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How To Write the Operations Plan Section of the Business Plan

Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.

operational plan development business

Stage of Development Section

Production process section, the bottom line, frequently asked questions (faqs).

The operations plan is the section of your business plan that gives an overview of your workflow, supply chains, and similar aspects of your business. Any key details of how your business physically produces goods or services will be included in this section.

You need an operations plan to help others understand how you'll deliver on your promise to turn a profit. Keep reading to learn what to include in your operations plan.

Key Takeaways

  • The operations plan section should include general operational details that help investors understand the physical details of your vision.
  • Details in the operations plan include information about any physical plants, equipment, assets, and more.
  • The operations plan can also serve as a checklist for startups; it includes a list of everything that must be done to start turning a profit.

In your business plan , the operations plan section describes the physical necessities of your business's operation, such as your physical location, facilities, and equipment. Depending on what kind of business you'll be operating, it may also include information about inventory requirements, suppliers, and a description of the manufacturing process.

Keeping focused on the bottom line will help you organize this part of the business plan.

Think of the operating plan as an outline of the capital and expense requirements your business will need to operate from day to day.

You need to do two things for the reader of your business plan in the operations section: show what you've done so far to get your business off the ground and demonstrate that you understand the manufacturing or delivery process of producing your product or service.

When you're writing this section of the operations plan, start by explaining what you've done to date to get the business operational, then follow up with an explanation of what still needs to be done. The following should be included:

Production Workflow

A high-level, step-by-step description of how your product or service will be made, identifying the problems that may occur in the production process. Follow this with a subsection titled "Risks," which outlines the potential problems that may interfere with the production process and what you're going to do to negate these risks. If any part of the production process can expose employees to hazards, describe how employees will be trained in dealing with safety issues. If hazardous materials will be used, describe how these will be safely stored, handled, and disposed.

Industry Association Memberships

Show your awareness of your industry's local, regional, or national standards and regulations by telling which industry organizations you are already a member of and which ones you plan to join. This is also an opportunity to outline what steps you've taken to comply with the laws and regulations that apply to your industry. 

Supply Chains

An explanation of who your suppliers are and their prices, terms, and conditions. Describe what alternative arrangements you have made or will make if these suppliers let you down.

Quality Control

An explanation of the quality control measures that you've set up or are going to establish. For example, if you intend to pursue some form of quality control certification such as ISO 9000, describe how you will accomplish this.

While you can think of the stage of the development part of the operations plan as an overview, the production process section lays out the details of your business's day-to-day operations. Remember, your goal for writing this business plan section is to demonstrate your understanding of your product or service's manufacturing or delivery process.

When writing this section, you can use the headings below as subheadings and then provide the details in paragraph format. Leave out any topic that does not apply to your particular business.

Do an outline of your business's day-to-day operations, including your hours of operation and the days the business will be open. If the business is seasonal, be sure to say so.

The Physical Plant

Describe the type, site, and location of premises for your business. If applicable, include drawings of the building, copies of lease agreements, and recent real estate appraisals. You need to show how much the land or buildings required for your business operations are worth and tell why they're important to your proposed business.

The same goes for equipment. Besides describing the equipment necessary and how much of it you need, you also need to include its worth and cost and explain any financing arrangements.

Make a list of your assets , such as land, buildings, inventory, furniture, equipment, and vehicles. Include legal descriptions and the worth of each asset.

Special Requirements

If your business has any special requirements, such as water or power needs, ventilation, drainage, etc., provide the details in your operating plan, as well as what you've done to secure the necessary permissions.

State where you're going to get the materials you need to produce your product or service and explain what terms you've negotiated with suppliers.

Explain how long it takes to produce a unit and when you'll be able to start producing your product or service. Include factors that may affect the time frame of production and describe how you'll deal with potential challenges such as rush orders.

Explain how you'll keep  track of inventory .


Describe any product testing, price testing, or prototype testing that you've done on your product or service.

Give details of product cost estimates.

Once you've worked through this business plan section, you'll not only have a detailed operations plan to show your readers, but you'll also have a convenient list of what needs to be done next to make your business a reality. Writing this document gives you a chance to crystalize your business ideas into a clear checklist that you can reference. As you check items off the list, use it to explain your vision to investors, partners, and others within your organization.

What is an operations plan?

An operations plan is one section of a company's business plan. This section conveys the physical requirements for your business's operations, including supply chains, workflow , and quality control processes.

What is the main difference between the operations plan and the financial plan?

The operations plan and financial plan tackle similar issues, in that they seek to explain how the business will turn a profit. The operations plan approaches this issue from a physical perspective, such as property, routes, and locations. The financial plan explains how revenue and expenses will ultimately lead to the business's success.

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  • Business strategy |
  • Learn how to do operational planning th ...

Learn how to do operational planning the right way

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Some of this planning will be developed yearly—things like your yearly objectives and key results, for example, will naturally grow as time goes on. But to make sure you’re staying on track and executing against your long-term goals, you need an operational plan. 

What is operational planning?

Operational planning is the process of turning your strategic plan into a detailed map that outlines exactly what action your team will take on a weekly, or sometimes even daily, basis. An operational plan will include action items and milestones that each team or department needs to complete in order to execute your strategic plan. 

During the operational planning process, outline each team or person’s responsibilities for the next quarter, six months, or fiscal year. The level of detail and timeline you select for your operational plan should depend on how quickly your organization typically moves—if you’re a fast-paced team with an accelerated roadmap, consider creating an operational plan for the next quarter or half year. But if your organization tends to think more long-term, create an operational plan for the entire fiscal year.

Operational planning vs. strategic planning

A strategic plan is a business-level plan of your long-term strategy for the next three to five years. An operational plan is smaller in both scope and timeline. The goal of operational planning is to outline the daily actions you need to take to hit your strategic goals. 

Unlike a strategic plan, an operational plan should also focus on implementation . What daily and weekly actions does your team need to take in order to accomplish your longer-term strategic plan? What specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) do you need to track on a regular basis in order to ensure that your team is progressing towards your objectives? These details should be captured in your operational plan.

Who should create an operational plan?

To capture exactly who is doing what by when, an operational plan needs to be very detailed. For this reason, create an operational plan at a smaller scale than your strategic plan—both in terms of timeline and scope. Instead of trying to create an operational plan for your entire company, create one at the department or team level. At a larger company, you could even create an operational plan for a specific initiative—similar to a detailed work plan .

For example, create an operational plan to explain the daily tasks your IT department needs to do in order to support the company. Your IT department’s operational plan might include how frequently IT team members will check the IT requests project inbox , budgeting details for the program, how the IT team will onboard and equip new employees, and how frequently the team will meet. 

There are three levels to who should create an operational plan:

Scope: Your operational plan will capture the who, what, and when of each activity. It should be laser-focused on a team or initiative.

Timeline: Depending on how fast your organization moves, your operational plan should span a quarter, six months, or a fiscal year. 

Stakeholders: Make sure the people involved in operational planning are close to the work, so they can accurately project and predict what work should be included in the plan.

The benefits of operational planning

A strategic plan is a great way to proactively align your team around a shared purpose. By defining long-term goals, you can outline exactly where you want to go.

An operational plan helps you hit your strategic goals. According to our research, only 26% of knowledge workers have a very clear understanding of how their individual work relates to company goals. By creating a detail-oriented operational plan, you can define exactly what short-term goals you need to achieve in order to be on track towards your long-term objectives. It can help you think through the actions you’re currently taking or need to take in order to execute against your goals. 

In particular, an operational plan:

Clarifies exactly what your team will be doing on a weekly and daily basis.

Provides a comprehensive guide of the day-to-day operations your team members need to take in order to accomplish your long-term goals.

Sets a benchmark for daily expectations, so you can avoid getting off track.

5 steps to making an operational plan

During the operational planning process, you're not creating new plans or developing new goals. Rather, to create an operational plan, assess everything your team is currently working on and everything you need to do on a daily or weekly basis to hit your strategic goals. Here’s how:

1. Start with a strategic plan

If you haven’t already, create a strategic plan first. You need a long-term vision and goals before you can break down the day-to-day details. There are four steps to creating a strategic plan:

Determine your position

Develop your strategy

Build your strategic plan

Share, monitor, and manage your strategic plan

To learn more, read our article on strategic planning .

2. Narrow down your scope

In order to create a detail-oriented operational plan, you need to narrow the scope to a team, department, or focus area. The scope of your operational plan will depend on the size of your company.

For example, imagine you’re breaking down your strategic plan into action plans for various company departments. Your marketing team spans multiple functions—for example, design, product marketing, social media, content creation, and web promotion. To capture specific, daily functions within each team, you should create an operational action plan for each smaller team. 

3. Identify key stakeholders

Before creating an operational plan, decide who will be involved in the operational planning process. The team members creating the operational plan should be relatively close to the actions the plan describes. 

To continue our example, the design team’s operational plan should be created by the head of the design team and the team leads (depending on the size of the team). Once they’ve created their operational plan, the team should share the plan with the head of marketing for final approval.

4. Create the plan

Your operational plan explains the actions your team will take to achieve your goals within a set time frame. To create an operational plan, outline:

Your team’s objectives

The deliverables that will be achieved by the operational plan

Any desired outcomes or quality standards

Staffing and resource requirements, including your operating budget

How you will monitor and report on progress

If you’re struggling to figure out all the details that should be included in your operational plan, ask yourself the following questions: 

What do we need to accomplish? This information should come from your strategic plan or yearly goals.

What daily tasks do we need to complete in order to hit our goals? These can be daily tasks you’re currently doing or new work that needs to be kicked off.

Who are the people responsible for those tasks? Make sure each task has one owner so there’s no confusion about who to go to for questions or updates.

What are our metrics for success? If you haven’t already, make sure your goals follow the SMART framework . 

To continue our example, here’s the framework the design team might use to create their operational plan:

Part of the strategic plan for the marketing team is to increase share of voice in the market—which means more eyes on marketing materials and increased engagement with potential customers. To support these goals, the design team will: 

Create additional promotional materials for the social team

Revamp the website home page to attract more potential customers

To accomplish these two goals in the next year, the design team will:

Hire two new team members to focus on social media engagement

Partner with the web development team within the marketing department to create an interactive home page

To track and report on their progress, the design team will use Asana as their central source of truth for key performance metrics, including:

What designs they are creating

The level of engagement they’re getting on social media

The progress of the website update

This is just the framework the design team would use to create their operational plan. Bring this plan to life within a work management tool like Asana to share clarity on all of the work the team needs to do to hit their goals. With work management, every task can be tracked in real-time from inception to completion.

5. Share and update your operational plan

Once you’ve created the plan, share it with key stakeholders so they understand your team’s most important goals and the daily tasks it will take to get there. Manage your plan and updates in a shared tool that captures real-time progress, like Asana .

Like any element of project planning, things will inevitably change. Actively monitor your operational plan and report on progress so key stakeholders and team members can stay updated on how you’re tracking against your goals. Report on progress monthly through written status updates . 

Get started with operational planning

An operational plan can help you ensure you’re making progress on long-term goals. But in order for this plan to be effective, make sure you’re tracking your work in a centrally-accessible tool. Siloed information and goals don’t help anyone—instead, track your action items and goals in a work management tool.

