For any individual to start up with business plan, guidance always plays an important role. Like, in my business plan report our honorable Dr.Graham Hall played key role in encouraging students and filling the confidence in each individual. Honestly working on business plan was an exciting, fun, and of course challenging experience, but once it's done the feeling was just priceless. I would love to share my experience of working on my business plan, like as working in a team it taught me many new things, first of all how to work with your team members, how to convert your arguments into brainstorming sessions, how different ideas can be put forth as a single qualitative work, etc.. Getting into the project took me no longer than I had expected it to take. I had always imagined how people take their business towards success. Seeing other people doing the things that you are doing must have some kind of positive effect on the person's mindset. When I had started my business plan I was having no knowledge about my product i,e about travel made adventurous holidays, as I started research on the same with the time I learnt many new things, many new, innovative marketing strategies, creative ideas to attract the customers. Over all I doing virtual business gave me confidence of facing real world confidently.
This reflection will be written from the point of view of my work in carrying out our business plan and my personal experience in the same. It will include a briefing of my time working with my team mates, working environment, style of training, the times we worked in, my future direction, and attitudes.
Focus on Topic
Being a student and working on virtual business plan is a challenging task, to carry out our business plan a team of 5 has been created who are having different backgrounds for example myself from engineering background, Rajesh Kumar and Peta from Information technology field, Supriya and Chandni are from business management studies field, which gave different ways to approach a problem and to get more number of solutions. We all were living together and we all knew about each other. Initially we were confusion about assigning roles to each and every team members, as all team mates were having different skills and provision for applying those skills into our business plan was less but nevertheless we all worked on all topics. Due to us living together whenever any idea come we used to have some words on that part, and most importantly working in such close quarter inspired and encouraged us to do the work faster. As there is a famous phrase called "breaking a stick is lot more easy than breaking the bunch of sticks". I realized the value of this phrase when I started my virtual business plan with my group mates.
To carry out our business plan we had 6 meetings with Dr.Graham Hall without fail, and two presentation trainings to keep ourselves ready for final presentation. Once our team of 5 has been finalized we were given a topic called "A travel agent offering tailor made holidays for the more adventurous" first I analyzed what exactly our topic does mean, after analyzing I understood exact meaning of our topic, that we are a virtual tailor made holidays specialists in adventure activities, and should serve customers the same. We used to have 2-3 informal meetings in a week, and plan out the next steps. When we started our work we all were pretty confused with tailor made and normal adventurous holidays, then I and my team mates had general discussion about tourism, then does place or location of office really matters a lot. So firstly while deciding our location me and my team mates were confused, initially in the second meeting we had decided our base would be in India it happened to change as it was a confusion between our team and our professor, in next meeting we discussed our problems and solutions with professor Graham Hall then we decided our base would be Cardiff, once decision has been done on our base we started searching area where our office can be setup. I and my team mates had long discussion whether to choose our location as Cardiff city centre or some other place, then at the end considering all the cases like price, place, promotion we chose Cathedral road Cardiff.
I and my team mates planned out how to start with our business plan work, we set aims and objectives for our business, we all started working on our product, our main objective was we should narrow down our product/place so that it should be realistic. As there were too many options for place, choosing the right places where customers would interest to go was a great task for us, during this I found out few places are worth going only on few seasons, this taught me selection of right things according to time.
The Progress of Business Plan
The most important part of business plan was data collection and which was very crucial also, which literally gave me an idea of market size, current scenario in market, demands, and the competition. My course modules marketing and accounting helped me a lot while finding data and making financial projections, understanding the marketing concepts. As my elective module was marketing and I was more interested in market research part, I was responsible for lot of research work one main reason for this being I was very good at using key words to find data, advanced techniques to get the data, hence I enthusiastically worked on market analyses more, but sometimes I found this dry and even frustrating as well, I used to sit hours and hours to get a small important data for example agencies having contracts with local businesses in different cities to serve the customers.
