will look at the evaluation of a micro-business start-up and the importance of this for the success of the business plan.As you work through this section, you will be asked to relate your learning to the micro-business that you have already recommended as a result of the assignment you you completed for Learning Aim A.


Financial Aspects

Legal Aspects


Market Analysis & Planning


Market Analysis & Planning

The beginning of a business plan should set out an analysis of the marketplace in which the potential new start-up business is to be situated. It should explain who the target market is, the current business environment, where possibly a PESTLE analysis can be undertaken as well as the marketing mix and unique selling points that the business will offer. Primary and secondary research are also an important factor in the planning process.


what standard of service will they expect? What will be the anticipated level of quality for the product they are likely to purchase? Will they expect to order online, or walk into a shop? Will discounts be expected?

Shopping habits

where does the customer currently shop? What time of day? What types of products do they buy and how often? Do they like discounts or loyalty cards? Is quality more important than cost? Is cost more important than quality?


where is the customer likely to live? For example, in the countryside, towns, villages, cities or a mixture? What type of house are they likely to live in? For example, a flat, two-bedroomed house, five-bedroomed house? What is their educational background? What earnings bracket are they in?

Segments within the target market

can customers be categorised into groups, for example by age or gender?

Target Market Definition

Part of your market analysis is likely to include defining who your intended customers will be. This is known as your target market. You need to know who your target market is, in order to know who your customers are and what their needs and expectations will be. All of this information is important to ensure that any new business is located in an appropriate location and setting, and that it will offer products or a range of products to meet the needs and expectations of its customers – the target market.

Primary Research

New research that is carried out to answer a specific question. It usually involves surveys or questionnaires that may be delivered through the post or conducted face to face with the general public.

Secondary Research

A collection or summary of existing research. It is important that you check the source of the research and that it is credible. A good way of doing this is by obtaining a second piece of secondary research that backs up the first, or to compare it with some primary research.

Primary and Secondary Research

Part of your planning will be to undertake research. Both secondary and primary research are useful tools that should be used for finding out as much information as you can about every aspect of any business start-up. There are benefits and drawbacks of using both types of research and it is likely that your budget, constraints, the nature of the research or even what is easily available to you will determine whether secondary or primary research is the best option.

Competitive Rivalry

Business Environment

Threat of Substitution

Supplier Power

Buying Power




Strategic tools used in market analysis and planning can help you to see the bigger picture in which your new business is li9kely to operate. They can help you identify any challenges and/or opportunities which will allow you to plan for the future. The two main tools used are Porter's Five Competitive Forces and PESTLE. Click on elements of the diagrams to find out more information on each.

Porter's Five Competitive Forces




Threat of New Entry

PESTLE Analysis


There were initially four, but now there are seven, elements that make up the marketing mix. E. Jerome McCarthy, an expert in marketing, created the Marketing 4Ps model that has been used throughout the world and is recognised by many business schools. It is about putting the right product for the right price, in the right place, at the right time.

Marketing Mix







Unique Selling Point

When a successful business can offer something to its customers that cannot be offered by another competitor, this is known as a unique selling point (USP). For example, the Dyson USP was to be the first to offer high-tech domestic appliances, such as bagless vacuum cleaners. As other manufacturers developed this technology, Dyson continued to develop its products to stay ahead in the sector. Dyson went on to develop the first 10-second hand dryer and, more recently, developed a bladeless fan heater.

Legal Aspects

Partnership This is the simplest form of business set-up. The owner of the business owns the assets of the business and is responsible for all of its liabilities and debts. The individual is classed as self-employed by HMRC and must file a tax return, where any profits from the business are treated as personal income, which is subject to income tax and national insurance.

Sole Trader

This is when two or more people set up a business with the intention of making a profit. Partners usually draw up a legally binding partnership agreement detailing the amount of capital each has invested into the business and how profits and losses will be distributed between the partners. Partners share the risk, costs and responsibilities of being in business.


