Business owners are often confused about the difference between a Business Model and a Business Plan. Although they are related, there are also distinct differences, and both deserve serious consideration as part of the business’s Strategic Planning process.
First, let’s define Strategic Planning as – the process for setting goals, determining actions to achieve goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the planned actions. This sounds simple and appropriate; however, most small businesses don’t have a Strategic Plan. By default, businesses that do not develop and follow a Strategic Plan evolve over time rather than take control of their own future. As a result, these businesses generally underperform their potential and, all too often, do not survive. The Strategic Plan provides clarity of direction and a means of measuring the business’s degree of success; with no Strategic Plan the odds of success are dramatically diminished. The Strategic Plan embodies both the Business Model and the Business Plan. So, what is a Business Model, and what is a Business Plan?
A Business Model captures the key elements of the company’s plan for how the organization will create, deliver, and capture value, in economic, social, cultural or other contexts. For example, a traditional business model for a retail business might be to use a chain of brick-and-mortar stores with media advertising to generate revenue and profits. An alternate business model for retail could use an on-line B-to-B web-site with search engine optimization (SEO) to generate sales and a brick-and-mortar distribution warehouse for order fulfillment. Therefore, it is appropriate to think of the business model as a conceptual representation of how the company intends to do business; thus, the Business Model can be thought of as the skeleton and vital organs of the entity you know as your business.
A Business Plan is a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them. Think of the it as the muscles, connective tissue, and skin that overlay on the skeletal structure and vital organs represented by the Business Model; the Plan brings the Business Model to life. Business plans can be developed for a variety of audiences and may be externally or internally focused.
- Externally focused plans express targets and goals that are important to external stakeholders (i.e. owners, investors, lenders, strategic partners, etc.) along with plans for achieving those targets and goals. The external plan normally covers the next 3 to 5 years, which is the time frame during which stakeholders would expect to realize a return on their investment.
- Internally focused business plans express operational performance goals and specific action plans for achieving those goals thereby assuring accomplishment of the organization’s goals as represented in the “external” business plan. The internal plan provides company management with a plan for achieving the external stakeholder expectations. Included in the internal business plan should be the company’s operating budget. The internal plan can be as short as 1 year (annual budget), or can project several future years, but normally will only look 1 to 3 years into the future.
So the answer to the question about the difference between a Business Model and a Business Plan is that they are both part of an effective Strategic Planning process. The Business Model defines the business structure (what the company will look like and how it will operate). The Business Plan defines the expected operational results from effective utilization of the Business Model and effective execution of a set of action plans. Having an effective Strategic Plan is a very powerful business advantage that dramatically increases the odds of success. The lack of an effective Strategic Plan can lead to problems, chaos, and failure.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: