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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Start Your Own Business

Give yourself the best chance to succeed

  • Twelve lessons cover marketing, planning, budgeting, reviewing progress, improving profit and more.
  • The course gives you the opportunity to succeed in a new business - building your knowledge of how to run a business through to the practice starting a business venture.

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Start your own small business with this course from ACS 

  • Learn small business skills.
  • Explore business options.
  • ... then plan and develop a venture with the best chance of success.

This course aims to make sure your business is one of the successful ones! You not only learn how to start a business, but under the guidance of a professional business expert, you plan and initiate development of a business venture.

There are two parts to the course:

  1. In the first part you learn about how to run a business.
  2. You then either start a business (this may be very small, or larger), or review the running of an established business. Over several lessons your tutor guides you through several stages to assess, analyse and improve operations in this "real life situation".

The course covers all the basics to plan a business and start its first steps. It contains and explain what are the elements associated with profitability and business success.

Course Structure and Lesson Content

The course comprises 12 lessons, as follows:

Lesson 1. Introduction to Small Business

  • Types of business and communication.
  • Types of language.
  • Office equipment.

Lesson 2. The Business World

  • Consultancy services.
  • Law and business.
  • The landscape industry.
  • Business letters.
  • Communication systems.

Lesson 3. Your alternatives

  • Different types of ventures.
  • Buying and starting a business.

Lesson 4. Marketing

  •  What is involved in marketing, advertising, selling, communication.

Lesson 5. Planning

  •  Organising and planning to ensure the success of the business.

Lesson 6. Basic Bookkeeping

  • Financial statements.
  • Balance sheets.
  • Profit and loss statements.
  • Insurance. 

Lesson 7. Sales Methods

  • Selling.
  • Sales method.
  • Telephone canvassing.

Lesson 8. Budgeting

  •  Assets and liabilities.

Lesson 9. Developing a 12 Month Business Plan

  • Protection.
  • Planning.
  • Production.

Lesson 10. Implementing a Business Plan

  • Communication with employees.
  • Planning the development of the business.

Lesson 11. Reviewing Progress in a New Business

  • Research.
  • Evaluate and decide on business plan updates.

Lesson 12. Improving profitability

  • Increase profit.
  • Reduce expenditure. 

There is an assignment at the end of each lesson, which you submit to your tutor for marking and feedback.

You can also contact your tutor with any queries throughout the course.

Course Aims

  •  Discuss the nature of small business and the skills required to run one successfully.
  • Explain the legal requirements, restrictions and the costs of running a small business.
  • Describe the different aspects and considerations associated with starting a new or buying an existing business.
  • Explain the marketing process.
  • Explain the importance of planning in the running of a successful business.
  • Explain the importance of record keeping and the principles of bookkeeping.
  • Determine sales and promotions strategies in small business.
  • Explain the importance of budgets.
  • Develop a business plan.Implement a business plan.Identify factors that affect profitability.

How to Succeed in Business 

Studying this course is an excellent starting point; but study alone doesn't ensure success in business or a career.


Who you know can be just as important as what you know - so we make a point throughout this course of helping you build contacts. We show you how to network, we encourage you to network, and we build networking into your assignments and set tasks.

Become a Problem Solver 

Knowing how to find information and solve problems is also critical to the success of any business and, again, we have designed this course to nurture these skills.

Go Beyond the Information

Studying is about more than just gathering information .... having the facts does not help if you can't use them.

Take Calculated Risks

There is always a risk in business, but with the right choices and careful planning, potential risk can be minimised.

Select Viable Products and Get to Know the Product before Launching.

Don't make the mistake of deciding what you want to sell before you understand the world of business - that is putting the cart before the horse.  Some schools emphasise the learning of factual information, and assessing your retention of that information. At ACS, we feel that approach is very little different to buying and using a book; we offer something for people who want something more, something that will make a difference to your chance of business success.

Get your Timing Right

The best business ideas are very often unsuccessful, because although they may be a great idea, they are launched at the wrong time. If the mini skirt or rock music were launched in Victorian England, it would almost certainly have failed; but in the 1960’s these ideas took the world by storm.