Limited Company

This is the most common legal form in use for running a business. On incorporation under the Companies Act 2006, a company is required to have two constitutional documents. A Memorandum, which records the fact that the initial members wish to form a company and agree to become its members. The Memorandum cannot be amended. Articles of Association – often just referred to as the Articles – which are essentially a contract between the company and its members, setting the legally binding rules for the company, including the framework for decisions, ownership and control. The Companies Act 2006 provides significant flexibility to draw up articles to suit the specific needs of the company, provided it acts within the law. A limited company is owned by its members (those who have invested in the business) and they have a limited liability meaning that the company’s finances are separate from the personal finances of their owners and, as a general rule, creditors of the business may only pursue the company’s assets to settle a debt. The personal assets of the owners are not at risk.

Business Legal Forms

Below are the most common legal forms that a business can consider

Health & SafetyLegislation

Data ProtectionLegislation


Everybody in the workplace must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others. However, employers also have a duty of care towards their employees and must ensure that they are aware of anything that might cause harm to them while they are doing their job.

This legislation covers the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.

The law protects your customers against being treated unfairly, or when things go wrong.


Consumer Protection Legislation

Environmental ProtectionLegislation

An employer must not disclose any personal information to a third party. Strict rules must be followed when handling personal data.

This legislation covers three main areas. Pollution control, waste disposal, statutory nuisances and clean air.

Financial Aspects

For example, supermarkets are very competitive and will reduce prices on certain items to create a price war. They do this to gain a greater market share over their competitors.

Market Skimming

Pricing as high as possible where customers will be prepared to pay, and then reducing the price once these customers are proved to be satisfied, to attract a more price-conscious market.

For example, with Apple products, the latest to the market is always expensive and usually higher than any competitors’ similar products, yet customers are prepared to pay these high prices for the latest and most up-to-date phone or laptop. As new Apple products are developed, they take over these high prices and the original products are then reduced in price to become attractive to a more price-conscious market.

Neutral Pricing

Pricing is set by the general market. This means that a company may not be maximising on the opportunity of a greater profit, as its pricing is similar to that of its competitors rather than what the customer might be prepared to pay.

For example, consider small electrical goods such as kettles or irons. The majority are priced midrange and can be purchased in many different outlets. These are stable, consumer items that tend to be purchased out of necessity rather than desire.

Market Penetration

Pricing to sell to an existing market share.

Pricing Policy

Any new business must consider their pricing strategy and policy. It is important to think in terms of the following.

In order for a business to know how it will perform in the future, sales forecasting is very important. Sales forecasting will also inform the business of the resources and materials that are likely to be needed month by month, which will help in business planning. It also gives the business a chance to identify potential problems and opportunities, allowing it to take action.The main areas of a sales forecast are likely to include the following (click title for more info):

A basis for the sales forecasts

Sales Forecasting - Click here for a worked example

Sales assumptions

Avoid forecasting pitfalls

The starting point for a sales forecast is last year’s business. From this, it is possible to see how many customers were gained and lost over the year, the average amount of sales per customer and any particular months that were busy or quiet. This is not possible for a new business, where the first year will be based on projection rather than last year’s business. There is always a certain amount of guesswork involved for new businesses. However, the business plan must contain details of forecasting and can be used as the forecast tool for the first year in business.

A business will make assumptions about the marketplace and their targeted customers through the research they have undertaken. Every year is different and so a business will need to think about any potential changes, such as possibly losing or gaining customers, as well as predicting the products and services that will generate sales, or those that have become unpopular and will not sell. For example, a clothing retailer will plan ahead on the fashion items it will stock. It needs to research fashion and trends likely to attract its target market and buy in suitable fashion items. The retailer will also predict its month-by-month sales, factoring in when customers are likely to buy certain items, such as summer holiday or Christmas party clothes and the time of year they are likely to be purchased.

it is important not to be over-optimistic. New businesses should avoid using the level of sales they need to survive as the sales figures in their forecast. It may take more than a year to build to the level of sales required, and this should be factored in. A new business also needs to consider if the business is actually viable: for example, a cafe will be limited to the number of people it can serve according to the space and amount of seating it has, and one person in the business can only serve a certain number of customers and work only so many hours in a day.

