The Footsteps family is made up of three people: Father -Roger, Mother- Judith, and Daughter - Isabella. The main strengths of Roger are that he is good at researching as well as promoting the business over BBC radio. The main weakness of Roger is that he is not capable of carrying out the administrative duties of the business. In addition, Roger has a care free attitude towards mainly aspects of the business. Roger is neither creative nor innovative, which is not good for the business. Roger does not have information about the current business environment and the potential for growth of the business which are essential elements of strategic planning. Innovation is at the centre of an organisation's strategy. Innovation covers the entire range of activities required to provide value to customers as well as generate superior value for shareholders (Ahmed, 1998). Today, every organisation needs to adapt to changes that take place in its environment. It is not possible for organisations to escape from changes. While changes bring uncertainty and risk, they also create opportunities. Innovation is the key driver in the organisation's ability to change (Ahmed, 1998). Roger's lack of creativity and innovation is detrimental to the growth of the business. Johnson et al. (2008) points out that innovation is more complex and quite different from invention. It involves the conversion of knowledge into new products. This means that the organisation must have the knowledge and the ability to convert this knowledge into new products, processes and services failing which the knowledge will be useless. Judith's main strength is her ability to carry out all the administrative duties of the business including the accounting and financial reporting aspects of the business. She is however, weak in that she carries out all the work manually. She lacks the necessary IT skills which are essential for carrying out accounting and administrative duties. She would have been better off acquiring some IT skills that would enable her spend less time carrying out her day-to-day activities. By so doing she would have had much time to spend with her family. Like Roger, Judith is neither creative nor innovative. Despite her interest to see the business grow, she does not have the creative and innovative skills required to take the business to a higher level. The main weakness of their dauther Isabella is that she has not been around the business for some time. She may get confused if given full control of the business. Her main strength lies in the fact that she studied business and in her six years of work experience in the United States. Specifically, she is creative and innovative and has the capability of introducing e-commerce to the business as well as automating some of the administrative processes of the business to conform to modern administrative and accounting systems.
Opportunities and constraints for the Footsteps Business
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To understand the opportunities and constraints, we employ SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a commonly used tool for analysing internal and external environments in order to attain a systematic approach and support for a decision situation (Kotler, 1988; Wheeler and Hunger, 1995). The internal and external factors most important to the enterprise's future are referred to as strategic factors and they are summarised within the SWOT analysis (Kurttila et al., 2000). SWOT analysis is an early stage to the development and adoption of strategy which is the final goal of the strategic planning process (Kurttila et al., 2000). SWOT analysis enables the organisation to achieve a good fit between internal and external factors (Kurttila et al., 2000). Houben et al.(1999) suggest that good performance in the enterprise is contingent upon correct interaction of the business management with its internal and external environment. The ability to respond to internal strengths and weaknesses is an essential component of the strategic management framework (Houben et al., 1999). In addition to understanding its strengths and weaknesses, an organisation must also be capable of identifying the threats and opportunities that result from its external environment. It is only by identifying internal strengths and weaknesses as well as threats and opportunities from its external environment that an organisation can fully achieve success (Houben et al., 1999).
Strengths are those present internal advantages and factors a company builds up to create strategies based on them (Oxford University Press, 2007). A company's strengths include research and development, qualified labour, financial ability, quality products, brand name and good management (Oxford University Press, 2007).
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Weaknesses are those present, internal factors, that are disadvantage to the company and of which they have to protect themselves against (Oxford University Press, 2007). Strengths become weaknesses when they are not functioning accordingly.
Opportunities are those external factors a company can take advantage of to develop its self (Oxford University Press, 2007; Kotler, 2001). Opportunities can be used to developed strengths in companies according to Kotler and Keller (2006. p. 53). This means that strengths can also change as opportunities change. Opportunities include; technology, fall in interest rates on loans, excellent target for the product to be sold and favourable government and international trade regulations (Oxford University Press, 2007; . Kotler and K. L. Keller, 2006, p. 52)
Threats are those external factors that are disadvantageous to the company and can give rise to some threats (Oxford University Press, 2007; Kotler and Keller, 2006. p. 52). Such threats include competition, pressure from environmental groups, high interest rates; government regulation to protect home based companies making it difficult for other foreign companies to enter the market (Oxford University Press, 2007).
In the case of the Footsteps Business, the main opportunities are a growing youth market which if exploited can lead to a tremendous increase in demand and thus to growth and profitability of the business. There is also the possibility of taking the business to an international dimension, which will lead to an increase in the demand for tour products and services as well as to an increase in growth and profitability of the business. In particular, is the possibility of exploring the corporate entertainment market, which will appeal particularly to American visitors to the U.K. The business also has the opportunity of introducing a special program to target rich young singles during weekends, which will lead to an increase in demand, revenue, profitability and growth.