As said by Kotler (1999) the marketing mix 4 P's -Product, Price, Place and Promotion are very necessary for launching a business, which is a study of market. The concepts of this 4P's took me in the right way. First our group planned places, then depending on our place we planned out or prices, depending on our prices we planned out our advertising and promotion campaign. I started research on all tourism agencies, tailor made agencies, and what exactly is difference between normal tourism and tailor made holidays, I found out the packages for different countries, which gave us an idea on our tour packages, I was wondering how these tour agencies decide the package rates then after lots of research I found out having contracts with local services, hotels, etc all together makes a package cost. Then I started finding good adventurous places around the world keeping in mind about the cost, after shortlising few places me and my group mates had discussions, they updated me with their results and I updated with my results at the end we made few places final like India, Spain, Africa, Tanzania, Poland etc, the market research gave me knowledge about these foreign countries, their systems, rules and regulations, etc. Some of the things I found either in journals or online gave me great insight into the highly developed techniques in the adventurous sports that I would have never thought of. Probably my biggest find in the research was the article on Amazon jungle. Looking for what kinds of adventurous activities would be interesting, I came across wild safari and river rafting are two far more famous activities, Amazon was much more adventurous than water rifting and more popular because of its undisturbed nature. Fortunately for me, I knew exactly what I would do with this little piece of information the moment I got it, so all I had to do was make it as a good attractive package so that customers should get attraction. Even my team mates found packages on other places as well, during presentation we made pictorial slides in which the places were described at its best.
For market research we used many government sites, EU statistics, and UK notional statistics to find out inbound and out tourism of UK. Market research took a long time to carry out as I said earlier we were based in India, during that time we had found data on renting a office, our initial costs, salaries of a manager, staff member, other expenses. But when we changed our base we had to start the same thing from beginning, so fortunately our team took this as an opportunity to find out new market, but when we started our research on UK we found out that it's considerably different from Indian market, as there was no rule for basic salary, of for manager salary.
Skills and knowledge Gained
The working in this business plan provided a great opportunity to develop the skills and experience to learn about project management and business communication. Overall from the excellent guidance I've learn to writing a formal report, to think critically, problem solving ability, to work and coordinate in a team, interpersonal skills, communication skills, especially working in a team and coordinating in the team during the each meetings. I was good at using software and making graphs that was required for the majority of the work, these includes; Microsoft Outlook, Excel and Word. This will greatly benefit my productivity in the future job. In the end, what this brings to my theoretical knowledge is that, I've gained business experience even though it's a virtual but as a student this experience gives me a great level of confidence. I've realized that communication and networking is an important aspect in any business especially a business in which interaction with customers is prime motto and that it is up to you to take your work to the next level. Because the work itself is saturated, there is nothing to learn after you've done it. You need to be confident, independent, be proactive, should have a great convincing ability and a leader to be more effective in work and life.
Synthesizing our ideas
Carrying out Business plan is not an easy task as I said earlier, to do this we had many brain storming sessions, many discussions from which many creative ideas came up. I and my teammates used to think a lot for our unique selling Point, and then we all came up with an idea for giving freedom to the customer as they can choose their own package "your price, your place and thrill too of your choice". Then we thought of keeping our focus on internet booking, as the data we found out that booking through internet is more that booking through shops, and then we started implementing our different strategies for our product. For advertising we came up with many ideas for example having our digital display at Heathrow airport, broachers, etc.
I was good at computer skills, so I initiated the webpage creation. I made a web page and pictures for my page was suggested by my team mates, in addition to this we had added 2 videos, we all team mates searched a lot to get a video survey of tourism in UK, and second video was edited by me and Supriya Mukhergy which was made in a movie maker, showing all the adventurous pictures. This idea of pictures through video was from one of my team mates which was key factor in our webpage. During market research the found data was very huge because all my team mates were worked on it, hence it was needed to cut down to required level, so that it can be utilized fully, hence I cut down whatever was important for advertising and marketing, which taught me selection of data.