These include all the one-off purchases that a business needs to make to set up the business. It will also include other items that will become ongoing expenses, such as stock and replacement or repairs of equipment used within the business. For example, a retailer opening a new shop will need to invest in shelving and racking in order to be able to display the stock. It may also create a website and marketing materials, both of which will incur costs.

Set-up Costs

These are costs that will not change, but are necessary for the business to function. Examples include rent, council tax, insurance and telephone line rental. These costs will be incurred by the business regardless of the business activity taking place, so, when a shop is closed, it will continue to have to pay its fixed costs.

Fixed Costs

Variable Costs

these are costs that will vary according to the business activity, so, as business increases, costs are likely to increase in line. For example, the cost of massage oils or laundering of towels for a health spa will increase when they are busy and have many treatments booked.

Projected Costs

Your predicted sales need to be set against your predicted costs. A business will have a set-up cost, which will be a number of one-off expenses, and then there will be ongoing costs that will either be fixed or variable.

A break-even point for a business is when total revenue equals its total costs. Once the break-even point has been reached, the business is then likely to start making a profit. Therefore, if a business can forecast its break-even point on a monthly basis it will give a good indication of when all costs have been covered and the business will start to make a profit. In some cases, the break-even forecast might be given yearly.hover over the 'i' symbols to find out more information about each element.

Break-even Forecast


PROFIT is shown by the space between costs and revenue ABOVE the break-even point.

The BREAK-EVEN POINT is where the total cost and revenue lines cross. This is shown as an X on the chart.

LOSS is shown by the space between costs and revenue BELOW the break-even point.

MARGIN OF SAFETY is the amount by which the sales would have to fall before the break even.

A business needs to be aware of how much money is coming into the business and how much money is leaving the business, or being spent. It is important that money owed is paid to the business in order for its bills to be paid. When forecasting cash-flow, a business must be realistic about the number of sales it will make. It must take into account busy and quiet periods, where sales will increase or decrease, and any expected costs, such as equipment replacement, as well as having a contingency for unexpected costs, such as when equipment breaks down. Seasons and public holidays should be factored in, for example public holidays where the business may close down. Builders’ merchants, for example, must consider when their customers, who are builders, will be on holiday and so cash flow will be reduced. Other businesses will be open to maximise the sales opportunities, such as retailers and cafes, therefore increasing their cash flow. This should be factored in against the costs, which may not be seasonal, such as fixed costs.

Cash-flow Forecast

A financial statement will be required by any potential investors, or anyone who already has a vested interest in the business, such as the bank or the local authority that may have given a grant. The financial statement will give an opening balance of the business for a specific period and will then list all the income and expenditure for that same period. Once the income has been added to the opening balance, and the expenditure taken away, what is left is the closing balance.

Forecast opening and closing statement of financial position

A business will have assets, or equity, that has a value; the business is also likely to have debts that will go against these assets. This is known as the capital structure. Potential investors will want to know the capital structure of the business to be able to establish the optimal value of the cost of capital. If the value of the assets is less than the debts of the company, it is not a viable business and investors will not want to invest their money into it. However, if the value of the assets is much greater than the debt of the business, the business is viable and investors are more likely to be interested.

Forecast income statement for trading period

The financial performance of a business is measured using a financial, or profit and loss, statement that gives specific information on how a business has performed over a set period of time. This will include all money that has been received, known as revenues , and all money that has been spent. In order to attract investors, a forecast income statement will help to identify the revenue and expenditure streams of a business. This will then clearly show if the business is viable.

Capital structure to show investment necessary from potential investors


Marketing Mix SWOT

Once you have created a business plan for your micro-business start-up, the next step is to evaluate the processes you have gone through. This will help you to identify any areas that you can improve and ensure that the figures you have calculated are correct and realistic.

A SWOT analysis is a useful tool to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to a business. It can be applied to most subject areas, and works really well when looking at the marketing mix model.By taking each element of the marketing mix, a business can identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that it has for each area. This will allow the business to set actions for areas that need improvement in the weaknesses and threats and maximise their strengths in areas where the business has strengths and opportunities.

