Business Plan vs. Strategic Plan – Are they still relevant in today’s market place?

Over the past few weeks I have read articles also featuring this topic on my radio show and in group discussions.  Is the business plan dead? Have strategic plans taken their place? Are they one in the same? Do you even need a plan to have a successful business?

Just like in business, I believe business plans and strategic plans must transcend old school convention and be used as a catalyst for start up, growth and the revitalization of a business.

So what is a business plan? (BPLANS.com)

A business plan is any plan that works for a business to look ahead, allocate resources, focus on key points, and prepare for problems and opportunities.

What is a strategic plan? (managementhelp.org)

A strategic plan clarifies the overall purpose and desired results of an organization, and how those results will be achieved.

In short, a business plan defines what a business does, what resources it will need and what it will cost to operate. A strategic plan defines how the business will operate; accomplish its goals and assigns accountability to key stakeholders in the organization charged with meeting those goals.

Before you begin creating a Business Plan or Strategic Plan you should define the purpose of the document. Are you doing a plan to seek investors, using it to change or grow your business or maybe to solve a business challenge? Understanding how you will use the plan will help you customize it to meet your unique needs.

First let’s talk about the business plan. A business plan answers the “what” questions. When creating a business plan there are some recommended elements that should be included (entreprenuer.com):

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Business Description
  3. Market Strategy
  4. Competitive Analysis
  5. Design & Development Plan
  6. Operations and Management Plan
  7. Financials

While these are a few recommended components, you may have different variations depending on your business. Consulting with an expert is a wise move for someone who doesn’t possess business planning as a professional strength.  An expert can help you formulate a plan that works to meet your purpose for creating it.

Now let’s look at strategic plans. A strategic plan puts the “how” into play.  How will you set your goals? How will you meet the goals? How will you make the business successful?

Again, you should define the purpose of your strategic plan to best align it with meeting your organizational goals. In the strategic planning methodologies used with our clients I have found that there are four components that we use in creating a successful strategic plan.

  1. Design
  2. Implement
  3. Execute
  4. Accountability

In the DESIGN phase you address the business challenge(s) that are hindering your business. Be specific, open and honest with what needs to be done to move your business forward. In the design phase you will state goals that need to be accomplished. Using Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely Goals is a great way to get the process started.

This phase is not always easy so know when to get help.  I am currently working with a client who could not see it clearly so we are working together to bring an objective viewpoint to help clearly define the challenges, set the goals and execute the plan.

Next you will IMPLEMENT your plan. In the implementation phase you will assign goals to individuals or teams that will be held accountable for ensuring those goals are met. You should also create an action plan and structured meetings that allow you to review the goals and progress frequently.

Now it is time to EXECUTE.  This is game day! You work the plan by taking the action steps necessary to accomplish the goals. Executions is often the phase where plans become stagnant.  There is so much to do in the day to day that the plan gets placed on a shelf and is never seen again. This can be a sad stage turn of events.

Actively work the plan and ensure that everyone is working towards meeting the goals. These goals and the importance of meeting them should be communicated to everyone in the organization. 100% buy in will help to ensure the plan gets worked.

Finally ACCOUNTABILITY is paramount. You must hold people accountable to meeting the goals that are aligned under their responsibilities. Some companies incorporate the goals into the performance evaluation process and weight salary increases and bonuses on the goals that were accomplished during the stated timetable. Figure out the accountability matrix that works for your organization and incorporate them into your organizations culture.  Creating a culture of accountability will help propel the organization forward.

A business plan and a strategic plan go hand and hand in building sustainable organizational growth.  The best advice I can give is work the plan! A plan that is incorporated into every aspect of the business can only move the business forward. Align the culture of the organization and hold your team and yourself accountable for seeing the plan succeed.

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    […] Is the business plan dead? Have strategic plans taken their place? Are they one in the same? Do you even need a plan to have a successful business?Just like in business, I believe business plans and strategic plans must transcend old school convention and be used as a catalyst for start up, growth and the revitalization of a business.  […]

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