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  • Grasshopper

Operations Plan

  • Lesson Materials Operations Plan Worksheet
  • Completion time About 40 minutes

The operations section of your business plan is where you explain – in detail – you company's objectives, goals, procedures, and timeline. An operations plan is helpful for investors, but it's also helpful for you and employees because it pushes you to think about tactics and deadlines.

In the previous course, you outlined your company's strategic plan, which answers questions about your business mission. An operational plan outlines the steps you'll take to complete your business mission.

Your operations plan should be able to answer the following:

  • Who – The personnel or departments who are in charge of completing specific tasks.
  • What – A description of what each department is responsible for.
  • Where – The information on where daily operations will be taking place.
  • When –The deadlines for when the tasks and goals are to be completed.
  • How much – The cost amount each department needs to complete their tasks.

In this session, we explain each item to include in your operations plan.

Goals and Objectives

The key to an operations plan is having a clear objective and goal everyone is focused on completing. In this section of your plan, you'll clearly state what your company's operational objective is.

Your operational objective is different than your company's overall objective. In Course One , you fleshed out what your strategic objective was. Your operational objective explains how you intend to complete your strategic objective.

In order to create an efficient operational objective, think SMART:

  • Specific – Be clear on what you want employees to achieve.
  • Measurable – Be able to quantify the goal in order to track progress.
  • Attainable & Realistic – It's great to be ambitious but make sure you aren't setting your team up for failure. Create a goal that everyone is motivated to complete with the resources available.
  • Timely – Provide a deadline so everyone has a date they are working towards.

Operations plan goals and objectives

Different departments will have different operational objectives. However, each department objective should help the company reach the main objective. In addition, operational objectives change; the objectives aren't intended to be permanents or long term. The timeline should be scheduled with your company's long-term goals in mind.

Let's look at the following example for a local pizza business objective:

  • Strategic objective : To deliver pizza all over Eastern Massachusetts.
  • Technology department operational objective : To create a mobile app by January 2017 to offer a better user experience.
  • Marketing department operational objective : To increase website visitors by 50% by January 2017 by advertising on radio, top local food websites, and print ads.
  • Sales department operational objective : To increase delivery sales by 30%, by targeting 3 of Massachusetts's largest counties.

Sales department operational objective: To increase delivery sales by 30%, by targeting 3 of Massachusetts's largest counties.

Production Process

After you create your objectives, you have to think strategically on how you're going to meet them. In order to do this, each department (or team) needs to have all the necessary resources for the production process.

Resources you should think about include the following:

  • Suppliers – do you have a supplier (or more) to help you produce your product?
  • Technology team: app developing software
  • Marketing team: software licenses for website analytical tools
  • Sales team: headsets, phone systems or virtual phone system technology
  • Cost – what is the budget for each department?

In addition to the production process, you'll also need to describe in detail your operating process. This will demonstrate to investors that you know exactly how you want your business to run on a day-to-day basis.

Items to address include:

  • Location – where are employees working? Will you need additional facilities?
  • Work hours – will employees have a set schedule or flexible work schedule?
  • Personnel – who is in charge of making sure department tasks are completed?

Operations plan timeline

Creating a timeline with milestones is important for your new business. It keeps everyone focused and is a good tracking method for efficiency. For instance, if milestones aren’t being met, you'll know that it's time to re-evaluate your production process or consider new hires.

Below are common milestones new businesses should plan for.

When you completed your Management Plan Worksheet in the previous course, you jotted down which key hires you needed right away and which could wait. Make sure you have a good idea on when you would like those key hires to happen; whether it’s after your company hits a certain revenue amount or once a certain project takes off.

Production Milestones

Production milestones keep business on track. These milestones act as "checkpoints" for your overall department objectives. For instance, if you want to create a new app by the end of the year, product milestones you outline might include a beta roll out, testing, and various version releases.

Other product milestones to keep in mind:

  • Design phase
  • Product prototype phase
  • Product launch
  • Version release

Market Milestones

Market milestones are important for tracking efficiency and understanding whether your operations plan is working. For instance, a possible market milestone could be reaching a certain amount of clients or customers after a new product or service is released.

A few other market milestones to consider:

  • Gain a certain amount of users/clients by a certain time
  • Signing partnerships
  • Running a competitive analysis
  • Performing a price change evaluation

Financial Milestones

Financial milestones are important for tracking business performance. It's likely that a board of directors or investors will work with you on creating financial milestones. In addition, in startups, it's common that financial milestones are calculated for 12 months.

Typical financial milestones include:

  • Funding events
  • Revenue and profit goals
  • Transaction goals

In summary, your operations plan gives you the chance to show investors you know how you want your business to run. You know who you want to hire, where you want to work, and when you expect projects to be completed.

Download the attached worksheet and start putting your timelines and milestones together on paper.


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Operational Strategy: A Quick Guide


Companies have goals and the goods or services they produce must align with those goals. Everything has to work together, including resources and processes, to help achieve those goals as efficiently as possible to stay in business. Having an operational strategy helps companies meet those larger goals when planning their projects.

But what is an operational strategy? We’ll get to that in a moment, as well as discuss the various types and how to create an operational plan. Companies always need to review and revise their operational strategy to stay competitive and on track to meet their company-wide goals.

What Is Operational Strategy?

Operational strategy is how an organization decides how it’ll produce and deliver its goods or services. Every step that leads to manufacturing and what happens after the product is manufactured is detailed. The decisions made for each step make up the operational strategy.

But this doesn’t make it separate from the overall business strategy. In fact, the operational strategy must conform to the larger business strategy. In other words, the operational strategy for manufacturing a product line will have goals that work in tandem with the company’s larger business strategy. Both must align for the company to remain competitive in the marketplace.

The operational strategy is made up of various smaller operations that feed into whatever the company is producing. Those operations might include such things as procurement of raw materials, working relationships with vendors and suppliers, design goals, manufacturing processes, packaging and delivery to name but a few.

That’s a lot of planning, monitoring and coordinating of production. To manage those workflows, you need project management software. ProjectManager is online project management software that helps you plan, manage and track your operations and keep them aligned with your operational strategy. Once you have an operational strategy, you need to create an operational plan on our interactive Gantt charts. Use it to organize your tasks, resources and costs on a timeline and filter for the critical path. Then set a baseline and track progress in real time. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

Types of Operational Strategies

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to operational strategies. There are many types of organizations that use operational strategies to boost efficiency , capabilities and stay competitive. Here are just a few types of operational strategies that organizations use.

Corporate Strategy

When a corporation is devising its strategy, it must look at itself as a larger system made up of interconnected departments. They’re like hubs and nodes that work together to achieve a shared goal. Corporations achieve this through company policies and guidelines that allocate resources to various departments with the objective of reaching the overall goal.

Customer-Driven Operational Strategy

As the name implies, this operational strategy is when an organization intends to meet its customers’ needs. To do this, the organization must identify trends in the marketplace and determine how customers are behaving in terms of their buying preferences and demographics. With this research, an organization can pivot to exploit these findings and see threats to the business and mitigate them more quickly. They can also leverage their strengths and be more competitive.

Core Competencies Strategy

This operational strategy focuses on an organization’s key strengths, resources and capabilities. By pinpointing and exploiting those strengths, an organization can increase its customer satisfaction and loyalty to its product, which can help expand its footprint in the market. But such an operational strategy can also improve efficiencies, such as production costs , which helps with profitability and can even attract new talent.

Competitive Priorities Strategy

When an organization wants to differentiate its brand, product or service, they focus on a marketing-based corporate strategy as well as production processes and organizational culture. In doing so, they’re more likely to produce products and services that meet the needs of their customers at an affordable price. Looking at operational expenses and product development times is essential. Features, quality and benefits that differentiate their product help them stand out.

Product or Service Development Strategy

If you’re looking to improve innovation, this is the operational strategy you’ll want to utilize. It helps add value to your product design . Consider designing a product or service to exploit a niche in the market. You can also use your team and technology to provide customers with a wider range of products and services that they can’t find in the marketplace, such as free overnight delivery.

Cost-Driven Strategies

This operational strategy is based on price. It’s ideal for customers only looking at the bottom line when purchasing a product or service. Usually, these products have many competitors and little difference between their products. Therefore, a lower price is going to attract buyers. To lower your prices, look at production processes and other cost-effective methods.

Outsourcing Strategy

As the name suggests, this is for organizations that rely on others to produce their products and services or deliver them to customers. An outsourcing strategy revolves around your vendors, quality control and logistics. You can take advantage of lower labor costs, use a supply chain management firm to oversee distribution, but always ensure the quality is meeting your expectations.

Flexibility Strategy

If your product or service has the flexibility to change quickly to respond to customer preferences, you’ll want to employ this operational strategy. This can help you if you’re able to do things such as have customers personalize their orders or have the flexibility to warehouse many or few products according to demand.

Screenshot of the inline banner ad for the manufacturing ebook by ProjectManager

Creating an Operational Plan

Once you have an operational strategy, you’ll need an operational plan to implement it. An operational plan is a tool to ensure the projects and activities align with the goals and objectives of the organization.

The operational plan includes your goals and objectives, assigned tasks, timeline, budget and resources. This helps you manage your resources , monitor the financial health of the organization, guide your team and increase productivity.

To write an operational plan, follow these eight steps.

1. Know Your Operational Strategy

To begin, you need an operational strategy, which is more concerned with long-term goals than an operational plan that outlines the tasks that’ll help you to achieve those goals. Once you have an operational strategy, you can break it down into tasks to achieve its goals.

2. Set Goals and Objectives

The operational plan will ideally achieve the goals and objectives of your operational strategy. To make sure this happens, write down those goals and objectives to make sure they’re clear and everyone knows what they are.

3. Make a Budget

The budget funds the operational plan and allows managers to know what’s viable and what’s out of scope for the project. The budget is also instrumental in allocating the resources necessary to implement the operational plan.

4. Use Leading Indicators

By using leading indicators and predictive measurements, managers can forecast the outcomes of their operational plan. That informs the tasks and activities of the team and adds to the likelihood that they achieve favorable outcomes.

5. Communicate With the Team

Regular team meetings aid in the development of the operational plan. Team members will execute the plan and their insights prove valuable. It also keeps them updated on changes as the plan is developed, which helps them understand the overall plan and their role in it.

6. Use Reporting Tools

To make sure you’re keeping to the operational plan and that your team is accountable, you need reporting tools to track progress and performance. By monitoring a variety of project metrics, managers respond quickly if things are going off-track and get back on schedule without jeopardizing the project.

7. Keep Documentation

Document every step of your operational plan to track progress and measure improvements over time. This documentation also proves valuable when you’re working on a future operational plan, so be sure to archive it as well.

8. Review and Revise

An operational plan should be flexible. There will be challenges and changes over the course of its execution, so don’t look at the operational plan as written in stone. When there are changes, be sure to have regular meetings with your team to keep them updated.

Related: Free Change Log Template for Excel

Operational Planning vs. Strategic Planning

Operational planning and strategic planning are linked but different. A strategic plan outlines the necessary steps for an organization to achieve its goals and objectives. Operational plans are about the more short-term objectives of the organization.