Evaluation - Marketing Mix SWOT

Liquidity Analysis

Any potential investor will want to know that a business has sufficient income to pay its debts on a monthly basis. The more comfortably a business can pay its debts each month, the more successful the business is likely to be. Investors will want to know what the liquidity ratio is to be able to establish that a business is able to pay its monthly debts. This is calculated by taking the current assets of a business and dividing by the current liabilities , or the amount owed. Liquidity can be measured using the current ratio and the acid test ratio. Click the 'i' icon below to see a worked example.

Ratio Analysis

Profitability Analysis

The profitability of a business is the difference between the money that it receives (revenues) and the money that it spends (costs). The difference is the profit the business is making. You must then consider gross profit and net profit. Profitability can be measured using gross profit margin, mark-up and net profit margin. Another measure of profitability is return on capital employed (ROCE).Click the 'i' icon below to see a worked examples.

It is impossible to know if a business decision is going to be successful and profitable in advance. However, sensitivity and ratio analysis will help in reducing the uncertainty. Ask questions such as those shown...

Sensivity Analysis

Through addressing these questions, you are completing a sensitivity analysis. This will enable you to establish that the course of action you are planning is the most likely to succeed and, if there are any variations, the business is likely to be able to absorb them.

This is where the strengths and weaknesses of a business are identified through understanding the key performance indicators that are established through the liquidity, profitability and sensitivity analyses. It is a form of financial statement analysis that will help in understanding the financial results and trends of the business over a period of time. By tracking operating and financial performance through these analyses, a business can see if it is growing or deteriorating.

Analysis of Performance

This is about those buying from your business, i.e. your customers. How easy would it be for them to drive the price down? Think about the number of buyers/customers your business might have and how important each buyer/ customer is to you and your business. Are your buyers/customers likely to switch their loyalty to another business, or share their business between yours and that of a competitor? If you only deal with a handful of powerful buyers, there is a possibility that they could dictate the price of your goods and/or services to you.

Buying Power

The main employment legislation that all businesses must implement can be seen in the table on the left. Larger organisations are likely to have written policies and procedures to ensure that their employees are working within the law. Smaller micro-businesses, that employ fewer than five people, will still have to adhere to the Acts, but will not be required to have written policies.


How easy would it be for other, new businesses to enter your market? If there are very few start-up costs for your business, and very little time is required to set it up, then this is likely to indicate that others may also set up businesses similar to yours very quickly and effectively. If this is the case, it can lead to a weakening of your position within your market. However, if your business has start-up barriers such as cost, niche expertise or a requirement for specialist technologies, then you are more likely to be in a position of strength.

Threatof New Entry

Computer systems must be password protected and paper records should be kept in a locked cabinet. In all cases, only authorised personnel should have access to personal records.

Data Protection

The political situation of a country and the world in relation to the country may have a direct impact on a business. Government initiatives and policies may change, such as laws and taxes, and these may have a direct impact on a business. For example, when fuel duty is increased, this has a direct impact on businesses that use a lot of fuel, such as bus companies or leisure centres that operate swimming pools.


Place – includes distribution as well as placement of the goods. This requires a thorough understanding of the target market and the products that must be accessible to them. This means ensuring that the goods and/or services are positioned and distributed to locations and through channels that the customer is likely to use. This includes the following.

  • Intensive distribution – this is when the product is stocked in the majority of outlets. Think of Cadbury’s chocolate. You will find their bars in every supermarket and shop selling sweets across the country.
  • Exclusive distribution – luxury goods fall into this category where they may be placed in just one or two select outlets, such as Harrods or Liberty.
  • Selective distribution – this is somewhere between intensive and exclusive distribution, where the producer will sell their goods and/or services through a number of similar outlets, such as John Lewis, Debenhams and other similar department stores.
  • Franchising – this is where a right is given to use a certain business model for a certain period of time. Think of Starbucks and McDonald’s. Both of these internationally recognised organisations sell franchises to people who wish to run their own business.


This includes everyone who may be involved within a business and the target market, e.g. employees, management, customers and suppliers. If a business looks after all of the people who are working in the business, or are directly connected to the business, then they are more likely to be happy, enjoy their jobs and respect the business, which will lead to a ‘people’ culture within the business. A positive people culture will lead to excellent customer service.


