Our general approach to business consultancy and business planning is set out in our pages on Management Consultancy and Business Consulting. Recent work on Business Planning and Financial Modelling is illustrated by our work with Wales Co-operative Centre and Social Business Wales set out below and in our work as service providers under the framework of financial advisors for arts/cultural organisations by Arts Council England (“Arts Council”) to support it’s assessment, monitoring and decision-making across its grant programmes.
Case Study: Social Business Wales
AP Benson is appointed by the Wales Co-operative Centre as a consultant on the Social Business Wales programme to support social enterprises including charities, community interest companies, co-operatives, and trusts set up to support local communities, cultural and sporting facilities, and charitable activities (collectively, "social enterprises"). Social Business Wales is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government.
The firm has generally assisted over 50 social enterprises, and prides itself on providing a commercially focussed but socially aware service. We support boards and management teams in planning growth and recovery strategies, addressing organisational difficulties, and managing change in a field where access to funding and managing costs whilst providing a much needed service, cause constant tension.
AP Benson consultants bring personal experience from their own roles as charity trustees and from working with many social enterprise and third sector clients. We are sensitive to the aethos that lies behind these categories of organsiation including the focus on delivery of benefits and social good.
AP Benson specialist solutions include business planning, financial modelling and budgeting, taxation advice, change management planning, and business systems and process efficiency advice. We bring a keen understanding of not only the issues that face social enterprises, but also their particular structure, for example a co-operative that might have its own taxation consequences. Advice and advice and planning is therefore customised to the specific situation of a social enterprise to provide the board with confidence in governance.
Specific services include:
Financial planning and modelling. Social enterprises, much like any other organisation, if they are to achieve the strategic goals set by the board or by funders, must ensure that there is a tight control over finances, and a clear understanding of the financial future in the form of a detailed projection of both income and expenditure and cash flow. A model is however only of value when it has been tested and the results used for scenario planning in order to identify risks and how they are to be mitigated. AP Benson therefore works closely with management teams to test assumptions and work them through to arrive at a robust model and a range for important factors that could significantly alter projected outcomes. From this analysis, a risk register is produced together with plans for mitigation. Situations where this approach has been effective has included arts and cultural organisations to establish how quickly depleted reserves can be rebuilt, and to provide funders with confidence that a business plan is more than an optimistic set of goals but that thought has been given to the possible downside and how the organisation intends to manage problems if and when they arise.
A sound financial model has also been used as the basis for a turnaround plan given that a robustly produced projection will encompass all areas of operation including; human resources and productivity, marketing plans and projections for demand, governance and cost of systems, and fund raising and costs of staff, consultants and time delays in securing finance. In essence, a sound projection allows management to fully comprehend operations and all the factors that cause income and cost, and how these complex factors both interact and can be managed to best effect.
Business Planning: Business plans and their supporting financial projections and analyses have supported social enterprises with a range of operational and general organisational problems including:
- Establishing with a high degree of certainty the amount of investment needed from a community share sale to support a turnaround plan in a sports facility operated by a member owned club.
- Understanding the true financial position of the organisation and the immediate outlook for it if crucial changes are not made to its governance structure and operational management.
- Providing the basis for a turnaround by producing a feasible action plan based on financial plans given scare funding availability.
- Making the case to funders for greater finance based on plans for change and therefore improvements to the profit of cultural performances, venue management and better management of costs.
- Demonstrating the feasibility of organisational plans by producing a coherent financial model from disparate data and plans and therefore a single business plan to describe board strategy.
Diagnosis and Turnaround: AP Benson consultants have specific knowledge and expertise in diagnosing, through a business options review, the cause of financial and organisational difficulties and in developing plans to guide recovery. We are also able to advise, in cases where the client organisation has little prospect of being saved, on how to manage an orderly closure. Our sister firm Gore and Company is able to assist when closure is the only option.