Therefore, operational planning is updated annually, while strategic planning is used to guide an organization over a longer period of time. Also, the scope of a strategic plan is larger as it’s responding to the needs of the entire organization. Operational planning has a more limited scope, dealing mostly with a specific department or team.

Another difference is in who’s tasked with creating the plan. A strategic plan is usually under the purview of a top executive who’s dealing with the larger organization. Operational planning is led by mid-level managers and addresses the needs of their teams.

ProjectManager and Operational Planning

ProjectManager is online project management software that helps you plan, manage and track operational plans in real time. Plan and schedule resources and manage costs with our online Gantt chart that can be shared to keep everyone on the same page. Speaking of pages, all documentation is kept on our tool, which has unlimited file storage, so we’re also a central hub for all your operational planning documents.

Track Progress and Performance in Real Time

Your operational plan is supposed to support the larger operational strategy. To make sure it’s doing this, you need to monitor what your team is doing and if it’s tracking with the planned effort. Our real-time dashboard captures a high-level view of the progress and performance of the project across six metrics from time and cost to workload and more. Best of all, you don’t have to configure our dashboard as you do with other lightweight tools. Use our dashboard to track one project or your entire portfolio.

Automate Workflows and Boost Team Productivity

The operational strategy looks to improve efficiencies. Our automated workflow takes repetitive or simple tasks off your team’s desk to let them focus on more important tasks. You set the triggers that put into action such things on the task as changing the status, tags, assignee and more. To ensure quality, there are task approval settings that let only authorized team members allow the work to move forward.

ProjectManager's workflow automation

Our software helps you turn your operational strategy into an operational plan that will deliver on your organization’s goals and objectives. Use our collaborative platform to keep everyone working better together, sharing files and commenting at the task level. You’re always working on the most current data no matter which project view you choose, from Gantt charts to kanban boards, calendars and lists.

Related Operations Management Content

  • Operational Planning: How to Make an Operations Plan
  • Using Operational Excellence to Be More Productive
  • Operations Management: Key Functions, Roles and Skills
  • Operational Efficiency: A Quick Guide

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you manage your operational plans. Our real-time data helps managers make better decisions and connects teams to collaborate and increase their productivity. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

By Yuvika Iyer , June 6, 2022 - 10 min read

Having a strategic plan is essential to any company, but it's not enough. To ensure that the broader organizational goals are within reach, you need an operational plan for day-to-day work..

In this blog post, we’ll explain what an operational plan is, show you how to create one without feeling overwhelmed, and provide you with an example of an operational plan. We’ll also share our pre-built templates that you can start with to streamline the process.

What is an operational plan?

An operational plan is a document that outlines the key objectives and goals of an organization and how to reach them.

The document includes short-term or long-term goals in a clear way so that team members know their responsibilities and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done.

Crafting an operational plan keeps teams on track while guiding them in making crucial decisions about the company's long-term strategy.

Operational planning vs strategic planning

Though related to each other, these two planning strategies differ in their focus.

Operational planning is the process of the day-to-day work to execute your strategy. It ensures you have all the resources and staff necessary to get work done efficiently.

On the other hand, strategic planning is about looking ahead into the future, identifying the upcoming pipeline, and figuring out how you can prepare for it.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, nearly 7 million Americans are self-employed, with an additional 10 million employed by small businesses. 

If you're working at a large corporation, chances are your company will have some form of strategic goals in place. However, if you're one of the millions who work remotely and independently, your success will rely on operational planning instead.

What are the key elements of an operational plan?

The success of operational planning largely depends on setting realistic expectations for all teams.

Here are the key elements of a functional operational plan:

  • Clearly define the ultimate vision or objective for the plan
  • Review and break down the smaller goals for the operating budget, team, and resources required to put the plan into action
  • Assign budgets, team members, key stakeholders, and resources
  • Monitor progress with consistent reports
  • Refine the operational plan and be ready to pivot if needed

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Ensure all teams understand the parameters of success. Doing this shows how their work contributes to wider company goals and ensures better decision-making for the business operation.

How to create an operational planning process

Think of an operational plan as a key component in a team puzzle. It provides employees with a manual on how to operate the company.

It should be created in tandem with other foundational documents like an organizational mission statement, vision document, or business strategy. Daily, it can help answer questions such as:

  • Who should be working on what?
  • How can we mitigate those risks?
  • How will resources be assigned for different tasks?
  • Are there any internal and external risks facing the business?

To create a successful operational plan, it's important to define goals clearly. Here are several steps that will help you develop a functional operating plan:

Start with the strategic plan

Before defining an operational goal, make sure your strategic objectives are in place and relevant.

Prioritize the most critical activities first

Once these goals have been decided on, prioritize the most critical activities required to achieve these aims.

Stop diluting team efforts and let them focus on the most important goals first. Doing this means everyone works on a smaller set of tasks, instead of spreading themselves thin in multiple areas. It also helps in optimizing available resources.

Use predictive indicators

For a robust operational plan, consider using key performance metrics or indicators that can help you determine project progress and lend visibility to team activities. 

While lagging indicators look backward, leading indicators look to the future. Think of the plan as a car — the rear-view mirror would be a lagging indicator, while the windshield would be the leading indicator.

A leading indicator could be a new product, higher customer satisfaction levels, or new markets. Examples of lagging indicators include the number of people who attended an event or the monthly operating expenses for specific departments. 

Instead of lagging indicators, use leading indicators. Lagging metrics will show that your efforts are falling short only after you execute the operations.

Leading KPIs include predictive measures that allow early identification of problems before they become critical and impact business performance negatively.

Get team buy-in

The key to defining appropriate KPIs is involving the whole team in the process. Meet to discuss the business goals and figure out what measurements are right for the team instead of working independently or outsourcing them.

Ensure consistent communication

Communication is key. By understanding your company's metrics and what they mean, you'll be able to work together more effectively with colleagues to reach common goals.

Operational plan example

Let’s say that a company plans to increase production volume by 50% at the end of a fiscal year.

When the company goal is clear, the team will make a strategic plan with three main components: marketing, sales, and operations.

This can be further broken down into an operational plan, which will assign resources, teams, budgets, and timelines for different departments such as manufacturing, sourcing, accounts, finance, and logistics to achieve the increase in production. Such a plan should include a financial summary and financial projections as well.

Operational plan template

Think about the example above. The goals and parties involved are clear as part of the operational plan. At the same time, to remain on track, the plan requires continuous analysis and reviews. An operational plan template can be extremely helpful to achieve that.

An operational template can be a simple document that is reused for different plans by the same organization. However, it is also possible and extremely helpful to make use of project management software tools to create one.

For instance, Gantt charts can serve exactly that purpose. Using a Gantt chart as an operational plan template, it is possible to create and manage plans, track changes and edit project-related activities in real time. The chart allows clear visibility for timelines, tasks, responsibilities, and team members.

Operational planning advantages and disadvantages

Most businesses utilize an operational plan to keep track of their daily tasks. 

The plan outlines the day-to-day activities for running the organization — teams, managers, and employees are then able to visualize their contribution, which is crucial for reaching company goals.

But every process has two sides. Let’s review the operational planning advantages and disadvantages in more detail.

Operational planning advantages

Clarifies organizational goals.

An operational plan helps managers and department heads define their daily tasks, responsibilities, and activities in detail.

It also illustrates how individual team members contribute to the overall company or department goals. Without a clearly defined plan, managers and employees have no way to measure their daily tasks against predefined outcomes.

Boosts team productivity

Business owners are always looking for ways to increase productivity, which in turn translates into higher profits. One of the best and easiest ways to boost efficiency is through an operational plan.

Employees are more productive when they know their daily objectives and responsibilities. Conversely, if they're unsure of what is required of them, chances are their productivity will suffer. 

An operational plan provides this vital information to employees in each department and across the company as a whole.

Enhance organizational profitability

Having a plan helps in keeping projects and teams on track.

When operations are managed properly, teams are able to consistently increase revenue and develop new products.

Innovation pays off. A BCG survey points out that 60% of companies that are committed to innovation report steadily increasing revenues year after year. With an operational plan in place, teams are able to innovate better and faster.

Improves competitive advantages

Competitive advantages are made up of multiple levels and components.

Coordinating the different parts with an operational plan will make your workflows run more smoothly. This allows you to deliver high-quality deliverables on time, creating an outstanding customer experience and keeping you ahead of the competition.

Operational planning disadvantages

Possibility of human error.

Human error is a common problem in manufacturing that can often occur when transitioning from production to sale.

Operations management teams will need to coordinate effectively with diverse cross-functional teams such as finance, accounting, engineering, and human resources. In doing so, each team will have a clear understanding of the end goals of each department.

Interdependency amongst parts

One of the main disadvantages of implementing an operations planning process is that its success depends on coordination across parts.

Plans end up failing due to one part not working, which can have an adverse impact on the subsequent process. Disruptions in one process can end up affecting the entire process, making the entire operational plan useless.

Using Wrike for operational planning

Boost your organization by ensuring every project starts off on the right foot. Wrike's award-winning project management tools can help you create and execute operational plans with various pre-built templates . 

Establish your plan, monitor progress, and be prepared to pivot if necessary. With Wrike, you can share real-time data, making all milestones crystal clear for your team and helping them stay updated and on track. 

Choose the most suitable template and start a free two-week trial of Wrike today!

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  • 12.3 Designing a Startup Operational Plan
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Entrepreneurship Today
  • 1.2 Entrepreneurial Vision and Goals
  • 1.3 The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Review Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Case Questions
  • Suggested Resources
  • 2.1 Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey
  • 2.2 The Process of Becoming an Entrepreneur
  • 2.3 Entrepreneurial Pathways
  • 2.4 Frameworks to Inform Your Entrepreneurial Path
  • 3.1 Ethical and Legal Issues in Entrepreneurship
  • 3.2 Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship
  • 3.3 Developing a Workplace Culture of Ethical Excellence and Accountability
  • 4.1 Tools for Creativity and Innovation
  • 4.2 Creativity, Innovation, and Invention: How They Differ
  • 4.3 Developing Ideas, Innovations, and Inventions
  • 5.1 Entrepreneurial Opportunity
  • 5.2 Researching Potential Business Opportunities
  • 5.3 Competitive Analysis
  • 6.1 Problem Solving to Find Entrepreneurial Solutions
  • 6.2 Creative Problem-Solving Process
  • 6.3 Design Thinking
  • 6.4 Lean Processes
  • 7.1 Clarifying Your Vision, Mission, and Goals
  • 7.2 Sharing Your Entrepreneurial Story
  • 7.3 Developing Pitches for Various Audiences and Goals
  • 7.4 Protecting Your Idea and Polishing the Pitch through Feedback
  • 7.5 Reality Check: Contests and Competitions
  • 8.1 Entrepreneurial Marketing and the Marketing Mix
  • 8.2 Market Research, Market Opportunity Recognition, and Target Market
  • 8.3 Marketing Techniques and Tools for Entrepreneurs
  • 8.4 Entrepreneurial Branding
  • 8.5 Marketing Strategy and the Marketing Plan
  • 8.6 Sales and Customer Service
  • 9.1 Overview of Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting Strategies
  • 9.2 Special Funding Strategies
  • 9.3 Accounting Basics for Entrepreneurs
  • 9.4 Developing Startup Financial Statements and Projections
  • 10.1 Launching the Imperfect Business: Lean Startup
  • 10.2 Why Early Failure Can Lead to Success Later
  • 10.3 The Challenging Truth about Business Ownership
  • 10.4 Managing, Following, and Adjusting the Initial Plan
  • 10.5 Growth: Signs, Pains, and Cautions
  • 11.1 Avoiding the “Field of Dreams” Approach
  • 11.2 Designing the Business Model
  • 11.3 Conducting a Feasibility Analysis
  • 11.4 The Business Plan
  • 12.1 Building and Connecting to Networks
  • 12.2 Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team
  • 13.1 Business Structures: Overview of Legal and Tax Considerations
  • 13.2 Corporations
  • 13.3 Partnerships and Joint Ventures
  • 13.4 Limited Liability Companies
  • 13.5 Sole Proprietorships
  • 13.6 Additional Considerations: Capital Acquisition, Business Domicile, and Technology
  • 13.7 Mitigating and Managing Risks
  • 14.1 Types of Resources
  • 14.2 Using the PEST Framework to Assess Resource Needs
  • 14.3 Managing Resources over the Venture Life Cycle
  • 15.1 Launching Your Venture
  • 15.2 Making Difficult Business Decisions in Response to Challenges
  • 15.3 Seeking Help or Support
  • 15.4 Now What? Serving as a Mentor, Consultant, or Champion
  • 15.5 Reflections: Documenting the Journey
  • A | Suggested Resources

