Strategic, Business or Action: What’s the (Planning) Difference Between Friends?

Strategic, Business, or Action: What's the (Planning) Difference Between Friends? | Kathy Ennis | LittlePiggy

I say with all certainty “Every Business Needs a Plan”

But not every business needs a Business Plan!

My mission is to help micro and side hustle business owners turn their passion into profit. How? By working with them on the (often) missing link in their business – PLANNING!

But maybe you’re shying away from doing anything but the most basic of planning in your business – the ubiquitous ‘To Do List’ – because you’re totally confused about what type of planning you can (or should) be doing.

I don’t blame you

You might hear someone tell you how important it is to have a STRATEGIC PLAN, while others discuss their latest ACTION PLAN.  Then there’s the BUSINESS PLAN you have to write – or is that just the ‘big’ one you do when you’re approaching the bank for a loan?

It’s so confusing

You might be tempted to dismiss the whole idea of planning altogether.  After all, when you’re in sole charge of it all (as micro and side hustle business owners are),and you will naturally understand everything you need to know; everything you need to do; the order in which things need to be done and how to prioritise. Because you know, exactly, where your business is headed and how to get there, don’t you?


As the popular saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail!”

The secret of ‘helpful’ micro and side hustle planning is to approach it in an informed way. You need to understand the difference between:

  • a strategic plan
  • a business plan, and
  • an action plan

You also need to know what they each bring to your business.

Luckily, that’s a lot easier than it sounds and I’m going to tell you why.

But let’s get a few definitions out of the way first.

What is a Strategic Plan?

A Strategic Plan is the top tier plan. This is where your VISION, MISSION and BRAND sit. Your Strategic Plan outlines your WHY and sets the direction you want to take yourself and your business; it shifts your focus from the day-to-day concerns and makes you consider your broader and longer-term objectives.

What is a Business Plan?

A Business Plan is the middle tier plan. This is where your WHAT, WHERE and HOW sit. Your Business Plan gives structure and measurable targets to your Strategic Plan. The purpose of a business plan is to provide the detailed route map to your desired outcomes.

What is an Action Plan?

An Action Plan is the bottom tier plan. This is where your WHEN sits. Your Action Plan takes the measurable targets of a Business Plan and turns them into tiny, bite-sized activities that enable you to achieve your VISION and answer your WHY. Basically, it tells you what you should be doing every day to make your business successful.

Where to Start with Your Strategic Plan

Your Strategic Plan is the place to start. Having a clear understanding of why this business, why you, what success means to you and what you want to achieve is fundamental. It will help you plan your business in a way that truly enables you to answer those key questions that make a truly usable business plan:

  • What is my business idea?
  • Who are my customers?
  • What will I sell them?
  • How will I sell to them?
  • What will I charge for my products and services?
  • What is my brand?
  • How will I market my products and services?
  • How will I manage my finances?
  • What will I do if things go wrong?

Being able to answer these questions will give you an in-depth understanding of your business, which in turn will inform all the other types of planning you do.

When Business Planning, Start with the Future, then Work Back

In another blog, I wrote about the importance of taking your business Back to the Future (in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to the classic film!)

My Five Year Timeline, or a simple piece of paper and some Post-It notes, will help you project yourself into the future, as you analyse where you want to be, who you want to work with, and what you want to be doing.  Be as specific as you can.

Don’t forget your personal life, too – for example, if you’ve got children, how old will they be in five years’ time?  What will that mean for you in terms of responsibility?

When you’ve finished, take a look at where your business is now, answering the same questions.  You will now be able to map out a route that leads you from where you are now, to your ideal future.

The very best part about Back to the Future planning?  You can tackle all those big, scary objectives in gradual ‘baby’ steps that do a good job of taking the fear away.  For example, trebling your annual turnover seems much more do-able when it’s planned over a five-year period.

Putting Your Strategic and Business Plans into Action!

 Your action plan covers the methods you will use to achieve the business objectives you outlined in your strategic plan and the targets you set in your business plan.

An example could include selling an online course for people to buy and download.  You might plan to sell 10 courses for £250 each.

Once you’ve planned out your strategy, you can then work on an action plan that will help you achieve it.  In this example, your action plan would include actually designing that online course, within a specific time frame.

Don’t forget to make those action plan tasks into clear SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) – that way, you’re far more likely to complete them!

Why Planning is NOT a ‘One-Time Only’ Activity

The worst thing you can do for your business is to dedicate time and effort to planning – and then put those plans away in a drawer and forget all about them!

Your plans should always be relevant and ‘live’, regularly revisited and updated to take account of any changes in your life and business; or even because after a few successful years in business, you’ve developed the confidence to start aiming higher!

As a Micro and Side-Hustle business mentor, I know only too well that planning can be incredibly scary.  If you set yourself some real, tangible goals, you might not achieve them – and then where will you be?

But the fantastic thing about planning is that it sets out a realistic course for you to achieve those goals…which can eventually lead to the kind of success other people only dream about.

And as we’ve already established, if you fail – so what?  Failure is how we all learn, grow, and ultimately develop the courage and the confidence to dust ourselves off and try again.

Download my Five Year Timeline now, which includes some handy prompts to get your planning off to a purposeful start.

If you would like some face-to-face help identifying some ideal objectives and goals that will make your business flourish, BOOK A POWER HOUR – your business (and your bank balance) will thank you for it!

In the meantime, what methods have you been using to plan for your business?  Is there anything you’ve found particularly challenging? Feel free to share your thoughts and questions below.

Kathy Ennis

I mentor dynamic, action-taking micro business owners who are not making the profit they deserve or dream of. I help them transform their good ideas into a successful business. I enable them to create simple, sensible, achievable business plans and engagement marketing strategies that turn their passion into profit.