4.2. Implement Your Plan

Implementing is all about doing what you have planned. In the previous chapter, the focus was on Thinking and planning. Well, now it’s time to put all of that planning into action. So, let’s see how you manage that implementation.

It’s all in the execution

One of the important realisations for any manager or business owner is that you can’t do everything yourself. You might want to and that’s fine if you are a one person operation, but building a business that survives its early years is considerably easier if you have help. You might be strong enough to survive on your own, but are you wise enough to realise that your chances are greater if you have people with whom to share the burden?


One of your main tasks as a business owner is to ensure that you have the right resources available to you. There are many reasons why start—up businesses fail to survive the early years, but they can be put into two broad categories: management failure and financial failure. Now, if you’ve got this far, you’ll realise that keeping an eye on the finances in your business also requires management, so we can reasonably say that the main reason that start—ups fail is a failure of ‘management’.


Now, as we defined ‘management’ in Chapter 2 as ‘the making of informed decisions’, the majority of start—up failures are down to their managers making poor decisions, often due to an absence of information. Okay, some well—informed decisions will be the wrong decisions, but that’s life. More decisions will be wrong if they are uninformed. All we can do as business owners is increase our survival chances by making sure that our decisions are based on sound information and that requires Thinking.


Some business owners are so eager to get to the Implementing part of their plan (‘Oh, don’t worry about that, just get this done!’), that they skip the thinking altogether and that increases their chances of slipping into the failure abyss. But we’re here now and you’ve done your Thinking. If not, or you don’t think that you’ve done enough, then step away from the Implementing and go do some more Thinking.


In order to implement your plan, you’ve got to provide the necessary resources; you have to put the fuel into the engine to make it run. We can categorise the resources that a business needs, the resources that you will need to be managing, like this:


  • People — the individuals who do the work
  • Buildings — the physical environment where the work is done
  • Atmosphere — the psychological environment within which people do the work
  • Equipment — the machinery, devices, computers, etc., that are used repeatedly to do the work
  • Materials — the consumable stuff that is used up when doing the work
  • Money — the stuff that you use to pay for everything

We’ll go through each of these in turn, except for the last one. I know that ‘Money makes the world go around’, but making sure that you have sufficient financial resources in your business is beyond the scope of this course. There are many sources of information about financing business available through local and national channels, so if you need that kind of advice, check the internet. Here, we’re only going to address managing your other resources, but that will be more than enough to keep you busy, believe me.


Table 4.4 lists the resources that you’ll need to be managing, to a greater or lesser degree depending on your business, and some of their aspects that you need to be thinking about. Yes, I’m sorry, but there is more thinking to be done. When you are establishing and running a new business, the requirement for Thinking never stops, so you might as well get used to it. Whoever said that management was easy?

People Responsibilities and authorities, experience and skills, recruiting, training, assessing
Buildings Sourcing, constructing, adapting, maintaining, cleaning
Atmosphere Motivating, healthy, safe, supportive
Equipment Sourcing, servicing, maintaining, calibrating, cleaning
Materials Sourcing, purchasing, storing, protecting, disposing of

Table 4.4: Business resources and examples of their management requirements


We’ll start with your people as they are the most important part of your business. The first thing that you need to work out is what roles you have within your business? Do you have an Accounts Manager’s role? Do you have a Personnel Manager’s role? Do you have a role for a specialist cleaner? Without a specific role, it will be difficult for you to assign responsibilities and authorities, and your people will be unclear as to what it is that they are supposed to be doing and not be doing.

‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.’
Sir Richard Branson

On the subject of responsibility and authority, be aware that the two must go together and that you cannot give or have one without the other. In a successful business, the twin requirements of responsibility and authority sit side—by—side. Why? Well, if you give someone the responsibility for, say, dealing with customer complaints, but don’t give them the authority for refunding, then not only have you made them a ‘lame duck’, you’ve given yourself extra work. Every time there is a customer complaint, the person responsible for dealing with it has to ask you for the authority to sort it out. Managing a start—up business requires considerable time and effort on your part; you don’t need extra work. Learn to delegate!


The flip—side of this coin is that you can’t have authority over something if you are not responsible for the consequences of your decisions. A manager who swaggers around wielding their authority without being responsible for the consequences will be a ‘loose cannon’ within your business. Such a manager tells people what to do, sometimes overriding informed decisions made by more junior managers, but are not the ones that have to answer for it when stuff goes wrong. Make sure that the responsibilities and authorities within your business go hand—in—hand.


I know that in some micro businesses, everyone tends to ‘muck in’ and do a bit of everything, but whilst that will be sustainable in the short term, the longer term survival prospects of your business will be increased if you have specific roles filled by specific people whose primary responsibility is to keep an eye on their specific part of your business. Meet with your people and discuss the responsibilities and authorities that go with their role. Allocate the responsibilities and authorities with which you are both comfortable, and document them, so that there is no ambiguity and so that you can refer to them again in the future. Don’t worry if the allocation isn’t quite right in the first instance; they aren’t cast in stone. You can, and must, change them over time as your business grows and your people gain experience.