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify the major areas of operations management (money, methods, machines, people, and leadership)
  • Develop a checklist of operational needs

From the start, every entrepreneur needs a business plan. Your business plan will keep you focused on the very early stages of the business, when it is easy to be distracted. A written business plan can help redirect you back to your original idea.

Business plans can be divided into four different types: operational, strategic, tactical, and contingency. In this section, the focus will be on the operational plan, the activities that an entrepreneur-owner absolutely needs to do. The core business activities and how those activities interface with customers are key to a business’s long-term success. Business plans are discussed in more detail in Business Model and Plan .

Operational Business Plan

In the early 1900s, the mechanical engineer and management consultant Frederick Taylor introduced scientific management techniques into manufacturing industries. Since then, operational planning has evolved into a major component of successfully managing a business. An operational business plan details the what, when, who, how long, with what, and how much of company activities. This type of plan may list specific functions: What the activities of the business are, when those activities occur, who is responsible for various tasks, how long each activity will occur, what tools or equipment are required, and how much time and funding are needed.

Operational business plans should be flexible enough to allow for challenges that will occur. Some changes must be made on a daily or even an hourly basis. Other changes may be necessary only occasionally throughout the year. However, the purpose of the operational plan is to provide direction and guidance. This way, everyone in the business knows their specific assignments, who is responsible for individual tasks, and when major events occur.

Creating a table or chart in an Excel or other spreadsheet format can help your planning and scheduling. Figure 12.9 illustrates how work station scheduling for a grocery store can be displayed in an Excel spreadsheet. Functional activities, specific job tasks, work shifts, or work stations are listed as column headings. Hours of operations are listed as row headings. Employees’ names are entered into individual cells, showing who is assigned to each specific task or station. The table doesn’t show every position, but enough positions are listed to give you an idea of how to use the same format for your own business.

A spreadsheet showing the columns of Time (from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. in hour blocks), Manager, Front Counter, Produce, Dairy, Register #1, Register #2, and Register #3. Keith is the manager from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m., after which Monica is listed at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Jamal is at the front counter when Keith is the manager, and Eleanor is at the front counter when Monica is the manager. Lewis is in produce from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., and is joined by Kate from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Justin is in dairy from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. (except for 11 a.m.) and Matt works in dairy from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Gabriela works register #1 from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., with a break from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. After her, Emily works this register from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., followed by Carol at 10 p.m. On register #2, Shelby works 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a break from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by Parvati from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. On register #3, Eleanor works 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by Jesse from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Kate from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

This type of schedule displays every functional position, the hours that each position has to be covered, and which employee is assigned to that function at what time. The manager can look at this schedule and know that each function has been assigned to an employee during a definite time period. If the work is not being completed, this type of schedule can help a manager make an informed decision about whether to hire more employees. Furthermore, if a problem occurs, the manager knows which employee(s) were working at that station when the problem occurred and can go directly to the employee(s) for information. When an employee is unable to fulfill a shift, the manager can change the schedule quickly to ensure that every task is being completed and every position is attended to.

Individual schedules and assigned work stations can also be displayed in a worksheet ( Figure 12.10 ). This allows the manager to schedule an employee for the proper number of hours per week and helps budget payroll expenses. Employees know where they are expected to be and when they are scheduled to take lunch or dinner breaks, and the manager knows where the employee should be. When operational questions arise, the manager knows who was scheduled to be at the site and can go directly to that employee.

A spreadsheet showing columns of Time (in hour blocks) and each employee’s name (Keith, Eleanor, Jamal, Lewis, Shelby, Jesse, Emily, and Carol. Keith is scheduled to work the floor from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m., Eleanor works the front counter at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. She works register #3 at 1 pm and 2 pm. Jamal is at the front counter from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m., with a break at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Lewis is in produce from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., with a break at 10 a.m. Shelby is at register #1 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a break at 2 p.m. Jesse is at register #3 from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Emily is at register #1 from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Carol is at register #1 at 10 p.m.

Using tools such as spreadsheets for scheduling and managing day-to-day operations brings organization and stability to daily operations. Managers know that each task has a person assigned to it, and employees know where they should be or what they should be doing throughout the day. Complex businesses with many employees and many functions need more planning and structure. Businesses with very few employees can be less structured. However, a written plan should list most tasks and activities that need to be accomplished, who will do them, and when.

Link to Learning

Many templates and spreadsheets are available online that small employers can use to organize and schedule employees. Using key terms—for example, employee , schedule , work station , template —in popular search engines can produce multiple results.

Entrepreneur In Action

Scheduling sounds simple.

Scheduling materials and parts for a fixed operation can be difficult. However, it can be even more challenging to coordinate your personal schedule with on-demand childcare needs near your workplace. Avni Patel Thompson undertook this massive challenge when she started Poppy , an on-demand childcare service, in 2015.

Recruiting customers and employees for any business can be challenging, but when a company business model is centered around customers who have unscheduled demands and employees who want consistent income, the company needs a high-tech solution. Poppy was an app where parents could submit their request for a caregiver. The app’s algorithm would then scan all available caregivers who were available during the window of time requested and were located reasonably nearby. After the app did its work, a staff member would make the final decision and confirm the caregiver with the family.

Unfortunately, Poppy succumbed to the overall market and economic conditions plaguing the child care profession and closed in December 2018, but the business model is an example of one way to solve complex scheduling issues.

Questions about Poppy and its scheduling procedures:

  • How is an app better suited for this type of scheduling requirements than a full-time employee?
  • What requirements are mandated for the customer? Employee? Company?
  • Will a new application of technology overcome other economic and marketing factors?
  • How reliable is the technology? What potential threats to the “established” method of scheduling are possible when technology is updated?

For tasks requiring attention on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, a simple organizer/calendar can be an excellent tool to help organize and remind you of what needs to be done and when. Tasks that you must complete on time throughout the year include payroll tax deposits and reports, insurance renewal applications, permits and license renewals, employee training and recertification requirements, and account billing to certain customers. A calendar also can help you schedule advertising and marketing activities. Some events occur regularly each year at the same time or within a known time frame. This can help remind you when to start your advertising and marketing campaigns.

You can plan for major maintenance and repair in advance or keep track of scheduled price increases, pay raises, adding or removing menu items, rearranging shelving for seasonal products, and major cleaning or maintenance activities.

As you start your business, you may need to make some adjustments to your operational plan. An entrepreneur might overlook factors that occur regularly. Or a new entrepreneur may have considered some factors to be minimally influential when in fact they may be significant. Entrepreneurs might give high priority to influences that never materialize. Once the business is open, customers and competitors may not behave as expected. Employees may have skill sets that were omitted from the written plan, or they may lack needed skill sets. Even a well-written operational plan will most likely need to be tweaked shortly after operations start. But if you formulate your plan correctly at the beginning, your functional operational plan should rarely need a complete overhaul.

One element that should be included in every operational plan is control. In an operational plan, a marketing plan, an employee development plan, or any other type of plan used in business, control refers to the measurement of outcomes and an evaluation of the activities that led to those outcomes. The control element of a business plans answers the questions, “Have we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish?” and “Have we met our goals within the time frame that we wanted?” Without measuring performance outcomes, the entrepreneur does not know if the business is operating as expected, worse than expected, or better than expected.

If a business performs better than expected, the entrepreneur must consider if the original expectations were too low or if some other factor contributed to the better-than-expected performance. On the other hand, if the business performed worse than expected, two reviews must be conducted. First, why are outcomes less than expected and what can be changed to improve performance? Second, how do lower outcomes affect the viability of the business?

Comparing actual outcomes with expected outcomes is a form of internal comparison called baselining . Baselining is important because the entrepreneur must conduct a self-evaluation on what the business has done versus what it can or should do. An entrepreneur can decide to adjust a business’s capability after conducting a baseline study. However, internal comparisons should be coupled with an external analysis, called benchmarking. By comparing your business with a close competitor’s or with the industry average, you can get a better idea of how your business fits into the larger market.

Industry Benchmarks

If a basketball team scores sixty-eight points, do they win? If a baseball team scores four runs, do they win? If a soccer team scores five goals, have they lost? The answer to all three questions is simple: We need more information. Without knowing the other team’s score, we don’t know if a team has won or lost. There must be some other score for comparison; otherwise, the points scored are meaningless.

Similarly, businesses need to compare their individual performances with some external performance measurement. The comparison with an industry average, a leader within the industry, or a market segment is called benchmarking . Benchmarking allows a direct comparison of your company with the collective whole of the industry or market, or with an industry leader. By looking at several performance measurements, you can see if your company is performing at a level that will sustain itself over the long term or if your company’s local market is atypical compared with another company’s market. If the performance level of a startup company does not match the industry average or the industry leader, that does not mean that the company is poorly managed or cannot be profitable. Underperforming industry leaders indicates only that your company is not the same as those leaders. Frequently, benchmarking against a local market area is better than benchmarking against national leaders or the industry as a whole.

Operations Management

Operations management can be summed up in three words: Get it done! The foundation of operations management is the theory of scientific management. As we have seen, Frederick Taylor developed scientific management to introduce organization, scheduling, coordination, standardization, and cooperation among workers into the production process. Taylor saw a production plant as a large, multifaceted organization with many interrelated activities that should function as one large machine. The activities of each worker within one group had to be coordinated with other workers’ activities within that same group. Each worker group had to be coordinated with other worker groups. Worker groups were clustered into larger cohorts. To keep materials moving through the manufacturing process, activities had to be planned, scheduled, and monitored.