The economic situation of a country, such as inflation and interest rates, should be assessed in order to identify any areas that are likely to affect a business. For example, when interest rates are low, it is a good time for a business to borrow money. However, the business should assess the situation ahead to see if there are any indications that interest rates may rise as this would mean additional costs to the business.


Changes in legislation happen from time to time, and it is most important that businesses are aware of any changes and remain compliant. For example, there may be a change to health and safety or discrimination laws that will affect all businesses.


Businesses will advertise their products and services in many areas such as the television, newspapers, magazines, radio, online adverts and bill boards. It is important that the business chooses the most appropriate medium and timing of their advertising. Think about television adverts. When football matches are being broadcast, the adverts are likely to be directed at other interests that football fans are perceived to have, such as cars, whereas, for children’s programmes, the adverts will be for toys and games.


A business that encourages and invites guests on to its premises should think about the impression it gives to its customers. Is it comfortable? Is the environment suitable for the types of customers who are going to visit? Are the facilities suitable? Think about when you go into a bank. There are often play areas for children so that parents can continue their business knowing that their children are safe and occupied for the few minutes that they need to complete their transaction. At the same time, the bank has a professional feel, being clean, tidy and colour coordinated.

Physical Environment

These include geographical location, climate, weather, pollution, recycling and use of green or eco-friendly products and practices. Businesses must be aware of their obligations, such as recycling, and the impact that this may have on their business. Another example would be climate: a sailing school will only be able to operate safely in good weather, so the calculation of the likelihood of poor weather needs to be factored into the planning and forecasting for the business.


The employer must undertake risk assessments for every work area to identify potential hazards that may cause harm and then put actions in place to reduce these identified hazards. For example, protective clothing must be supplied by the employer, such as gloves, hard hat, steel toe-cap boots or overalls for employees who may be handling dangerous chemicals, or who are working in an area where objects could fall on them, such as in a warehouse. Another example would be that if there are chairs or tables blocking a fire exit, they must be removed immediately. There is also a requirement to undertake risk assessment for young people and pregnant women as they are likely to have specific risks. Health and safety training should be given to all employees in order for them to be able to do their job safely.

Health & Safety

The employer must also provide facilities such as toilets, washing facilities and drinking water to all of their employees. Where there are five or more employees, a Health and Safety at Work poster must be displayed for everyone to see.The most common insurance taken out by small businesses is public liability insurance.. It covers the business if someone is injured in some way by the business or if somebody within the business damages third party property when carrying out work. The insurer will want to know the type of business to establish what type of policy would be best suited to the business. Once a business employs at least one member of staff, it must have Employers’ Liability Insurance in accordance with the Employers’ Liability Insurance Act 1969. The insurance covers the business if an employee is injured at work, or becomes ill as a result of working for the company. Certain government departments are exempt, as are non-limited family businesses.

The information is going to be up to date and relevant to the issues or question being asked. It is likely to be accurate.


Primary research can be very time consuming as it can involve teams of people who go out to areas such as towns or shopping centres to gather the information over a period of time, sometimes hours, or sometimes days.


If a business wants to know what the general public thinks about their products, they will have canvassers based in the street who stop the general public to ask them a set list of questions.


As well as being aware of technological changes, businesses need to be aware of their customers’ expectations and ability to use technology. For example, many businesses have developed ‘apps’ that their customers can download and use to make purchases or book holidays, such as Premier Inn and Laura Ashley.


The law protects your customers against being treated unfairly, or when things go wrong. The following are all included within this legislation:

  • credit and store cards
  • faulty goods
  • counterfeit goods
  • poor service
  • problems with contracts
  • problems with builders
  • rogue traders.

Consumer Protection

It is important that your business has policies and procedures in place to avoid, where possible, things going wrong or treating your customers unfairly, both of which can lead to customer complaints and claims against your business. For example, by buying products from a reliable source, a business is likely to avoid selling faulty goods. If they do mistakenly sell faulty goods, then having a robust returns policy in place will keep the customer satisfied and mean they are less likely to make a claim against the company. Another example would be to ensure that only skilled and qualified tradesmen are employed to carry out work for a customer.

