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4 Elements of a Strategic Business Plan

By Peter Smith

Strategic business planning can be compared to building a table. A table is nothing but a flat surface being supported by four legs underneath. Take just one of those legs away, and the table will not stand. A strategic business plan is very similar. It is built on four primary elements that support it as legs support a table.

The four elements of a strategic business plan can be thought of as four individual questions, along with their answers:

What does the company’s past look like?

Where is the company now?

Where do we hope to take the company in the future?

How do we plan to get to there?

As an expert in strategic business planning, I assist my clients in answering each of these four questions as part of developing a strategic business plan. These are important questions that all company owners and management staff should be asking on a regular basis.

What does the company’s past look like?

It is true that owners and management staff don’t want to get so attached to the past that they cannot move toward the future. Still, the past offers valuable lessons – both positive and negative. It is always helpful to look back to see where a company came from and how it got to its current state. The past is a great teacher. It should not be neglected.

Where is the company now?

Answering this question requires taking a step back and making an honest assessment of every area of an organisation’s operations. This is sometimes a painful process. Why? Because an honest evaluation means identifying weaknesses just as readily as strengths. Existing strengths need to be encouraged and further developed. At the same time, weaknesses need to be addressed with effective solutions.

Where do we hope to take the company in the future?

At the core of strategic business planning lie future goals. It is necessary to look at both the past and present in order to gauge where an organisation is and how it got there. Yet without some sort of direction for the future, it is almost impossible to come up with any constructive strategic business plan. Simply put, how can a company plan if management does not know where they want the company to go?

How do we plan to get there?

It is said that failing to plan equals planning to fail. That is absolutely true in the business world. In order to reach any goals for the future, a plan must be in place to get there. Plans can be as rigid or fluid as they need to be, but something needs to be in place so that the organisation can begin moving forward.

The concept of strategic business planning is not an abstract concept with no real ends. It is a well-defined concept that takes past and present into account, combining both with goals for the future and a plan to get there.

By Peter Smith.

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