Whether you are working in a manufacturing environment in which raw materials are converted into finished products or in a service environment in which customers receive experiences, these five components of operations management—organization, scheduling, coordination, standardization, and cooperation—must be the foundation your firm’s activities. To have productive outcomes, the firm must have important inputs: money, methods, machines, people, and leadership ( Figure 12.11 ). If any of these essential management elements are deficient or lacking, the company is probably functioning inefficiently and could be at a higher risk of failure.

Graphic showing Operations Management at the top, with arrows pointing to Money, Methods, Machines, People, and Leadership.

Three terms—money, cash, and currency—are often used interchangeably, but each has its own distinct meaning and application. Money is any legal instrument that can be used in the exchange of goods and services. Money includes paper money or coins, but it also includes checks or money orders. In developing countries, money might be any physical item that is considered valuable to people wanting to exchange some goods or services. Most money, though, is in the form of cash.

Cash typically refers to physical money or currency, but it also includes deposits in an account (checking, savings, or certificate of deposit) at a financial institution. For example, customers can pay for their purchases with paper money, coins, checks, debit cards, or credit cards. The paper money and coins are taken to the bank for deposit. The debit card and credit card transactions are debited to the business’s checking account by its bank. The cash balance of the business increases by the amount of the deposits, regardless of the form of the deposit. The cash balance is shown on the company’s balance sheet and is the amount of money the company has available to pay its debts and obligations.

Currency is paper money or coins printed or minted, issued, and backed by a national government. Currency is divided into denominations or units in both paper and coin formats. With the expansion of international trade, along with the expansive movement of people among countries, it is important for an entrepreneur to know how global markets affect the value of money. Each national government decides what denominations of currency to produce. The value of a national currency is determined by the ability to exchange it for another national currency. Raw materials and supplies that originate in another country may increase in price significantly because of a decline in value of the US dollar or an increase in value of the country of origin’s money. Likewise, raw materials and supplies may have a price decrease because of shifts in the value of money.

Knowing and understanding how international monetary policies and activities affect a local entrepreneur can be critical to long-term growth and survivability. You must have a clear understanding of projected costs of materials as well as enough funds available at the right time to meet your financial obligations.

Liquidity is a measure of a company’s ability to meet its immediate and short-term (i.e., due within one year) debts and obligations. It’s a way of describing how well you can cover your current liabilities using your current assets. When a company is liquid, it can meet its financial obligations on time, typically on a very short timeline. If the company pays its bills on time, the risk to lenders is lower, so lenders charge lower interest rates; insurance companies may set lower premiums; and vendors may offer cash discounts for early payments. Maintaining liquidity is vital to the success of a small business, as it may have limited access to other financial options.

Other sources of cash include credit accounts such as a line of credit, a company credit card, accounts payable, loans, or your own reputation and goodwill. A line of credit (LOC) is an agreement between a bank and a depositor in which the bank makes available a maximum amount of money the depositor can borrow at any time during the term of the loan. The borrower pays a fee during the term, whether or not there is an outstanding balance, and also pays interest when there is a balance on the loan. All of these sources of cash are more cumbersome and involve more planning and preparation than liquid accounts. However, these nontraditional money sources are typically necessary for a new business owner in order to pay for business activities before the company begins collecting money from its own paying customers. Mismanaging these short-term debt accounts can easily become a burden on a small business. To better manage the financial obligations of the business, the entrepreneur needs to know which financial tools are available, how to use them, and which tool to use for which purpose. Financing is the use of money to conduct company activities. Payment sources for business activities and resources should match the life expectancy of the resource. Long-term debts —such as for land, buildings, equipment, and machinery—should be paid off through long-term financial instruments that are known as secured debt. Ordinarily, a loan used to purchase long-term assets will have a shorter life than the assets. For example, a machine that is expected to be useful for ten years should be financed with a loan that is paid in full in less than 120 months (ten years × twelve months). The purpose of long-term debt is to create revenue that exceeds the loan payment and interest. In this arrangement, the asset pays for itself by generating more cash than is needed to pay the principal of the loan, interest on the balance, costs to operate the equipment, and any additional insurance required or taxes assessed against the equipment.

Short-term or current liabilities , such as payroll, taxes, insurance, and all other operational activities, should be paid for through short-term cash resources. Most short-term payment obligations occur each week (payroll) or at least each month (insurance, rent). Short-term cash resources include sales, accounts receivables, down payments, and line of credit. Confusing long- and short-term financing strategies jeopardizes the financial stability of the company. Mismanagement of finances could create a situation in which the company is unable to pay its bills on time. When a company cannot pay its short-term obligations, it may not be able to operate much longer.

Managing cash collected and spent is one of the two most important responsibilities of the entrepreneur. A positive cash flow exists when cash received exceeds cash spent. A negative cash flow occurs when cash received is less than cash disbursed. All companies and organizations will experience a negative cash flow at some time. However, good managers will have a savings account or access to other cash in order to meet current financial obligations. What is important, though, is to have a positive cash flow over the long term.

Paying bills is not fun, especially when you have little cash to work with. Three popular methods of paying bills include credit, cash on delivery, and deposits on account. An entrepreneur’s vendors may use all three payment methods. Likewise, the entrepreneur can use all three to collect monies from customers.

When bills are due and the company does not have enough cash to pay the bills or the timing is inconvenient, the company must use credit. Credit is the promise to pay later for something already acquired. Short-term credit may come with no interest charges or fees, such as accounts payable Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting . Vendors will routinely allow established customers to take possession of inventory or products without paying for them at the time of delivery. Payment for products is due on a specific day or after a defined period of time.

Often, a vendor will offer terms of payment at the end of the billing cycle. For example, if the terms are net thirty, purchases that a small business makes during one month are expected to be paid for in full at the end of the next month. Payments made after the due date are subject to a penalty and interest. Sometimes a vendor will offer an incentive to pay early, such as a 2 percent discount if the payment is made in less than fifteen days.

Many startup businesses must make payments at the time of delivery, a form of transaction known as cash on delivery (COD). When the delivery is made, the delivery driver or the online agent will release the product to the customer once payment has been received. This payment method can burden a startup that does not have liquidity. On the other hand, a startup business can reduce its losses by requiring COD payments from its new customers, as it receives payments and has the funds to pay its own obligations.

For unique or specialized products, some vendors will require a deposit from the customer before the product is made. This deposit reduces the financial risk to the vendor for a custom product that may be difficult to resell if the original customer backs out of the purchase. It also provides cash to the producer, who needs to buy raw materials to make the finished product. For the startup entrepreneur, paying for products beforehand could strain the cash available for ongoing operations. However, if the entrepreneur’s customers provide a down payment before the product is produced, the entrepreneur secures a noninterest loan from the customer.

All three of these payment methods are used in business transactions. Cash generated during each financial cycle must equal to or exceed the expenses paid during each cycle. Otherwise, the company may find itself without any money and be unable to afford to stay in business.

The study of how work is performed is called ergonomics . It involves designing, arranging, and coordinating tools and equipment so that the movement of workers who use them is safe and efficient, and products flow through the appropriate work stations in a timely and efficient manner.

Work methods are perhaps most important when complex machinery and equipment are involved. A progressive movement of products from one stage to the next should reduce the employees’ time and effort, which reduces costs. Raw materials should be delivered to the location nearest where it will be used. Moving and storing large inventories at each point of assembly is easier and more efficient than storing parts at another location and moving them to work stations when they are needed. Timely delivery of inventory is equally important. Delivery of materials at the moment they are needed is called the just-in-time strategy. If component failure is detected, the point at which the part was assembled can be identified, and the deficiency quickly corrected.

The just-in-time inventory system , developed in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s by the Toyota Motor Corporation , significantly changed production management. To develop a new system, Toyota took advantage of three crucial factors affecting post-war Japan: (1) limited resources, including cash; (2) value-added activities; and (3) reliance on business relationships that are mutually beneficial. They were able to avoid wasted investment and to effectively manage workloads. Watch this video on other common factors between startup entrepreneurs and Toyota to learn more.

Service industries also apply the assembly line approach. 16 When workers become proficient at their tasks, they can perform the minimum actions needed to complete a task without sacrificing quality. 17 The assembly line approach has given birth to another ergonomic philosophy, lean project management. 18

Many fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Subway , use the assembly line approach to prepare food quickly and correctly. For example, in making hamburgers, one employee selects the bun, puts the appropriate meat patty on it, and then pushes it to the next worker, who may add onions, cheese, tomato, and lettuce before passing the order to the next station. Once the hamburger is complete, it is passed along to the last worker, who wraps the food and places it in a bag or on a tray.

When employees’ tasks are limited to very few functions, repetition of movement makes their work quicker. This specialization results in higher quality. Specialization allows each worker to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and reduce mistakes. This division of labor has become a major component in Western economic models. Adam Smith first explained it in his work The Wealth of Nations (1776), using pin makers as his illustration. Smith theorized that reducing the number of tasks required of each pin maker would enable each worker to improve his efficiency of motion, resulting in both uniformity in quality and higher production levels.

This increase in quality and quantity of work increases the productivity and profitability of the worker. Collaboration among workers who work in close proximity occurs naturally. A weakness that materializes with one worker may be canceled out by an increase in another worker’s efforts. However, human labor continues to be replaced by machinery and electronic instruments developed during the Industrial Revolution and the modern technology revolution. Nevertheless, human labor is essential on the production line, whether in creating or assembling products or performing services.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, the Industrial Revolution shifted work from muscular power to mechanical power. Ever since, humans have used machinery to perform tasks greater than what they could achieve by themselves or using large animals. Machines provide consistency of work and higher volumes than human workers at lower costs per unit made. However, the initial outlay of cash for machinery can be large.

For a startup entrepreneur, purchasing machinery can be a difficult, time-consuming, and complicated task. First, one must look at the total costs of ownership (TCO) , which is the comprehensive cost of owning large capital items, including initial direct costs, operating direct costs, and indirect costs. Maintaining and repairing operational equipment is difficult, especially when production schedules demand the machine to be operational. Poor planning can be very costly, especially for a startup business, because your ability to produce and deliver products on time reflects on your reliability to both your customers and your employees.

When making equipment purchase decisions, you should consider all the costs associated with the purchase plus the machine’s ability to produce income or lower costs. Such expenses include not only the purchase price but also delivery, installation and setup, calibration, and operational expenses. You should also consider the interest paid on the loan as part of the cost of acquiring the equipment, a factor that many new business owners overlook, but one that a good accountant should be aware of.

Hidden costs to major purchases periodically involve certain operating costs. Too often, new business owners focus on the purchase price, sometimes referred to as the sticker price, rather than on the total costs associated with equipment. Major equipment may require special delivery methods and other shipping costs. Once it is delivered to the site, it may have to be installed by skilled technicians. In some situations, the site flooring may need reinforcing to carry the new weight load, or the electrical supply may need to be upgraded to handle the necessary current. Local, state, or federal inspections may be required to obtain a permit to operate the equipment. Sometimes, liability insurance policies require inspections and permits in addition to government permits. All of these extra expenses add to the overall costs of acquiring the equipment. Many times, these expenses are considered sunk costs, never to be recovered in resale of the equipment or in producing more units.