Having efficient and realistic processes in place will ensure that the services offered by a business are cost effective while continuing to meet the demands and needs of the customer. For example, a hotel must have processes for each of its departments, such as housekeeping, restaurant, kitchen and front of house, to ensure that the guests receive a seamless service.


This sets out to control air, water and land pollution that can cause harm. For example, a manufacturing business must ensure that any harmful waste products do not enter local streams or pollute the surrounding land.

Pollution Control

Industrial and commercial waste must be disposed of safely. Any harmful controlled substances can only be stored once a licence has been obtained. For example, a road haulage business may wish to store its own fuel. This will only be allowed if the business holds a special licence.

Waste Disposal

This will apply to businesses that create dust, steam or smells that are deemed to be detrimental to health. The local authority must investigate if a complaint is made by a member of the public. If it is confirmed that the business is creating a statutory nuisance, then the business will be required to reduce the problem until it is no longer deemed a nuisance.

Statutory Nuisances & Clean Air

This is about how powerful those who supply either goods or services to your business might be. Think about thegoods and/or services that you are going to need to purchase for your business: are they only available from a handful of suppliers, or are they available from many suppliers? This will determine the strength of the supplier and how much power they may hold over you. Are they able to drive up the price you pay because their goods are in demand and very few suppliers offer them? Will they be able to dictate to you when the goods will be available because of long waiting lists? The more niche the product, the more power the supplier is likely to have over you and your business.

Supplier Power

Sales Forecast - Worked Example

You need to think about the number of competitors you might have either locally or nationally, or even globally if you are doing business online. You must also think about the products and/or services that your competitors offer and their capabilities. Are they experts in their fields, or is there room for a large improvement, where your business could gain ground? Think about your likely competitors. If they offer the same products and/or services and are as good as your own business, then, unless you offer a very good deal, your customers are likely to use your competitors just as much as they do you, meaning that you have little power. However, if nobody else can offer the products or services as well as your organisation can, then you would have great strength and power.

Competitive Rivalry

Sometimes you have to pay for the information, so the benefit of paying for secondary research versus undertaking your own primary research needs to be weighed up. The credibility of the research does need to be checked as you will be relying on the results.


It means that someone else has already done the counting for you. It cuts down all of the ‘foot work’ and means that you can get accurate information without too much effort.


If you want to know the population of a town or area, there are websites that will give you this information. The most reliable websites are likely to be government websites which will have details of censuses and other research that has already been undertaken.


How easy would it be for your customers to substitute the product or service that your business will offer? If your customers could find another solution, and so not need your services, then you have very little power; however, if there is no alternative, then you have great power. For example, a business offering website design and creation may see their customers seeking alternative solutions where they can use an ‘off-the-shelf ’ website design package based around a simple framework that can be purchased online, which the customer can populate with their own content. If your customers are able to find a substitution for the products and/or services of your business, then you have little power; if they cannot, then you have great power.

Threatof Substitution

This involves looking at the mindsets of different countries and/or areas of the same country. A type of business may be very successful in one area or particular country, but not so in another. This could be directly related to a variety of social issues such as cultural factors, gender, demographics or social lifestyles. These need to be studied by businesses in order to get a full understanding of the market and their potential customers..


Goods and/or services created to meet the needs of a target market. It is important that research is undertaken to ensure that the product or services being offered are in demand and will continue to be in the future. Product development should be ongoing to ensure that it continues to be in demand. Think of the gaming industry: the manufacturers are continuously developing new software with better technology and graphics, while the retailers are stocking them to meet the growing demands of their customers.


Price is a very important component of the marketing mix. The product must be priced to meet the expectations of the target market, while, at the same time, ensuring that the business can make a profit and survive. A new business will need to research its competitors to establish the pricing that is already established within the sector, looking at both the low and high pricing ends of the market. For example, if a new business is going to be offering bed and breakfast, do they offer value rooms at a budget price, or deluxe rooms at a much higher price? In both examples, the rooms will be priced to meet the expectations of the guests.


Gross profit margin, mark-up and net profit margin