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.