Purchasing machinery and other major equipment is classified as a capital purchase or capital expense. A capital expense is a major purchase of a functional asset that is expected to last longer than three years or that still has financial value after being fully depreciated. Capital items, which include buildings, equipment, machines, and furnishings, are best purchased using borrowed funds so that the business can use its cash to pay for operational expenses , which are those associated with daily, ongoing activities of the business, such as inventory, office supplies, wages, insurance, and utilities. When an asset is used as collateral for a debt, the lender places a lien on the asset. The debt then becomes a secured debt, backed by the resale value of the asset. To ease the financial burden of major purchases, depreciation, a reduction in the value of an asset, is calculated as an expense on the income statement, which reduces taxable income and lowers taxable liability.

As a general practice, the payment schedule of a capital expense should be equal to or less than the life expectancy of the equipment. For example, a business may purchase an offset printer that is expected to last twenty years and then finance it through a loan to be paid off before the twenty years are up. Although having the debt paid off before an asset is fully depreciated is ideal, in some instances terms of the loan may extend beyond the depreciation schedule.

Machines have limits to their performance. Absolute capacity is the highest volume of units that a machine can produce within a specified time period. Operational capacity is the number of units you can reasonably expect to be produced within a specified time period. The difference between the two is operational reserve . Because machines may need to be warmed up, materials loaded and unloaded, moving joints lubricated, belts and hoses checked and repaired, or other operational functions performed, machines cannot operate at absolute capacity for an extended length of time.

In calculating production levels, it is easy to overestimate the number of units produced. For an offset printer to work properly, paper has to be loaded, the rollers must be inked, feeder clamps may need adjusting, and one or two test sheets need to be printed to check for ink coverage and crispness of the image. All of these necessary activities take time, but they actually are unproductive. Because each business will have unique requirements and influences upon capacity, the best method is to track your own performance over time and calculate the average. Otherwise, getting input from one of your advisors or a friendly competitor would be sufficient for planning and budgetary purposes.

Machines cost money to operate. Improvement in efficiencies and in production volume is a major motivation in purchasing new equipment. You should consider the increase in units produced, operational costs per unit, decrease in waste, and improvement in quality of products. A grocery store owner who has an old freezer that still keeps food at the required temperature may decide it is worth replacing. Buying a new freezer, with all of the associated costs and improvements in efficiency, has no impact on the number of food items taken out of it and sold. Only the difference in actual cost of electricity between the two units can be considered. However, a die machine that reduces waste and improves the number of molded pieces produced per hour may be worth the investment.

All machines break down, usually at an inconvenient time and place. Trying to repair equipment when it is needed is like a road crew trying to fix potholes without shutting down traffic. Therefore, scheduling production time , the amount of time that a machine is actually producing products that are to be sold (also called up time ), and down time , the time when production is not occurring due to repair, restocking inventory, or unscheduled work, are critical areas for management. A schedule of regularly planned maintenance that includes preventive repairs and inspections will reduce unexpected down time and equipment failures. Scheduling repairs before they are necessary keeps equipment running efficiently and smoothly, helps reduce costs over the long term, and allows for better management of expenses. Unexpected equipment failures not only interrupt operations but can delay delivery of products and services to customers. This can diminish your reliability and negatively affect customers’ confidence in your trustworthiness, potentially affecting future sales.

Every machine will become obsolete at some time and will need to be replaced. Having the latest, greatest piece of equipment may be a temptation that your bank account cannot afford. Replacing equipment, whether major industrial equipment that needs professional installation or office equipment that can be set up by employees, is a critical decision. Too often, the criteria for selecting new equipment are the same criteria used to describe the old equipment’s ability. Using old job requirements for new equipment may be acceptable in an industry that undergoes very few changes over a very long time. However, most industries change drastically and need up-to-date equipment.

Work It Out

Generating interest at home.

Going green is a popular trend today. One way in which power companies are going green is with wind-generated electricity. As of now, almost all wind energy programs are on a large scale, with wind farms consisting of hundreds of towers in rural areas. Stationing wind turbines at individual houses is currently impractical. Zoning restrictions limit the height of structures, costs exceed the benefits for homeowners, and potential sound and sight pollution are a concern for neighbors.

Those concerns apply to the current options for wind turbines. Can you think of other options that would be beneficial, cost effective, and socially acceptable in urban, residential areas? What physical properties would you need to consider? What type of functional capacity is needed? Can a household have more than one type of electrical circuitry for different types of needs? Do we need a product to generate electricity for today’s household purposes? Or should we simply rethink household electrical systems entirely?

Entrepreneurs not only create new products and services, but also redefine the problem. They may need to make adjustments to resolve other environmental factors. For example, there was no need for paved roads before the advent of cars. Businesses that provide gasoline and repair work for automobiles were not necessary before the automobile became popular. The mass-produced automobile changed more than how a product was manufactured—it changed the way people moved.

Consider what happed with Avni Patel Thompson and her childcare business Poppy ( Entrepreneur in Action: Scheduling Sounds Simple ). What lessons can you learn from her experience as you look at home wind turbines? What similarities are there between a service-oriented company and a product-oriented company? What differences are there between the two? Do homeowners really want a new way to power their homes? What are the similarities of purchasing a major piece of equipment for a home and for a business? What differences are there?

Customer demands within an industry also may change significantly over time, just as a company’s specific needs may shift appreciably. To meet external customers’ new wants and the company’s new internal needs, machinery with new technology and more advanced construction may be mandatory. You should plan three to five years into the future for major purchases of equipment, machinery, tools, facilities, and skill levels. The question is not “What do I need today?” but “What will I need five years from today?”

Trading in outdated equipment may have value that is not always recognized in financial documents. When sales representatives of major manufacturers need to meet quotas, they may be willing to offer a very positive financing plan to place their equipment in your business while removing a competitor’s machine. But you should avoid making the mistake of ignoring your current vendor. Your current machine supplier may be very eager to keep customers and may offer to take your old equipment as a trade-in, which lowers the purchasing price of new equipment. Or your current supplier may be able to offer better terms than competitors or provide supplies as a reward for loyalty. All of these choices eventually lower both purchase and operating costs of new equipment.

To upgrade or keep the old machinery, to buy or lease, to sell or trade in, these are just a few of the questions that business owners contend with in making major purchases. Paying for big ticket items through vendor financing might be easier than borrowing from traditional banks. But when making major equipment purchases, always keep the professional sales representatives close. Their industry insight and knowledge could be more beneficial to you than the equipment itself. People are more flexible, more knowledgeable, and especially more valuable than machines.

Searching, recruiting, hiring, and supporting a workforce can be some of the most rewarding and frustrating interactions that a new business owner deals with (see the discussion on human resources in Fundamentals of Resource Planning for more information on hiring the right people for a business). Selecting the right people at the beginning can be the difference between succeeding or failing in the early years of a business. Many experienced business owners will say that waiting to hire the right person is better than hiring the wrong person now.

For the new entrepreneur, hiring people you know is appealing because it is easy, they are typically very amenable in the startup stages, and they share in the excitement of the new business. Nepotism is the hiring of family members and close friends, usually based on their relationship to the entrepreneur rather than on their ability to perform the job. Spousal support and involvement are important in the early stages of a business. Spouses routinely become employees of the new business, and there may be a difference in the outcome based on gender. Many times, a wife is an unpaid employee if her husband starts the new company. 19 Her commitment may vary from a sporadic involvement to a few hours per month or per week. Women entrepreneurs, however, are less likely to have their husbands participate in the business, especially if the husband is unpaid. 20 , 21 , 22

Hiring other family members or friends because of their availability and personal commitment is enticing. Yet hiring family and friends just because they are willing and available can backfire and may produce more long-term harm than good. Sometimes hiring people close to you may discourage qualified candidates from seriously pursuing employment with your new business. Seeing that previous hiring decisions were based upon personal relationships is a discouragement to skilled personnel. Terminating employment of a family member can be truly difficult, especially if that family member is an immediate family member such as parent, spouse, child, or sibling. Difficulties within the family and the business are possible if the situation occurs. Moreover, failing to terminate a family member for cause will predictably destroy morale among nonfamily employees, especially skilled employees.

As a business is getting started, having someone is sometimes better than having no one. At other times, having no one is better than having the wrong one. Eventually, however, the ability to do a job supersedes who the employee is. Furthermore, traditional employees hired from the marketplace eventually will resent seeing more favoritism and leniency granted to family members than to nonfamily members. There is a stark difference between the integration of family and non-family members in a startup environment. The career path is usually short, with favoritism towards family members or longtime friends. 23 A delicate balance between family and nonfamily employees is difficulty to achieve, and new entrepreneurs do not need the additional distractions caused by rifts between family and nonfamily staff members.

Friends from previous employment, college, high school, or the old neighborhood are also popular sources for employees. In the early stages, the entrepreneur has so many issues to tackle and tasks to complete that hiring people they know seems like an easy solution. People build personal relationships through social and personal interactions, outside the needs of the new business. They establish friendships along personal commonalities such as attending the same school or being in the same club or on the same team, not along the subordinate-supervisor spectrum. A sure way to end a good friendship is to hire a friend who is unqualified for the job and place them in a supervisory role. Hiring a friend as a subordinate could lead to a confrontation that could cost the new entrepreneur the support of friends and family.

Every new owner must be willing to move past the startup phase and into the growth stage, where skills become more important than personal relationships. This natural progression in business maturity requires skilled workers to perform their tasks effectively. Those skills come at a price that may be difficult to match in the early stages of the business, but in the long run, skilled workers will produce more revenue than it costs to employ them. Also, customers expect more from established businesses than they do from an initial startup business.

Entrepreneurs must hire employees who complement them, not only in skills but also in personalities. In all of its various phases—from inception through startup, growth, and expansion—every business faces situations and obstacles that require an assortment of skills and talents to resolve. Some situations demand a strong, direct, or even confrontational approach, which can be comfortable for an extrovert. Other situations may need to be handled more softly and indirectly. An introverted employee who naturally is slow to react may take a passive approach that would be more appropriate in some settings.

A small business can strengthen its staff by hiring people with an assortment of backgrounds and experiences. The collective experiences of the whole staff benefit the business in ways that may not always be easily identifiable. Employees who fit together make a nice place to work and an enjoyable experience for customers.

Sales Force

In Building the Entrepreneurial Dream Team , the sales rep was discussed in the context of the value and importance of generating revenue and cash flow for the business. In this section, the discussion will be focused on the sales force as a component of the personnel working in a for-profit business. However, nonprofit organizations that are also dependent upon sales revenue, as discussed earlier, could apply the concepts as described as well.

Decisions involving a sales force may be some of the most critical decisions made, perhaps even more important than organizational structure and tax status. The sales force triggers the activities that generate revenue, which brings the business to life and sustains it. Without the sales spark, the business becomes a lifeless organization doomed to closure.

A sales force must fit within the overall operational and marketing strategy of the business. The product must be fully developed, its benefits to the customers clearly defined, and the primary target market selected before a sales force is needed. Furthermore, company goals of minimum production levels must be established, and a target revenue high enough to cover expenses needs to be calculated. It is imperative that each of these goals is patently understood and achievable for both the sales force and the company before the sales force is assembled.