Case Study

“In the early 1980’s, when videos were first introduced; I gathered together a large collection of educational videos to loan to students.  It seemed a good idea at the time, but no one borrowed them.   By the 1990’s though, these videos were getting borrowed and used a lot. The internet had not delivered anything like YouTube yet, but many people had video players and were predisposed to watching educational videos.

Ten years later, people stopped borrowing videos, as access to educational video via the internet and cable TV expanded rapidly. Similarly, video stores in shopping centres did a thriving business through the 90’s, but the profitability of such businesses declined in more recent times.”

John Mason, Principal ACS Distance Education.

These observations graphically illustrate the importance of timing. Opportunities for video hire businesses were strong for a decade, or perhaps two; but before and after that window of time, this otherwise good idea had the potential to bankrupt businesses.

The first business to do something new will often be unsuccessful, but the next may learn from the mistakes of the first; and with little competition, can be far more successful than those that follow, and those that went before.

If something doesn't work, do not persist in throwing good money after bad.

This may sound obvious, but: offer what people want to buy NOT what you want to sell.  You may have a great idea for a product that no one wants to buy.  What if you can change that product slightly? Or, try to offer that product as part of a range of other products? Try to avoid focusing on just one product.  If you are going to sell a nightlight for children that has dinosaurs on it, then you restrict your market. The light is probably only going to be purchased for young children and probably only children who like dinosaurs.  If you add other designs to the nightlights, like stars, princesses, knights, fairies, teddies etc., you have the same basic product, but you have opened up your market to other potential customers, not just the ones who like dinosaurs.

Knitting was something that fell out of fashion.  More recently, however, it has come back into fashion again.  Many people are knitting their own products, selling hand knitted jumpers, scarves and so on.  If the firms that sold the knitting patterns in the 1950’s had seen this resurgence in an interest in knitting, and re-released their old knitting patterns, they may not have done so well. They had an existing product, but it probably was not right for the modern market. Instead they released new patterns, new wools and so on, that were more what today’s knitters wanted. 

So again, it is not what you want to sell or have available to sell, but what people want to buy.

Now, that’s all very nice, but what if you have a lot of a product that is not really selling, but you want to get rid of it.  This is where ‘Special Offers’ and ‘Remarketing’ can come into play. 

We have all seen special offers on products. Buy one get one free. Buy one get one half price. Three for the price of two and so on. You might think this can be a good way to get rid of products, but if you do a special offer, you are potentially losing money. You want to make profit on anything you sell. But if you have 10,000 bottles of shampoo clogging up your storage facilities that don’t sell, it could mean you have to pay for more storage or can’t buy new products that may sell as you have nowhere to store them, so you are also affecting your future profitability. So, it may be more beneficial for your profit as a whole to sell the bottles of shampoo on a two for one offer and free up space for different products, than to not sell them at all.

Customers are also more likely to buy a product if they think they are getting a special deal or getting it cheaper than they would otherwise.

Think about chocolate Easter eggs. After Easter, no one wants to buy them, so you often see shops offering them cheaper to get rid of them.  They are a perishable good, so only have a short shelf life, so the business will want to sell them quickly.  

You sometimes see shops selling groceries very cheaply on the last day of their shelf life. Sandwiches, fresh meats and other goods can be purchased cheaply on those days.  A local pizza shop sells fresh pizzas for 1p at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, enabling them to get rid of that stock by 5pm. Otherwise they would simply have to throw it away. By offering the pizza for 1p, they have not made any profit, but what if the customer also buys some garlic bread to go with their pizza, a side salad, a bottle of wine, maybe a dessert for after, they may actually have made up the profit they have lost on the pizza. 

Remaindered books are other products that have not sold. A publisher may do a print run of 1000 books and find that only 500 sell. The remaining 500 books may be ‘remaindered’ when the book goes out of print. These may be sold off cheaply via cheaper bookstores or book clubs and so on. It is a way to make some money on the books, maybe not as much as originally hoped for, but it does ensure that a firm still has some income coming in.

