Business plan, strategic plan, operational plan: why all 3 are important

When you’re in the early stages of running your business, it’s easy to get lost when thinking about all the things you need to organize in order to grow. This is where making a business plan, strategic plan and operational plan comes into play. 

A business plan outlines the “what” and “how” of your business, while a strategic plan sets the long-term vision. Operational plans dive into day-to-day tasks. We’ll explain their roles, differences, and how they work together. 

In this post, we’ll break down these concepts, explain the difference between them and why all three are important.  By understanding these plans, you’ll gain the tools to steer your ship, set big goals, and navigate the everyday waters with confidence and success.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan, just like a blueprint for building a house, shows the general path for your business to follow. Besides the essential facts, it’s the tool that conveys your vision to potential investors, partners, and your own team.

A business plan is your business’s roadmap to success. It’s a detailed guide that helps you understand where your business is headed and how to get there. In this plan, you outline your business goals, what products or services you offer, who your customers are, and how you’ll reach them. 

Writing a business plan is one of many tips for starting a business you can tap into to get off the ground. 

Your business plan includes financials 

Your business plan also includes financial details, like how much money you’ll need and how you’ll make money. It’s important to outline everything because it helps you make smarter decisions, attract investors or loans, and stay on track as you grow. 

Think of your business plan as a game plan that keeps you focused and prepared for whatever comes your way.

What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a detailed plan that lays out where you want your business to be in the future and how you’ll get there. In this plan, you outline your long-term goals, the actions you’ll take to move towards those goals, and the major steps to reach those goals.

A strategic plan helps you make smart choices about things like which products to focus on, how to stand out from competitors, and where to expand. It’s like your compass for making decisions that match your vision. 

Goal setting in your strategic plan 

Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) is a clear way to put your strategic plan into actionable tasks. 

This plan also keeps you flexible – you can adjust it as your business grows and the market changes. By having a solid strategic plan, you’re setting yourself up for success, making sure all your actions lead to reaching those big dreams you have for your business.

What is an Operational Plan?

An operational plan is where the nitty-gritty of running your business happens. An operational plan is like your playbook for your day-to-day tasks . 

It spells out exactly how you’ll execute your strategies outlined in your strategic plan and reach your goals outlined in your business plan.

In your operational plan, you break things down: who’s doing what, when and how. It’s like giving clear instructions to your team on tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities.

From managing the kitchen in a restaurant to handling customer orders in a salon, it’s all in the operational plan.

It also covers how you’ll maintain quality, manage resources, and handle any bumps along the way. Think of it as your action plan – turning your grand ideas into reality, step by step. 

What’s the Difference Between a Business Plank, Strategic Plan and Operational Plan?

Business plan

  • Focus: This is the big blueprint for your entire business. It explains what your business does, who your customers are, how you’ll make money, and your long-term goals.
  • Timeframe: Usually covers a few years and includes financial projections.
  • Use: It’s your pitch to investors and guides your business decisions.

Strategic plan:

  • Focus: This is the long-term vision. It’s about where you want your business to go and the major steps to get there.
  • Timeframe: Often covers 3-5 years.
  • Use: It guides big choices like expanding, new products, and setting direction.

Operational plan:

  • Focus: This is the detailed game plan for your day-to-day business operations. It’s about how you’ll execute your strategies.
  • Timeframe: Covers the short term, usually a year or less.
  • Use: It’s the instructions for your team on tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities.

In short, a business plan is your overall roadmap, a strategic plan sets the direction for growth, and an operational plan makes sure everything runs smoothly day by day. They work together to keep your business on track and thriving.

Why is Having a Business Plan, Strategic Plan and Operational Plan Important?

Having a business plan, a strategic plan, and an operational plan is like having a superhero trio for your business. Here’s why they’re so important:

Business Plan:

  • Clarity: It gives you a clear path for your business journey. You know what you’re doing, who your customers are, and how to make money.
  • Guidance: It helps you make smart choices and stay on track to reach your goals.
  • Attractiveness: Investors and lenders like to see a solid plan before supporting your business.

Strategic Plan:

  • Direction: It’s like a compass for your long-term vision. It tells you where your business is headed and how to get there.
  • Big Goals: It sets ambitious goals like growing big, launching new things, and standing out from the crowd.
  • Adaptation: It helps you adjust when things change, keeping your business aligned with your dreams.

Operational Plan:

  • Smooth Sailing: It’s your step-by-step guide for daily tasks. You know who does what and when.
  • Efficiency: It makes things run smoothly and helps you manage resources well.
  • Quality Control: It ensures your products or services are top-notch and consistent.

Together, these plans are like your business’s superpowers. They make sure your business is not just surviving, but thriving..

Strategic Plan Example

Let’s say your restaurant, Brenda’s Bistro, wants to become the ultimate dining spot in your community, celebrated for your fantastic dishes and top-notch hospitality.


Brenda’s Bistro’s mission is to create unforgettable dining experiences by offering a diverse menu crafted from locally sourced ingredients, while delivering outstanding customer service.


  • Achieve a 20% increase in revenue within the next two years.
  • Expand the customer base by targeting families and young professionals through special promotions.
  • Introduce a new themed menu every season to keep customers excited and engaged.

Strategies and Initiatives:

  • Strengthen Brenda’s Bistro online presence by sharing engaging content on your website and social media accounts regularly.
  • Partner with local farmers to ensure your ingredients are fresh, sustainable, and support the community.
  • Launch loyalty programs and offer discounts to encourage repeat visits.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

  • Monitor revenue growth every quarter to track progress toward your goal.
  • Collect customer feedback through surveys and online reviews to measure satisfaction.
  • Evaluate the success of your seasonal menus based on the number of orders and positive feedback.