The first consideration is identifying the stage of the company. Some entrepreneurs have a true startup business beginning from scratch, whereas others enter entrepreneurship through the purchase of an existing business with established customers and cash flow. The organization, structure, and role of the sales force will depend upon whether the business is in the startup, growth, mature, or decline stage). As the business progresses through each stage, requirements and abilities of the company change as does the external environment of the market.

Deciding whether to self-perform sales or outsource the sales function should be done very carefully and should include research into the tax implications and benefits of using employees versus independent contractors. 24 Self-performing involves the employees doing most of the work in a business. Outsourcing is the hiring of an outside company or third party to perform a specific task, job, or process, or to manufacture goods. Each option has benefits and limitations. The entrepreneur must consider many factors, ranging from financial strength to market knowledge to sales support capabilities. Hiring sales personnel as employees means the entrepreneur must use time and money to recruit, hire, train, supply with equipment and office materials, and regularly pay the sales force. Outsourcing the sales function to independent contractors may be a viable option, as the entrepreneur would have minimal upfront investment and they would be paid a commission only when they make a sale. Outsourcing is a preferred selection for businesses that are financially straining under cash flow, while self-performing sales is preferred for established, growing companies. 25 , 26

Pay is always a touchy topic. Determining a person’s compensation and income gives the entrepreneur a great deal of power and control over the sales force. It is a very important responsibility that ought to be handled with great care. Issues regarding pay affect not only the employees’ or contractors’ livelihood, but also the company’s financial health and reputation. Furthermore, there are numerous laws and regulations, at both federal and state levels, that place the burden of doing it right upon the employer.

Sales force personnel who are employees must be paid with regular wages. Sometimes, a commission or bonus is paid if sales quotas are met. Regular wages, along with employer-matching payroll taxes and employee benefits, increase fixed expenses to the business. This arrangement may not be sustainable for a startup business. Yet the entrepreneur-employer can benefit from this arrangement by retaining control over employees’ schedules and routines, earning loyalty from staff, and receiving immediate market feedback from the employee.

Outsourced or independent contractor sales reps are paid on commission. This arrangement adds a variable expense to the business, an expense that should only be recognized after a sale is made. In most situations involving outsourced independent contractors, the employer is not responsible for payroll taxes. A word of caution, though, to all beginning entrepreneurs: Determining whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor can become complicated. The burden of doing it right is on the employer. And not doing it correctly can add significant expenses to the business in the form of fines and penalties.

An important factor to contemplate when deciding what type of sales force to have is knowing your position in the market and your market’s characteristics ( Figure 12.12 ). If you are selling to other businesses, business to business, you will have to understand their decision-making processes and buying criteria if you expect to make any sales. On the other hand, selling direct to the consumer, business to customer, has a wholly different marketing strategy. For the nonmarketing entrepreneur, learning about marketing basics ought to be placed on the “to do” list so that conversations with sales force personnel will be productive.

Photograph a shows a salad bar at a grocery store. Photograph b shows a customer looking at products at a farmer’s market stand with the seller of the product behind the table.

An additional market consideration is the sales territory . If you define territories by geographic markers, does each territory have the same potential number of customers? What is the variance in size and the distance from the home office? A similar set of questions arises if the sales force is established along product lines. How are the product lines alike? How are they different? When sketching out the sales force organization and responsibilities, it would be highly advantageous to receive input from potential sales reps or more experienced entrepreneurs who already know how to setup this division of your business.

Agreements made with the sales force must be honored, so make any agreement only after very carefully thinking through scenarios and obtaining insight from trusted advisors. The reputation of the business with employees and customers alike is at stake when employers do not honor agreements with employees, especially those employees who are the face and voice of the business to the market. If a sales rep, employee, or independent contractor decides to separate from your business, they could take their customers’ business with them to their next place of employment. Although you could take legal action against a former employee who does this, the bottom line is that you have lost a sales rep and a customer. Avoiding that situation is best for everyone, especially you, the entrepreneur.

Getting the right sales people in place is critical. Having them work in a positive and effective environment is a necessity that cannot be ignored.

Terms commonly associated with a leadership position include owner , manager , supervisor , team lead , leader , and boss . Many of these terms are used interchangeably, even though they have some minor differences in meaning, but normally one person will function as both leader and manager in a small business. Some entrepreneurs may be able to switch between these two roles flawlessly and fluidly, so that their followers and even they themselves are unaware that the roles are being filled simultaneously. Nevertheless, some traits and behaviors are associated more closely with leadership than with management.

A key difference between leaders and managers is their role in initiating action. Management is typically concerned with administering and directing an organization’s activities. This includes planning, scheduling, coordinating, overseeing, and inspecting tasks performed by staff. The manager ensures that employees who have been hired to perform duties perform those duties as expected and at a level of quality and quantity acceptable.

A leader , on the other hand, instills within others a desire to perform. This is more of an internal motivation, a psychological approach, which the leader develops via words and actions. Like the results of the manager’s approach, the results of motivation will be evident in the employees’ performance. The difference lies within the minds and souls of employees.

Employees will work for their manager because they are obligated to on the basis of assigned roles and positions of authority. Employees will work for a leader because they want to achieve the same goals and accomplish tasks to satisfy themselves as well as their leader.

You can find many lists that describe either characteristics or qualities of a good leader. Only a few have been included here. Descriptions of good leadership can be divided into the following categories: personality, competencies, locus of control, and style.

Personality describes the characteristics of a person as shown by their actions and words. Effective leaders typically are easy to get along with, have a positive attitude, engage others, and display self-confidence in their skills. When entrepreneurs begin looking for employees, working very closely together necessitates that they get along and enjoy each other’s company.

Working for someone who does not know what they are doing can be very difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, good leaders know what their competencies are and are very good at what they do. Employees as well as competitors and regulators recognize high job-performance skills. Sometimes, a very skilled leader becomes an industry expert with a reputation throughout the industry and gives training at conventions, conferences, and trade shows. Good leaders are also keenly aware of the skills they lack and readily admit their incompetence in those areas. Hiring a skilled employee who compensates for your shortcomings is a high priority.

Locus of control is the belief that you have or do not have control over events that occur in your life. If you have an internal locus of control , you believe you have significant control and influence over events that occur in your life. An external locus of control —the opposing view—means you believe you have very little control, if any, over events that occur in your daily life. Effective leaders have an internal locus of control and feel certain that they influence and control events, situations, and people in their lives and, specifically, in their business. When crises arise, effective leaders take charge and begin making decisions to get control of events. Employees, customers, and others connected to your business will rally around you if they are confident that you can take control of the situation and directly deal with the challenges.

The three common leadership styles are autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. Each of these approaches to leadership is effective but can also be ineffective. The approach that works is best determined by the industry, structure, environment, and requirements of the job.

Autocratic leaders make decisions by themselves and view employees as subordinates who must follow instructions without hesitating or questioning. Autocratic leaders are necessary in situations where decisions are needed quickly, the leader is highly trained and skilled in the work requirements, and the outcomes can be very serious. Democratic leaders engage their staff and seek input before making decisions. This approach works well if the organization or industry is complex, many different departments or employees are affected by the decisions, and a broad range of information is needed to make good decisions. Laissez-faire leadership allows staff to work independently, mostly without supervision or direct input from the leader. This approach works best when the employees are highly educated and skilled, tasks among employees are not closely interrelated, and staff are self-motivated.

Leadership has been studied for many centuries, and the debate continues. You can find examples of good and bad leadership in many organizations including the military, sports, government, and business. Leadership traits are like hands in a poker game—they are all good and bad. The difference is the situation. For an entrepreneur, knowing the industry, the market, the competitive environment, the customer base, and the employee pool are starters for determining which leadership traits and style would be effective. If you decide you are not matched to the environment or situation, then you could engage someone who does possess the traits and skills that better match your current needs.

Operational Needs

When starting your business, the first question you need to ask is whether anyone wants to buy your product or service. Creating a new product or service is easy. In fact, 70 percent to over 95 percent of new products introduced every year are classified as failures. 27 With more than 30,000 new products introduced every year, you could reasonable guess that between 21,000 and 27,000 are failures. 28 On the contrary, only 5 percent to 30 percent of new products are successful. So the question is valid: Will anyone buy my product or service?

With such a low success rate, you will need to conduct careful research and small trial runs to determine the viability of your new products. You need to know not only whether anyone will buy your products but whether customers will pay your price, so that the business can make a profit, or at least break even. You need to ask these two very important questions up front, because if the answer to either one is “No,” you have no need to do anything else.

A second series of questions that you need to address focus on the location of the company’s operations. Where will you locate your business? Will you rent or buy a building or facility? Does your facility need to have easy access in a high-traffic area? Or can it be in a quieter area, where costs are lower? In addition to access and costs, will your business be located within a competitor’s influence? It would be unfortunate if you negated all the positive factors of your great product and viable business plan by selecting the wrong location.

Besides deciding on a proper location, you also need to consider the size of your facility. Selecting a structure that is too small from the very beginning may handicap any growth in the early stages of your business. Having to move to a larger facility soon after beginning operations could be detrimental to your operations. On the other hand, selecting a facility that is too large puts pressure on cash flow, as you will pay rent or a mortgage for an unproductive building space. Finding the balance between “big enough to grow into” and “small enough to afford with low sales” is a predicament faced by many business owners, whether new entrepreneurs or seasoned veterans.

You will need to make similar decisions about furniture, equipment, and furnishings. These items are available for purchase or lease. Sometimes a lease is better, as the initial payments may be lower but over time, buying equipment and furniture can help improve cash flow once the items are paid for. However, deciding on how much, what quality, and what size can be difficult. Good equipment sales representatives can be a big help in making equipment decisions.

To get started, you will need to determine the proper inventory levels. How long is the shelf-life of your inventory? Some products have a long shelf-life, whereas others may perish quickly. Ask yourself “How much do I need?” and “When will I need it?”

Before beginning a business, you may need licenses and permits. Buildings must be inspected and approved prior to occupation for business activities. Building permits may require electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and structural inspections of building systems and physical features. Accounts for water, gas, and trash pickup must be made prior to occupying a facility. Table 12.3 summarizes the operational needs you should consider when launching a venture.

Set the grand opening several days to a few weeks after the actual opening of business. Invited guests may include investors, city officials, family members, special customers, former employers, business neighbors, and competitors.

Forbes magazine has various resources such as this step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs and this list of eight steps for entrepreneurs on starting a new business. The federal SBA list of steps is also available. Review each list. Which one best matches your entrepreneurial situation?