Remarketing is when a product is advertised or marketed in a different way to attract customers. Vintage clothing is an area where this may happen. Clothes from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s may once have been thought unfashionable. Now with the label of “vintage clothing”, products that were once unfashionable have had a resurgence. Vintage clothing firms have been successfully set up, selling clothes they have purchased from charity shops, jumble stalls and so on, that they then on-sell more expensively as “vintage clothing”. 

Discount vouchers are another way to attract customers. Restaurants may offer money off vouchers or free starters or a free bottle of wine and so on, as a way to encourage custom.  There are a wide range of websites now where discount vouchers and coupons can be printed and then used in a wide range of businesses and services. Discount vouchers can be a way to encourage customers who would not previously have used your business.  

Free delivery on a product may make your product cheaper overall than someone else who charges for delivery.

Manage Your Money

Don’t over extend finances. Only do what you can afford, and always keep some money in reserve.

Businesses should be tailored to the financial capacity of the owner. Many owners make a fatal mistake of leaving no margin for error in their planning. You should always hold something in reserve; if not cash, at least the ability to borrow against some tangible resource (eg. a house).

It is one thing to develop a business plan that requires £100,000 to get started, based on a projection that you will be generating a sustainable income before the £100,000 runs out. In reality though, many businesses encounter unexpected expenses, or delays in start up; and would be far better to be developing a business plan that requires £70,000 to get started, with an expectation of the business generating a sustainable income before the £70,000 runs out (and keeping £30,000 in the bank on fixed deposit as a contingency fund for use in only the most extreme situation).

Keep Cash Flowing

We have just talked about discount vouchers and special offers. These can mean that your profit is reduced, but it can also mean that cash continues to come into the company. Sometimes you may have to cut your losses. If you can sell your 10,000 bottles of shampoo and only make a penny profit on each one, you have still made some profit.  If they sit in your storage facility, you make nothing.  Sometimes you may have to reduce prices to sell products. Sometimes you may have to cut the price of the service you offer.

Say you are a business consultant who usually charges a large fee per day to advise clients. If the economic climate is bad and businesses cannot afford your services, it may be that you have to reduce your fee or perhaps offer shorter sessions. Instead of a large fee for one day of your services, you could charge for half days or hourly rates and so on. This may not be ideal for you, but it is better to get paid for one hours work a day than nothing at all.

In the long term, or even in the short term, any business has to make money to stay afloat. Keeping money flowing in the short term can help a business survive until things improve. Also, you should see it potentially as an investment. That person who has come to you and bought the cheap shampoo may come to you again.  That person who you offer an hour’s consultancy to may become a successful business person themselves and recommend you to other businesses or use your services more in the future. 

Make sure you also price products suitably.  Profit is not just the gap between the cost of the product and how much you sell it for. There are also other costs that you need to take into account – staffing costs, delivery costs, storage costs, transport costs, accountancy costs, tax and so on. They should all be figured into the amount you charge.  It is always best to overestimate expenses and underestimate revenue.


You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?

This is definitely the case with business.  

Businesses do not always go as planned and sometimes a certain amount of trial and error is required before someone establishes a successful business. There are many stories told by some of the world’s most successful business owners about failing (even going bankrupt) then re-organising and re-establishing themselves in business.

Learn to accept failures as par for the course.

If something does not work, try something new.

The key to success though, is to learn from failure, and not make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Do Market Research

Test the market before jumping in boots and all.

Putting all of your resources into an untested idea is often high risk, and unnecessary risk.

Example: If we think it might be good to promote a product by mailing out to doctors, we would do a small mailing first, to a small number of doctors and monitor the results.  We would only mail a large number of people if the test run worked.

Keep Changing

Business never stands still. Conditions around you will always be changing. If you don’t keep adapting and accommodating to those changes, you will suffer.

We have talked quite a bit in the book about the impact of the internet on businesses. The internet is an area that seems to change more rapidly than other areas, so it is important to keep up-to-date with the market place, both physically and online.

You need to watch the market place and be prepared to change what you are doing, quickly, and whenever the conditions change.  For example, Google is a search engine. The way it ranks and organises how websites appear in searches changes from time to time. So a website that was ranking number one could find itself down in the hundreds in the ranking if it does not take these changes into account.

