Saturday, 16 April 2011

Captain Janeway Lives in Wales

August 2010

At the risk of losing you

I realise that a blessay about Star Trek is likely enough to make one half of you beam with joy while the other half leap to force close your browser. This is about my story and nothing to do with increasing power to the pattern buffer, inverting your tachyon beam through the deflector array or ejecting the warp core.

This is not a picture of Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Intrepid-class USS Voyager. The devout amongst you will know that this is a photo from the filming of the pilot episode of Voyager featuring the actress who got the gig before Kate Mulgrew made the role her own and that this character played by the French Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold was named Captain Nicole Janeway. Luckily for the series she walked out after day one of filming.

16 years later I took it as a sign of divine providence that my newly assigned Welsh Assembly Government business adviser is named Jane and that this Jane married a gentleman named Way.

Jane Way Captain of Industry

I met Mrs Jane Way upon registering my interest to receive free impartial business advice via the Welsh Assembly Government. Being fortunate enough to live in the Celtic red corner of the UK known as Wales (see map) and being forthright in my desire to create jobs (for myself), the government is keen to make sure that good business ideas flourish. They fulfil this desire by subsidising the commercial business support entity Business in Focus.

Jane Way is lovely, like her Star Trek namesake she is wise, measured, considering, intelligent, stern and passionate. So I rocked up at 10am on Friday the 27th August 2010 to meet Jane in Cardiff Bay.

As a trained sales person, I have spent the last 5 years conducting appointments. So you could forgive me for approaching this meeting in the same way. I was suited, booted and well prepared to pitch my idea to Jane. The team at Business in Focus see a lot of entrepreneurs, seriously an awful lot of business ideas arrive and fall by the wayside in these offices. Jane was pleasant, inquisitive and guardedly positive in our first meeting, it went well.

Jane and I now meet at least every month and she will pop up from time to time in these pages, I will endeavour to give her the credit that she deserves.

If you Fail to Plan you Plan to Fail

From our first meeting that August, Jane and I both left with activities, the one that I want to talk about now is the value of a business plan. Business plans are often written as a way of communicating with the unfortunate breed known as bankers. Not those fuzzy friendly chaps that used to know you by your first name and cared for your interests. No no, business plans must convince nameless pencil pushing philistines that you are a 'safe bet' to lend to. The irony of this is not lost on me and I am sure not on you with the way that the UK banking system nearly went belly up itself just a few short years gone. The up-shot however, is they are now 79% more stringent in their criteria to lend and certain industry types send them reaching for their "REJECTED" stamp before you walk through the door, with your best 'safe bet' expression on.

So was born my plan to start my tea room without borrowing anything from the bank! This had two immediate outcomes. Firstly it meant I had to get saving, I was due another three pay packets from my employer and every penny I could spare had to go into the business fund. The second near magical result was that I could write my business plan for me. No need to shape this plan to meet my imagined expectation of a dubiously, disdainful doubting bank clerk. If you want to start a business, write a business plan. This is not earth shattering advice in itself but if you write a plan for yourself I guarantee along the way you will find answers to questions that you never knew needed answering.

Delving into Decisions Decisions

I have used the term 'journey' to describe this outing and I shall not apologise, just because Simon Cowell's reality TV empire has made it a sickening cliché to some, it is in my mind a lovely metaphor. If this is a journey then the business plan is the map, the tour guide and the postcard home. It initially felt like going through the motions to write my plan, but almost immediately the process forced me to ask questions, make decisions and flesh out ideas I had not considered.

How much money do I need to make? who is going to visit my business? why will they? what makes my ideas different?

By the end of September 2010 I had completed the first draft of my business plan and here just for you is a 'vanilla' extract;

1.2 Mission Statement

There is a business opportunity in Cardiff to create a successful classic tea room that captures a proportion of the disillusioned ‘café culture’ across various market segments. The Victoria Rooms will establish and grow to be known in South Wales as an essential place to meet, spend time and money. The core business will provide a profitable base for the Owner to develop with associated revenue streams as the brand becomes established.

1.3 Objectives

To locate and secure an address with A3 planning consent, located with sound footfall levels within the identified areas of Cardiff, serving the identified customer profile, under a rental agreement.

To source local Welsh suppliers of items such as soft drinks, eggs and butter.

To source local suppliers of Fairtrade items such as tea, coffee and sugar where products are not grown/produced in the UK.

To compete in and win the Tea Guild ‘Annual Tea Place Awards’ for 2012.

To deliver outstanding customer service ensuring in excess of 2000 customers per month by mid 2011.

To be actively involved in the local community in the immediate area of the business, for example attending summer fetes, school fairs etc.

To undertake excellent accounting procedures from the outset, and to review on a quarterly basis product by product sales and profitability and adjusting selling strategy/product lines as appropriate.

To develop and apply an environmental policy from the commencement of trading to become a sustainable Welsh business

To utilise all communication channels prior to commencement of trading to develop an on-going buzz about the Victoria Rooms.

Completing the plan for this business idea was exhilarating! With a mission statement in place and several measurable objectives in black and white, the dream leapt forward. As the first Autumn leaves fell in 2010, I felt the first thrill that this dream was indeed going to come true. With Captain Jane Way on my side how could the plan fail? Resistance would be futile.

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