Analysis of our project
To start with any project usually requires more human resources, as analysis and solution of problems are more intensive and are going to take maximum effort which wouldn't be possible by single person. So teamwork is an integrated part of project work. Further we characterized our project in number of phases, for example problem analysis, problem solving, report writing, implementing the data. Characterizing project was still including type of problem or objective, because in any work the clear objective is the key factor to solve any problem. Then we started analyzing our competitors, their strategies and tactics to attract customers. We also conducted a SWOT analysis which was important and realistic assessment of personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and distinctive competencies. This SWOTÂ analysisÂ helps professionals differentiate themselves from their personal competition. As said by Buttell. A (2009) finding who are our customers, how your customer relationships helps to move our business forward is an important aspect to keep your business growing. We should think about our ideal customers, should figure out the steps to appeal to the customer. At the other side we should be ready with clear goals and objectives around each target market and exit strategies if those plans don't work out.
When analysis matter comes there is one more analysis plays key role, which is PESTEL analysis, which is called environmental analysis, which describes us about the political, economical, social, and technological, legal and environmental factors. By applying PESTLE in our business plan we came to know about rules and regulations of different nations, particularly PESTEL played key role in our business plan as it was mainly based on other nations for business, all kind of safety factors, which was crucial for our business plan. By analyzing the market we found out that due to recession 2009 the profit margin for tourism industry was less, but at the same time tourism industry was the one which was expanded (Journal of SustainableÂ Tourism, 2009). This gave us a room to explore our business. After analyzing the market we formed few strategies. We divided our market based on age and class. We choose our strategy as a Pricing strategy in which Skimming strategy we implemented on our business plan; the concepts of marketing, strategic management, which we learned during our MBA really helped us while deciding our strategy. This pricing strategy implies skimming a segment of customers in the market; as, in our case it is mainly the rich class and upper middle class people.
Evaluation is an integral part of the monitoring and reporting of a project that helps us while making decisions. This business plan was probably one of the largest projects I'd undertaken and it taught me a lot about group dynamics. Clear discussion allowed each member to put forth his/her ideas and valued each and every idea. Financial analysis clearly showed us financial evaluation of costs and benefits. We have got our breakeven point at 21st month by doing financial evaluation. During meetings whatever we have discussed with our guide was implemented and keeping that as our base we carried our research. Whatever we had collected we evaluated all that data and furnished it for our report. Altogether this report gave me a new experience which I never ever had in my life, I in my engineering phase I never had any management report I just had a technical report, but my technical knowledge helped me throughout the project.
While checking back our final report and presentation slides we added few pictures and some animations in our slides. During our presentation training we found out our weaknesses and strengths which gave us more confidence. Overall I'm happy with my contribution to this task. I feel that I performed well under difficult circumstances and feel that it would have been an enjoyable project if the initial mistake of choosing our base we made would not happened. Working on all assignments on time resulted in a higher quality of business report. I feel that a much more specific written Business plan would have been more useful. The experience of this project will definitely make improvements on my future real world business plans.
The mixture of all abilities in our group made us stronger, as our group was included members from business management, Information technology, from engineering background. As I was good at research and computer skills, I made a attracting web page, and creating movies which were main attracting factors. Unfortunately I couldn't upload web page on our presentation as there was a technical problems, but separately I showed web page and video to judges during presentation. After finishing our report we were editing it for final time then we replaced few points, I would happy to say financial projection class of Chris parry guided us on right path towards our financial part. At the end I am proud to say that whatever we have learned in each module we have applied in one or other way in this business plan. Especially Marketing and strategic planning are played key roles.
Lastly, I would like to say that it was an extremely amazing learning experience for me to work in a team. It made me aware of many elements that facilitate a harmonious group behavior and enables a team to work effectively towards attainment of its goals and objectives. This task would always remain an experience that I would keep remembering at various stages of my professional career and all the learning that I gained would be useful to me at some or the other stage of my career. Thus, this experience has a long lasting role to play in future as well.
I would specially like to thank Prof. Graham Hall for his consistent effort to identify our weaknesses and strengths that in turn helped us to not only to be better with time but also take advantage of his experience which is like a golden opportunity within itself. Last but not the least; I would like to thank all the people who are directly and indirectly related to this entire experience.