A business plan is appropriate when you are starting something new – a new business, a new product/service line within a business, entering a new market or updating your goals and budget for a new year. It may be written for an audience internal to the firm, or in the case of seeking financing – will be written for an audience external to the firm.
A strategic plan is a long-term plan for the organization, is very “big-picture-oriented” and is an internal document. The strategic plan focuses on your competitive advantage – what choices you need to make to be unique and extremely good at what you do so that your target market will buy from you. Your strategic plan includes your mission statement and your vision. The mission statement answers the question “What is our company’s reason for existing?” The vision statement answers the question “What will our business look like in 5 to 10 years from now?” The strategic plan also assesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – known as a SWOT analysis. Other parts of the strategic planning process are profiling your customers’ needs, establishing goals and objectives in various time frames – long, medium and short, assessing resources (money, people, etc.), outlining action steps and keeping score with key performance indicators (KPIs). A strategic plan can be summarized on one or two pages and works best when all employees are familiar with it, and how their individual performance fits into the overall plan.
Your strategic plan sets the direction for your firm – where you want to go. Having no strategic plan is like cooking without a recipe – you may get lucky and it turns out well, but how will you repeat your success? Would you set out to visit somewhere you had never been before without a map? Without a strategy, your chance of achieving your goals is significantly diminished.
Every action taken by your firm should be in alignment with your strategy. Every employee should know the strategy and have a clear understanding of their part in making it happen. Of course, the only constant is change. A strategic plan must be revisited and revised at regular intervals as appropriate – maybe due to new opportunities, maybe due to new threats in the market.
To borrow Home Depot’s old tag line, “You can do it; we can help.” Contact your local SBDC office for assistance in developing your strategic plan. It is often helpful to have an objective third party facilitate the process. Did you know SBDC consulting services are offered at no charge?
The University of Georgia
Continuing Education: www.georgiasbdc.org/CE/Gwinnett
Small Business Development Center
2530 Sever Road, Suite 202
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
Telephone: 678.985.6820 Fax: 678.985.6819