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What is the Difference Between a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan?

By Jeff Brunings

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While a strategic plan is a type of business plan, there are several important distinctions between the two types that are worth noting.

A strategic plan is primarily used for implementing and managing the strategic direction of an existing organization. A business plan is used to initially start a business, obtain funding, or direct operations.  The two plans cover different timeframes as well. A strategic plan generally covers a period of 3 to 5+ years, whereas a business plan is normally no more than one year.

A strategic plan is for established businesses, organizations and business owners that are serious about growing their organization. Whereas a business plan could be for new businesses and entrepreneurs who are startups.

A strategic plan is used to provide focus, direction and action in order to move the organization from where they are now to where they want to go.  Whereas a business plan is used to provide a structure for ideas in order to initially define the business.

A strategic plan is critical to prioritizing resources (time, money and people) to grow the revenue and increase the return on investment.  Whereas a business plan is critical if the business is seeking funding.

A strategic plan focuses on building a sustainable competitive advantage and is futuristic in nature. Whereas a business plan is used to assess the viability of a business opportunity, and is more tactical in nature.

A strategic plan is used to communicate the direction of the organization to the staff and stakeholders.  However, a business plan is used to present the entrepreneur’s ideas to a bank.

Another way to grasp the difference is by understanding the difference in ‘scale’ between a strategic plan and a business plan. Larger organizations with multiple business units and a wide variety of products frequently start their annual planning process with a corporate-driven strategic plan.  It is often followed by departmental plans and marketing plans that work down from the Strategic Plan.  Smaller companies and startup companies typically use only a business plan to develop all aspects of the business on paper, obtain funding and then start the business.  Many smaller companies – including startups never develop a Strategic Plan.


Jeff Brunings

With over 20 years management experience in multi-industry environments, Jeff drives customer experience by advancing the effectiveness of OnStrategy’s cloud-based platform and services.

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