The major constraints that the business will face include financial constraints. Taking the business to increase levels may be difficult. Considering the present economic downturn with tight credit, banks and other lenders may perceive the business as too risky and may not want to provide the necessary funds to enable the business achieve its desired growth. There are also difficulties with regards to making decisions. The family finds it difficult making decisions with regards to whether the business should remain a small family business or a large public business. The family is also concerned about having a balanced life. For example, Roger and Judith are concerned about the fact that they are not having enough time outside the business. Expanding the business would make things even difficult as even more time would have to be spent trying to implement the new strategies. Isabella has also been overworked in the U.S during her six years abroad and is concerned about having sometime for herself. She may not be fully committed to implementing the expansion project.
Elements of Strategic Planning and Thinking in the Footsteps Business
Mintzberg (2008: 8) following Ackoff (1970: 1) define planning as
"... the designs of the desired future and of effective ways of bringing it about". Planning is important for the coordination of the activities of the organisation (Mintzberg, 2000). Decisions taken at the same time formally in a single process will ensure the efforts of the organisation are properly coordinated. Through planning the organisation is able to take into account issues that are likely to affect it in future. In addition, planning enables organisations to be rational as well as have control over issues affecting the organisation (Mintzberg, 2000).
Johnson et al. (2008: 402) define strategic planning as a "systemised step-by-step, chronological procedures to develop or coordinate an organisation's strategy.
According to Johnson et al. (2008) the strategic planning process begins as a set of guidelines as or believes about the organisation's external environment including factors such as price levels, supply and demand conditions as well as the priorities, guidelines and expectations of the corporate centre.
It can be observed that the footsteps business has some elements of strategic planning and thinking. Roger through his research believes that providing customers with high quality services is very important. Roger has the interest of the customer at heart and this contributes positively to the business. By putting the customer first, Roger is thinking strategically because he understands that customers would keep coming back in so far as they remain satisfied with the services offered them. Other elements of strategic planning and thinking include the idea of e-commerce and internet enabling. These strategies will enable the business to diversify and penetrate the market. By diversifying risk is likely to reduce and by penetrating the market, sales is likely to increase. Consequently, the business is likely to achieve growth and profitability. The company is planning to tap specifically into the youth market.
Elements of Entrepreneurship in the Footsteps Business
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The Footsteps business has been a family owned business. From an economic perspective, the family acted as entrepreneurs when they decided to risk part of the funds by starting the business. Other elements of entrepreneurship include their search for better ways to grow the business. Other elements of entrepreneurship can be seen from Isabella and Maxs' creative and innovative ideas aimed at moving the business forward.
Government Policies to Help Small Businesses
The government has designed a number of policies to help small businesses in the U.K. For example, the "Small Firms' Loan Guarantee Scheme" is aimed at helping businesses that have no assets to pledge as collateral to raise finance. The government funds 75 percent of the Small Firm Loan Guarantee Scheme (SFLGS) thus reducing the risk faced by banks when offering loans to small businesses. Qualifying small businesses include businesses that have been charged corporation tax for less than five years and that have annual sales of less than £5.6million (http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/channels/small-business-finance/government-grants/guides-and-tips/332701/small-firms-loan-guarantee-scheme.thtml).
The government also aims at funding technology and communication companies. Funding for such projects is available from both the U.K government and from the E.U. For example, there is the Small Firms Merit Award for Research and Technology (SMART) which is aimed at helping individuals and small businesses in the U.K develop innovative new products and processes. The maximum amount that can be awarded under this scheme is £145,000. There is also the R & D tax credit that was introduced in 2000 with the objective of helping small and medium-sized enterprises conduct research and development (http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/channels/small-business-finance/news/19624/grants-for-technology-businesses.thtml).
Conclusions and Recommendations
Based on the above analysis above, the following conclusions can be drawn. The footsteps business should be allowed to grow. Specifically, I recommend ENDING 3 where Max and Iszzy would be employed to work for the company as Director of Technical Operations and Director of Business Operations Respectively. Given Max's technical knowhow and Izzy's experience and qualifications, they have the ability to carry the business forward and make it appealing to new markets. Roger and Judith will be able to live a more balanced life as they will spend less time thinking about the business. Roger and Judith should take up the functions of Chairman and CEO respectively. They should oversee the activities of the business. To implement e-commerce in the business, a number of things need to be put in place. For example, to achieve mass customisation in the e-commerce, they should employ "recommender systems". These are used by e-commerce sites to provide customers with information that will help them make purchase decisions. By so doing, products can be recommended based upon a number of factors such as the top overall sellers on the site, demographic information of the consumer, as well as the past behaviour of the consumer, which serves as a prediction for future behaviour. Recommender systems are capable of suggesting products and services to consumers, providing them with customised product and service information, summarising community opinion, as well as providing community critiques. In a nutshell, recommender systems are useful in that they help the site to adapt itself to each consumer and thus provide a framework to the business to understand the needs of each consumer thus enabling the development and delivery of products and services aimed at satisfying the needs of each customer (Schafer et al., 2001).