One other aspect of the roles within your business that you have to consider is your management structure; in other words, who reports to whom? You can’t do everything yourself, so you have to delegate some responsibility to others. Those individuals that are in charge of specific functions, departments or groups within your business then report to you during your management meetings (see Chapter 3: Planning Properly), so that you can keep your finger on the pulse of your business.


For each role, there will be other roles that report to them, maybe not in the beginning, but definitely as your business grows. Each level of management in your business reports to the level above. This means that you will never lose touch with your people, no matter how successful your business becomes because you will be able to trace an unbroken line of responsibility from the ‘frontline’, through your intermediate group leaders, supervisors, and managers, directly to you. And don’t forget to document this management structure in some way, using a list or a diagram, so that everyone can see who’s responsible for what and who reports to whom. Less ambiguity within your business means less opportunity for misunderstanding and failure.


Download a template here

Download your template here
When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

Once you’ve decided what roles you’ll need in the short term, you can then decide what kind of person you require to fill that role. Think about the education, experience, skills and attitude that you require and this will allow you to write a decent job description and recruit people who are close to your criteria. Don’t worry if you can’t find the ‘perfect’ candidate, that’s a rare occurrence, instead get someone who’s reasonably close to your requirements. The difference between where they are now and where you need them to be is what training is for.

It is important that you establish as early as possible a system of regular competence assessment. You’ll need this as start—up businesses tend to change fast and you need to ensure that your people change with you. Someone who is suitable when the team they have to manage consists of three people may not be suitable when it comes to managing a team of 200. Setting—up this system early also reduces the resistance behaviours that some people exhibit when being asked to demonstrate their competence to do their job as time moves on. ‘I’ve been doing this job for 20 years.’ ‘Yes, but you’ve been doing it wrong for 15!’


As the economic environment changes, so do the requirements of your business. As the requirements of your business change, so do the requirements of the roles within it. And as the requirements of the roles change, so do the requirements of your people. Keep their competences up to the level that you require with regular training and your chances of business survival will increase.


So, you’ve now got specific roles, with defined responsibilities and authorities, for which you can recruit suitable people, who can be trained and assessed on a regular basis to ensure that they remain competent to do the jobs for which they were hired. And the job for which everyone in your business was hired is implementing your plans. Now, let’s have a look at the other resources about which you’ll have to think if you are to get those plans implemented.

‘Evil begins when you start to treat people as things.’
Sir Terry Pratchett

You must put some thought into the physical and psychological environment within which you conduct your business (buildings and atmosphere from Table 4.4). Depending on your business, you may need to consider:


  • What kind of premises do you need and for how long?
  • Where is it most advantageous to have your premises located?
  • Do suitable premises exist or will you need to have them built?
  • What maintenance requirements will you have?
  • How clean do your premises have to be?
  • How are you going to maintain a motivated team?
  • How are you going to help your people stay healthy and safe?


Download a template here

Download your template here
When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

Why does the physical and psychological environment matter? Well, you wouldn’t make fresh sandwiches on a garage forecourt, would you? You wouldn’t offer all—over body massage services in the middle of the High Street. You wouldn’t open a library on a football pitch. Why? Because the physical environment is not suitable for those businesses. Food preparation requires the environment to be clean, massage requires privacy, and a library functions best when it’s quiet.


Similarly, if the psychological environment (atmosphere) within your business isn’t aligned with your goods and services, then your people will not be as effective as they could be. For example, if you allow low levels of sexism, racism, ageism, etc., within your business, then this will affect how your people not only treat each other, but how they treat your customers. If you tell your team that what you say to your customers isn’t really what you believe, then they are more likely to lose respect for you and, worse, your customers. As the owner of the business, you must ‘Walk the walk’ as well as ‘Talk the talk’.


The last resources that we’ll cover are the equipment and materials that you’ll need to run your business. Why are they important? Well, just ask anyone who’s ever lost their mobile phone or misplaced their laptop if their equipment is important. How annoying would it be to be making your breakfast only to find that you’ve run out of tea, coffee, milk, cereal, kippers, etc? You cannot make something out of nothing, so give some thought to:


  • From where are you going to acquire your equipment and materials?
  • How much of what item are you going to require and when?
  • Are your suppliers reliable?
  • How often does the equipment require servicing and calibrating?
  • How are you going to store your materials so that they don’t degrade?
  • How are you going to dispose of your waste?


Download a template here

Download your template here
When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.

Once you’ve sorted out all the resource requirements for your business your people will have all they need to do their jobs. With the resources in place, you can allocate tasks to teams or individuals confident in the knowledge that they have been trained to do the job in the way you want it done, in an environment conducive to them doing those jobs well, using equipment that works and materials that are suitable. If you’ve put the necessary thinking into the provision of your business resources, then it (the process of implementing within your business) should all be running like a well—oiled machine. Now, let’s look at what your machine is achieving.