How to Make a Strategic Plan

Crafting a strategic plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal; each company’s unique goals require a tailored approach. 

Let’s break down the essential steps to shape that core plan.

1. Gather the key people

Start by bringing together the important voices. This usually includes your executive board, managers, and sometimes outside investors. 

Their insights and suggestions are like puzzle pieces that fit into a successful strategic plan.

2: Find your business’ strengths and weaknesses 

Your strategy needs to know where your company stands both inside and out. Begin with a SWOT analysis, checking your internal strengths and weaknesses, plus external opportunities and threats. 

Gather insights from gap analysis, looking at competitors, and listening to customer and employee feedback give you the bigger picture.

3. Set Goals

Now, create goals from all that info. Match these goals with your mission, vision, and values. 

Pick the ones that make a big impact, make sense for the long haul, and line up with your values. Examples can be reaching certain sales targets, or a certain number of followers on your business’ social media. 

4.Make a game plan 

Time for an action plan. Break down each goal into strategies, initiatives, and tactics. Depending on your goals, these could be marketing plans, tech upgrades, or smart partnerships. 

You don’t need tons of details here; that’s what the operational plan covers. Also, set up key performance metrics to measure your progress.

5. Review and and tweak

Schedule regular check-ins to review your plan. This is where you reflect and adjust if needed. Good financial info comes in handy here. 

How often you do this depends on your business’s rhythm – maybe monthly for new businesses or yearly for more established ones.

Remember, your strategic plan is your map to success. Tailor it, review it, and let it guide you toward your goals.

Now that your strategic plan is sorted, let’s dive into the power of operational planning to make those goals a reality.

How to Make an Operational Plan

It’s time to take that big-picture strategic plan and break it into doable steps. First, check out the long-term goals. 

Figure out which departments need to team up to reach which goal. Ask questions like: What kind of resources does the business already have access to? 

What’s missing? Any money financial risks coming up? This helps you see which parts of your business need a boost to hit those goals.

1. Nail down your budget

Make a budget based on what each department in your business needs to reach the big goals. What does your kitchen staff need? How about front-of-house staff?

With your match-up between goals and areas, spread your budget where it’ll give the best bang for your buck. 

Remember to keep some cash aside for surprises and changes. A solid budget is like a shield against unexpected stuff.

2. Set targets

Each goal you’re chasing needs a target. Think carefully here – not too wild that your team loses heart, but not too tiny that the big plan stays out of reach. 

Realistic targets are your secret weapon. An example target could be selling 100 orders’ worth of a certain dish by the end of the month.

3. Check in with your team regularly 

Don’t just set and forget. Schedule regular check-ins with your staff to see how things are going. 

Are you hitting those targets? Are things humming along? 

These feedback sessions with your employees are like checkups for your plan. If things are off, you can tweak the plan to get back on track.

Homebase’s free mobile app has a built-in messenger tool to make it easy to stay connected. Send messages to individuals, groups, or your entire team.

3. Stay open and data-driven

Keep communication flowing during reviews. And don’t forget the data – it’s your treasure map. 

Numbers show where you’re doing well and where there’s room to improve. Use your POS software or an employee management tool like Homebase to help you make data-informed decisions on how to improve your business operations. 

With Homebase’s workforce forecasting and smart scheduling tools, you can save on labor costs for your business. 

With all this, your operational plan becomes a real powerhouse, making sure your business charges ahead toward those big dreams.

Make Your Business Plan, Strategic Plan and Operational Plan Work for You

In the bustling world of business, having a roadmap is essential for success. The triumphant trio of a business plan, strategic plan, and operational plan work together to steer your ship towards greatness. 

These plans aren’t just fancy paperwork – they’re important tools that guide your every move. 

By understanding each plan’s role and significance, you’re armed with the superpowers needed to navigate the complex business waters. 

A business plan provides clarity, a strategic plan offers direction, and an operational plan ensures smooth sailing. Together, they fuel your business’s journey from survival to thriving, making sure you’re not just a player in the game, but a true champion.

Here are 10 small business tools you can use to put these three plans into action.

FAQs About Business Plan, Strategic Plan and Operational Plan

Why do I need a business plan?

A business plan acts as a roadmap for your business journey. It outlines your goals, customers, and how you’ll make money. It’s crucial for attracting investors and making smart decisions. 

What’s the purpose of a strategic plan?

A strategic plan sets your long-term vision and goals. It guides big choices like expanding and standing out. It’s like a compass, helping you stay on course towards success.

What’s the difference between a strategic plan and an operational plan?

While a strategic plan sets long-term goals, an operational plan focuses on day-to-day tasks. It’s like a playbook that tells your team exactly what to do to reach those goals.

Remember: This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

Related posts

Dishwasher Job Description: Interview and Hire With Confidence

Hiring new employees as a restaurant owner goes beyond simply interviewing and selecting a candidate. If you’re growing your staff…

Read article

How Much Does it Cost To Start a Business? + Other Key Questions

Dreaming of being your own boss and launching a new business? With 16 million new business applications since 2021, you’re…

Read article

Payroll Manager Job Description: What They Do and Why You Need One

Fast and accurate payroll processing is an integral part of any growing business. Employees want to get paid on time, and…

Read article

Homebase Software Integrations to Make Small Business Easier

As a small business owner, you likely have multiple software tools and platforms that you have to juggle on a…

Read article

California Minimum Wage: Latest Updates for 2024

Feeling overwhelmed by California’s new minimum wage changes for 2024? You’re not alone. Whether you’re a small business owner calculating…

Read article

Gross Earnings vs. Net Earnings: Key Differences Explained

You might have heard the terms “gross income” and “net income” thrown around, but what do they actually mean? Understanding…

Read article
Effortlessly schedule and track your team's time with Homebase.
Try our basic plan free, forever.
Try Homebase for free