Watch politics –changes in laws can have big impacts and do not delay changing to accommodate changing political situations. Such delays have killed off many otherwise old, well-established and profitable businesses.

Focus on Sales

If you do not sell your product, your business will never succeed. We often see businesses spend thousands getting their product right, then never generate any sales.  It is the sales that count!  It may be better to offer a less sophisticated product and sell it, whilst continuing to develop the product, then wait months and not sell anything at all whilst you are in the development phase. Larger companies may have time for this - they probably have their own research and development departments. With smaller companies, however, this may not be the case. We are not saying offer a shoddy product, but if you can offer a less sophisticated one, then why not.  Wouldn’t it be better to offer a smaller product or service than nothing at all? For example, if you are a business consultant who has not developed their ideas for their services sufficiently in all areas, perhaps you could focus on one area, for example, what about focussing on supporting women who have just had children back to work. This is a starting point, you will start to get clients (hopefully), this will start to get money flowing and at the same time, you can develop into other areas of business consultancy. 

You have an idea for a range of beauty products. You want to release shampoos, conditioners, lipsticks, blusher and so on all at once. This could take a long time to develop. So why not develop one product, the shampoo, start to sell that and continue with the development of the others.

This may not be enough to keep your business afloat initially, but some businesses are set up by people who are in other employment, until they are able to make enough money to focus on the business alone. So the business consultant may be able to offer consultancy on evenings or weekends or on days off. The beauty product business may sell the shampoo online in the evening at first, until the business takes off and so on.  This is surely better than taking years to perfect a product, THEN finding that it does not sell. By selling smaller or less sophisticated versions of their products initially, this is also good market research on what might sell (or not).

Be Different

Even if you are starting a business that provides services or products that are already being provided; you can still have a different product mix, or a different way of delivering the goods.

Example: Take a product with three different uses and focus on just one of those uses; find a target market and sell to that market by highlighting the use that appeals to them.

Lavender may be used as a garden shrub; as a plant to provide raw materials for craft, or for aromatherapy health purposes. It will appeal to three different types of buyers – those interested in craft, those interested in gardening or those interested in health. If you produce labelling and product information that focuses on just one of those three things, you can then define a target market as people interested in that particular use for lavender. 

So ... What are you waiting for?

  • Plan for a career where you are your own boss.
  • Plan for a future of financial independence.
  • Learn to succeed - gain the knowledge and couple this with your drive and your own ideas.

What Next?

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Meet some of our academics

John MasonMr Mason has worked 45+ years in Writing, Education, Horticulture and Recreation. His experience in both public & private sectors is extensive; particularly across Australia and England.
Rosemary Davies (General)Rosemary has over 30 years of working in jobs ranging from Writer, Consultant, Broadcaster and, Business owner, to Teacher and landscape designer. She has worked for ACS since 2008
Jacinda ColeJacinda has expertise in psychology and horticulture. She holds a BSc (hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. In horticulture she has a Certificate in Garden Design and ran her own landscaping and garden design business for a number of years. Jacinda also has many years experience in course development and educational writing.

Check out our eBooks

Modern MarketingThis book explores new approaches to marketing, how to adapt to a continually changing world both through online marketing, and more. Some aspects of marketing never change; but many of the well established approaches used in the past simply do not work any more. This book lays a foundation for thinking about marketing in a different way
Professional Practice for ConsultantsExplore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Starting a BusinessBusinesses don't need to fail! This is concise, easy to read, and alerts you to all of the things that commonly make a difference to business success or failure. Seven chapters are: “A Reality Check”, “The Product or service”, “Managing a Business”, “How to Find Customers”, “How to Make a Sale”, “Delivering the Product or Service”, “Pitfalls to Avoid”.
ManagementManagement is the process of planning, organising, leading, and controlling an organisation’s human and other resources to achieve business goals. More importantly though, effective management needs to be a process of human interaction and compassion. Most bad managers don’t know they are bad. They may well admit that they are a bit erratic, or they are sometimes late to appointments, but it is rare that they will recognise that they are ineffective as managers. Never here. This book has something to offer even the best of managers.