Functions like a road map
Look at a corporate plan as a "business improvement plan" that examines internal capabilities to take advantage of external opportunities.
This plan also contains actions that are needed to accomplish objectives—supplying a map to benchmark progress at regular periods.
Essentially, a business improvement plan, or corporate plan, is a road map that will allow leaders to guide the business to another level.
Useful for big and small companies
Corporate plans are usually confined to very large organizations with disparate systems that must be examined and catalogued so that the organization can march toward the future with a single mind.
That does not mean, of course, that smaller organizations should forgo the exercise. Indeed, some would say that a written corporate plan is just as important for an entrepreneur because he or she is often so busy dealing with day-to-day problems that it becomes difficult to act on some half-thought-out strategy that exists only as an idea.
What elements should I include?
A corporate plan, like any strategic plan, usually contains these elements:
A vision statement
This is where you define the objectives that will guide your internal decision making. A strong vision statement can help you maintain your business focus and give a sense of purpose to your business.
A mission statement
While a vision is often aspirational, a mission statement should outline how you will achieve your business plan. It should be short—one or two sentences—and clearly state what market(s) you intend to serve, the products or services you want to provide and what makes you unique.
Your company's resources and scope
Take an inventory of all your activities, programs, divisions, employees, tangible and intangible assets, finances and anything else that is relevant to your vision and mission. This should give you a clear picture of where you are and where you want to go.
A listing of corporate objectives
State your corporate objectives along with how these objectives will be measured. In this way, your corporate plan will let employees and other stakeholders know where your company is heading and what needs to be done.
A listing of strategies to reach those objectives
List your strategies—such as developing new products or entering new markets—as well as the tactics you will use to get there.
A well-written corporate plan will clearly communicate you vision and strategy to your employees, investors and bankers. From there, stakeholders will be able to see if they are aligned with the plan or working at cross-purposes.
The corporate plan can also help you connect with clients. By clarifying who you are, what you offer and what differentiates your company, you will be able to better communicate your value to clients.
Clients will also benefit from a tighter focus on your core competencies, or an expansion of your services and products to meets their needs.