I often get asked: “Do business plans work?”

Over the years I have been posed the question “do business plans work?” from all sorts of people; small business owners, academics, other consultants and business advisers, however there is only one answer that fits all scenarios and the answer is ‘only when they are implemented’.

No matter what size your plan is, whether it’s a business plan or any other kind of plan, (a holiday or moving house) it will only work if implemented. This may sound silly and obvious, however, a high number of my clients have spent money and time putting business plans together and I’m then told they don’t work and yet when exploring the situation I’ve found the reason it “didn’t work” was because no one had thought to actually implement them.

Any business can be improved by simply identifying two or three key areas, setting some simple actions (targets) that need to be undertaken within the business and then following through on these two or three things to make sure they actually happen, resulting in an improvement.

Of course you can have a very complicated business plan and for some of the very large international corporates this could be a plan incorporating a 20 year vision, for example, but for it to work it still has to be implemented.

So my advice is no matter how big or complicated the business is, set up a system to ensure the actions identified in the plan are implemented.

Integrate your plan into your weekly or monthly management meetings so that on a routine basis, either you or your manager’s area being held accountable for implementing the plan.


A business plan will only work if it is implemented. At the end of the day it is not cost or time effective to spend hours/days/weeks putting together a business plan or any other kind of plan if it never gets implemented.

How to implement your business plan

I have often seen business plans with great vision statements covering their sales, marketing, delivery and ambitions along with a complicated financial forecast that looks and sounds great however they lack a broken down target by target action plan, incorporating all the visions statements into easily doable activity.

So, make sure when you create a business plan you go the extra mile and list out an action plan. Each target on your action plan should be assigned to an individual. The individual as part of the management team would be the person responsible for the implementation, and would have to report progress at your monthly management meeting.

This not only keeps the momentum going but also helps individuals and/or teams to hold focus on what their particular role is within the plan.

It is often better to get others involved in your plans; whether that means telling your friend about them or involving employees on larger scale business plans.

This way the friend/employees will help you keep track by simply asking how the plan is going or offering help on finalising actions for example.

This will keep the plan fresh in your mind and so it will be harder to forget your drive and goal.

Your employees and you: the tricky road

Managing people is a very interesting subject and potentially quite complicated. Once you get over the emotional response around the fact that most humans don’t want to be controlled or manipulated.

We all want our free will and self-determination but when it comes down to it unless you manage your staff, you will not have an efficient work force.

Being very controversial people are inherently lazy and will only do the bear minimum that they need to feel secure and safe; of course three is always the odd acceptation to this rule. I’m sure we all know occasional work alcoholic or an individual with ADHD.

So having said all that and offended lots of people let’s get down to brass tacks.

If you want a successful business you need to manage your people.

Now the way you manage them becomes key depending on:-
A) their personality
B) the type of job they are doing and
C) your personality (one day my book will be written covering all of these issues as it’s a massive subject)

Tips and advice

Whether your team is 3 or 30 you must have regular meetings to monitor progress and individuals need to be given responsibility and authority to get their jobs done but there must always be a mechanism for them to report to you on progress and you must always set targets relating to what you want achieved. The larger the organisation and the more senior the position will mean that the targets are more strategic and time scales make it longer i.e. Weekly and monthly as opposed to hourly and daily but the principles are still the same.

Apply a simple process of:-
A) making sure that everyone involved knows what you expect, be very clear and concise about your expectations
B)set time scales
C)get agreement
D) follow-up
E) when completed give praise and recognition of a job well done or constructive criticism if job isn’t quite right.

If you apply those steps A-E to managing your people you will always be successful and respected as a manager.

Are you a leader or a boss?

Managing a workforce will never be a straight forward road but with the right tools it can be a rewarding and gratifying path. The key is to know the difference between leading a team and being the boss of your employees.

As mentioned in my book Getting Down to Business, having employees can be difficult due to different characters and strong opinions bouncing around the workplace, however knowing how to handle them is paramount.

It is imperative you help the employees to understand you are the type of employer who will guide them, make them feel part of a team and gives credit where it’s due. Even small things like saying please and thank you to your employees can mean the difference between quality team spirit alongside a high standard of work and a poor end result.

For me personally it always helps to know what your employees are going through on a day to day basis, they appreciate it when you are able to say things like “when I did this task I found that…” It shows them that at one stage you were in their shoes and puts them at ease. This can also in still trust and respect in the relationship between you and the employee and can help to keep some bosses level headed as naturally the higher up you become, or the more responsibility you take on, the harder it is to remember the days when you were in their shoes.

However as much as you do empathise with them and look after your team you must also remember that you need a be a little bit of a boss too; this is to make sure jobs do get done and so tasks and business plans run to schedule as well. So instead of deciding to be one or the other, why not find a balance that works well for you and your employees? It will always vary with each employee depending on how you need to treat them to get the work done in a timely but high quality manner but remember to have regular progress checks and refer back to my other blog about managing people for extra hints and tips!