Bruce D. Wyman Company

Since 1988

Providing Strategic Business Planning Services to small businesses and associations, both for- and non-profit, to help them leverage their use of their scarce resources: time, funds, and effort.

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." *

Is a Strategic Business Plan the same as a "business plan"?

A business needs to consider having both a business plan and a Strategic Business Plan. A business should have both (if seeking capital from outside sources), but a Strategic Business Plan is an absolute necessity (if you plan to be successful). However, at the same time, having a well-constructed and coherent Strategic Business Plan guarantees neither a successful search for investment capital nor a successful business outcome. A Strategic Business Plan and a "business plan" are decidedly different documents--different audience, different contents, and different intent.

A "business plan" is essentially a marketing document that uses a Strategic Business Plan as its foundation. What is commonly called a "business plan" is generally used to seek outside funding sources and convince them that your business opportunity will afford them what they consider a reasonable (tolerable) level of risk in return for the financial reward that they will obtain or the benefit that the served community will obtain. So you need to address both risk management and rewards. Your document needs to be targeted to their needs and concerns. Potential financiers will gauge the risk that they might incur in lending funds by examining your business plan to see your understanding of your marketplace, your competitors, your personal business environment and risk, and your management measures to contain and control your own risk. Grantors will want to gauge how well they believe that a grant to your undertaking will pay off in bringing to reality the benefits and results claimed in the community served; they'll do that by looking at the same essential elements of your "business plan". So your "business plan" builds upon the foundation that is your Strategic Business Plan. Your executive summary of your "business plan" is written LAST (a common mistake is to try to write it first) and recaps the most cogent points of your presentation. Make sure it addresses your audience's concerns directly but succinctly.

A Strategic Business Plan describes and documents the Purpose or Mission of your business, your Assumptions about the business environment, your Criteria for selecting among possible Goals and Strategies, the Goals that you want to achieve, the Strategies that you will use to turn those intentions into realities, and detailed Action Plans for executing each Strategy.

In developing your Strategic Business Plan you need to understand your business inside and out. In a "business plan" you have a very limited number of pages in order to capture the reader's interest and convey the sense of what your business is about, how it works, how it is managed, how well it recognizes and will manage the risks involved, the financials, and the rewards for the risks. Without having the details worked out of how your business will operate, you probably will have a VERY difficult time developing a convincing marketing document that will convince investors to part with their money. You won't have shown that you're able to manage the risks involved in their investment.

But because a Strategic Business Plan plan may exist at some point in time (i.e., when seeking funding) does not ensure that the plan is used as a living, breathing, enduring document that actually influences the allocations of resources (funding, of course; but also time and effort) on a CONTINUAL basis. Neither does it ensure a periodic reassessment of the plan from the top down -- not just the action plans, but also the environmental factors, assumptions, goals, etc. Those are essential elements of a Strategic Business Plan.

The best businesses are those that have used a carefully constructed Strategic Business Plan to prepare a business plan, and then continue to use their Strategic Business Plan on a practical basis. Often, I find that if a business is not seeking funding, then they don't go through the hard work of preparing a Strategic Business Plan, let alone keep it updated and workable. I see this as an often fatal flaw of a small business or association. It matters not whether the concern is for- or not-for-profit.

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

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