Business Plan Tools & Guidelines

Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning, business planning strategy, business strategy, SWOT, SWOT analysisBusiness plans settle the pre-requisites for strategic planning implementation. Business planning and strategic planning are very closely interrelated. Business planning can be seen as an aspect of the overall strategic planning of a company, minutely following in written form all the sides of the business. Also, the strategic planning can be seen from the perspective of the business plan of a company as a delineator of main rough, undetailed aspects.

Strategic planning implies general directions of a business, main strategies, a long-term perspective, for about 2-4 years.

Business plans, on the other hand, state in detail the data of the business from the marketing point of view, from the management and personnel point of view and from the financial point of view. They also contain stipulations for contingencies. They offer a shorter term perspective, for about 1 year. In a world of an ever increasing competition, less stable and predictable, planning has become more important for managers, conditioning business existence. Times are for thorough analysis of a business from all its perspectives, the difference between an evolving business and a failure depends on this. Even if inclined to base their actions on immediate-gain grounds, successful business managers have learned to take their time for a prospective analysis. Even if innitially starting off their business on a gut feeling, successful talented managers have learned that they have to go beyond the gut feeling, putting together a concrete plan of action, meant to enhance more stability and reduce the tendency of working at random. Although there are voices saying that most successful businesses did not need a plan to begin with, I would not minimize the importance of a business plan, integrated within the strategic business planning, as every business, be it small or "oversized" will need a plan in a certain stage of its growing. The reason might be not necessarily its founding, but the need to communicate in the business environment — be it raising some money or hiring quality personnel.

Basically we can refer to the strategic business planning through the SWOT analysis used for marketing: analysis and identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors of the business, while opportunities and threats are external factors.

The strength analysis requires a look at the advantages of a business, its strong points and all its resources and capabilities that can be used as a basis for developing a competitive advantage. Weakness may be absence of certain strengths. Weaknesses' analysis must reveal where there is room for improvement, what is there to avoid. Opportunities and threats are triggered by environmental occurences such as unexplored marketing niche, new technologies, new loosened regulations, identifiable as opportunies or, on the contrary, threats such as consumers' change in tastes away from the firm's products, new regulations, debt or cash-flow problems, etc. The business plan treats in detail the main directions that the strategic planning settles. If strategic planning provides general directions for the next 2 years, the business plan analyses what the business' characteristics are, how to implement the directions, what will the impact on the market and the potential customers be, the financial side of the action etc., generally all the ins and outs of the matter.