  • 16 F. Abdi, K. S. Sohrab, and S. J. Seyed Mohammad. “Gleanlean: How to Use Lean Approach in Service Industries.” Journal of Services Research 6 (2006): 191–206.
  • 17 T. Levitt. Production-Line Approach to Service. (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 1972).
  • 18 G. T. Passwater. “Industrialization of the Industry.” BodyShop Business 18, no. 11 (1999): 92.
  • 19 B. Ndemo and F. W. Maina. “Women Entrepreneurs and Strategic Decision Making.” Management Decisions 45 (2007): 118–130.
  • 20 J. Kirkwood. “Spousal Roles on Motivations for Entrepreneurship: A Qualitative Study in New Zealand.” Journal of Family Economics 30 (2009): 372–385.
  • 21 L. Philipps. “Silent Partners: The Role of Unpaid Market Labor in Families.” Feminist Economic 14, no. 2 (2008): 37–57.
  • 22 B. R. Rowe and G. Hong. “The Role of Wives in Family Businesses: The Paid and Unpaid Work of Women.” Family Business Review 13 (2000): 1–13.
  • 23 Dan Mcconaughy. “Family CEOs vs. Nonfamily CEOs in the Family-Controlled Firm: An Examination of the Level and Sensitivity of Pay to Performance.” Family Business Review 13(2): 121–131. April 2004.
  • 24 C. Stephen Tobin, The Tobin Firm. “Understanding the Differences between Independent Contractors and Employees.” Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA). June 23, 2016. https://www.ghba.org/understanding-the-differences-between-independent-contractors-and-employees/
  • 25 P. M. Madhani. “Managing Sales Force Compensation: The Strategic Choice between Direct Sales Force and Independent Reps.” Compensation & Benefits Review 44, no. 2 (2012): 86–99.
  • 26 P. M. Madhani. “Managing Sales Compensation: A Sales Force Configuration Approach.” Compensation & Benefits Review 45, no. 2 (2013): 105–114.
  • 27 M. Emmer. “95 Percent of New Products Fail. Here Are 6 Steps to Make Sure Yours Don’t.” Inc. July 6, 2018. https://www.inc.com/marc-emmer/95-percent-of-new-products-fail-here-are-6-steps-to-make-sure-yours-dont.html
  • 28 J. Schneider and J. Hall. “Why Most Product Launches Fail.” Harvard Business Review . April 1, 2011. https://hbr.org/2011/04/why-most-product-launches-fail

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Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/1-introduction
  • Authors: Michael Laverty, Chris Littel
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Entrepreneurship
  • Publication date: Jan 16, 2020
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/1-introduction
  • Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/12-3-designing-a-startup-operational-plan

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Operational Planning

Operational planning definition.

What does operational planning mean? Operational planning creates a detailed roadmap based on a strategic plan.The operational plan aligns timelines, action items and key milestones that finance or the business needs to complete to execute on the strategic plan. In this way, an operational plan outlines the organization’s key objectives and goals and clarifies how the organization will achieve them.

During the operational planning process, finance or the business responsibilities are described in detail based on the timeline for the operational plan. The timeframe should depend on typical organizational velocity; creating an annual operational plan is a fluid, changing process, so keeping clarity and collaboration is vital for success.

A well-conceived business operational plan keeps team members collaborating smoothly, ensures everyone knows what needs to be done and what their part in it is, and guides critical decisions about long-term strategy.

Key steps of operational planning

  • Define the goal or vision for the operational plan clearly
  • Analyze and identify key business stakeholders, resources and budgets team members, budgets, and resources
  • Consistently track and inform team members and stakeholders on progress
  • Adapt the operational plan to wider company goals as needed

What Is Operational Planning?

What is operational planning for finance or the business? Operational planning is the result of a team or department working to execute a strategic plan. It is a future-oriented process that maps out department goals, capabilities, and budgets to promote the success of team-based activities designed to support the strategic plan.

Operational business plans are most effective when there is buy-in from the entire team or department, ensuring issues are reported, goals identified and timelines get delivered,, and business collaboration is more effective. When communication across finance and the business exists, operational plans work even more efficiently to ensure that the entire organization reaches its goals.

An example of operational planning would be a manufacturer creating a plan to increase revenue by 30%. Finance partners with sales, the marketing team, operations and other key business areas to align on the strategies needed to support revenue growth and achieve business goals together. Another operational planning example might be a brand looking to introduce a new product. It would need to leverage and expand existing capabilities, harness new tools, and create a roadmap for doing so.

Other operational planning examples in management include mapping business or production output to meet other new goals, planning for new or expanded solutions, sales and operational planning, providing a roadmap or increased clarity surrounding business goals, or creating a strategy for increased business partnership.

Strategic Planning vs Operational Planning

There is a difference between strategic planning, tactical planning, and operational planning. However, strategic, tactical, and operational planning need to be considered together and build upon one another.

What is a strategic plan?

A strategic plan describes the high-level goals, long-term vision, and organizational mission, usually over the next three to five years. It also details the major projects or initiatives that will happen to meet them, and how the organization will measure the goals, broadly. This is a big picture view of goals, but it can’t really show a team how to achieve those goals step-by-step.

What is an operational plan ?

An operational plan (also known as an operations plan, work plan, or operation plan) is a detailed outline of what a team or department will focus on in the immediate future—typically within the upcoming year. The operational plan answers questions about things like weekly goals and tasks, such as what they are generally, what they will achieve, who will do them, and how often.

What is a tactical plan?

Tactical planning is a step organizations or teams sometimes take after they create strategic and operational plans. The idea is to break the plans into smaller goals and objectives, to define them and determine which steps and actions will be most effective in achieving them. In other words, the operational plan may just have set a goal or task for person A about goal 1, but a tactical plan might set forth the detailed steps person A will need to execute every week.

Tactical planning and operational planning differ in the kinds of questions they ask. Operational plans ask how the team should do something so they can both adhere more broadly to the organizational mission and specific strategic goals. Tactical plans ask specific questions about how to accomplish strategic and operational goals. They are the most microscopic version of planning.

In summary, a strategic plan is a business-level, long-term strategy plan over the next three to five years. It is a visionary plan, the big picture. Its focus is not on implementation. An operational plan is smaller in timeline and both scope, and the goal of operational planning is both to describe a more granular view of how to achieve strategic goals and to focus on implementation in the form of weekly actions, specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), etc. A tactical plan is the narrowest view that is focused on implementation only, and things like daily tasks for one person or a small team and smaller goals.

Strategic and operational planning work together; operational planning is an important part of a whole strategy. Tactical planning helps teams achieve their strategic and operational planning goals.

The goal of an operational plan is to give particular tasks to specific departments, not the company as a whole, whereas it is strategic vs operational planning that sets forth long-term goals for the next three to five years.

What is the Operational Planning Process?

Going through the operational planning cycle, keep these best practices and operational planning techniques in mind.

Research and Identify Goals

The goal of an operational plan and its creation process should be to address some foundational questions:

  • Start with the strategic plan: how will it shape the actions we take?
  • What is the budget? How will it compare to previous years?
  • What is the current status, considering budget, resources, and team members? What is the goal status in one, two, three years, etc.?
  • How can the team practically achieve the goal? What operational planning methodology informs the approach? What are the operational planning tools we will use?
  • What benchmarks should be used to assess our progress? They might include 5-star reviews, customer service cases closed, launch deadlines met, number of goods manufactured, new customers acquired, revenue increases, etc.

Ask team members the questions, and prioritize responses based on how difficult they are to execute, and how critical.

Visualize the Operational Plan

Make sure the vision for the plan is clearly articulated. Clearly defined goals, charts and visualizations, and project management software can help offer a high-level view of tasks and progress for all stakeholders. Identify which operational business planning techniques and tools will work best for achieving the organization’s goals.

Assign People and Budget

The budgeting process in operational planning consists of assigning tasks and allocating resources and budget for team members to complete them. Each piece of the budget should map out to a financial goal in the operational plan with corresponding timetables and deliverables.

Tracking and Informing Progress

Build out a reporting process that corresponds to the clear objectives with goals, targets, deliverables, resource allocation, and timetables in the operational plan. This way the stakeholders can report progress as the plan moves forward.

Adjust the Operational Plan as Needed

A well-conceived operational plan should allow you to understand precisely which activities and aspects of the plan failed to perform. This in turn allows the team to pivot, involve new team members as needed, and continue to the next benchmark with a refined operational plan.

Consider the Right Indicators

Use key performance metrics or indicators that are predictive, not just lagging indicators. You need some lagging indicators such as past sales or attendance figures, but leading indicators such as market trends should also contribute to both reporting progress and adjusting the operational plan.

What Should Operational Planning Include?

Approaches to operational planning vary, but each team has as its main objective producing a functional operational plan that reflects a practical approach to the organization’s mission and strategic plan.

What should an operational plan include? This strategic document should plan all of the daily processes and operations that a business and its teams or departments including marketing, recruitment, and finance need to do to achieve company goals.

A well-defined operational plan should ensure that each manager and employee understands what their specific responsibilities are, and how and when to execute them.

The operation plan itself should have several components:

  • A title page. This summarizes the operational plan.
  • An executive summary. This provides a few sentences with a rough idea of the overall plan and its basic sections.
  • Mission and objectives. This section defines the organization’s broader mission and objectives. It also describes goals and milestones for the coming year that relate to the operational plan.
  • KPIs. Evaluate metrics and KPIs that will measure results.
  • Financial summary. This offers an overview and a financial breakdown of all projects included in the operational plan to demonstrate there is sufficient capital to execute the plan.
  • Hiring plan. Determine how many monthly/quarterly team members to hire across different departments.
  • Key assumptions and risks. Provide this risk analysis so mitigation can be performed.
  • Next steps. Suggest next steps, if any.

What are the Steps in Operational Planning?

The purpose of the operational planning process is not to generate new goals or plans, but to create an operational plan in support of existing strategic goals:

Start with a strategic plan

Create the strategic plan first. Before considering immediate tasks and day-to-day details, it’s important to see the long-term vision and goals. As the leadership team creates the strategic plan, they determine the position of the organization and develop its strategy. They should also monitor the strategic plan, and adjust it as needed.

Sharpen the scope

Narrow the scope of the operational plan to a department, team, or focus area to ensure it is detail-oriented and targeted. The size of the organization determines the scope of your operational plan. In other words, you start big with the strategic plan, and then narrow down to the operational plan and the focus area of the team who will execute it—and then create various supporting action plans for execution.

Identify key stakeholders

Identify stakeholders in the operational planning process before creating an operational plan. The team members who create the operational plan should lead and inform others around the operational plan, so you’ll need to know who they are before execution.

Create the operational plan

Your operational plan sets forth the timeframe, the goals to achieve, and explains the actions the team will take to achieve those goals on time. It must include objectives, deliverables, quality standards (if any), desired outcomes, operating budget, staffing and resource requirements, and progress and monitoring information.

For example:

An organization’s strategic plan sets forth the goal of the marketing team increasing brand awareness by at least 10% in the next year. This will mean increased engagement with potential customers and more eyes on new marketing materials.

This will require support from the design team, who will have new goals: update the website and create new promotional materials. To achieve those goals, they will collaborate with the development team on the update and hire social media engagement team members. The team will use software and management tools to report and track their progress.

Share the operational plan

Share the operational plan with key stakeholders so they understand mission critical goals and the daily tasks that support them. Track progress in real-time for best results. This also allows you to update the operational plan and report on progress as needed to team members and stakeholders. Like project planning, operational planning is never a one-and-done task, but remains a continuous process.

Why is Operational Planning Important?

At the organizational level, project success demands a strong operational plan. Chaos and confusion often reign without an operational plan, as budgets rise and team members lose sight of tasks and deadlines.

The importance of operational planning is in the creation of a single source of truth that enables comprehensive understanding of mission, strategic goals, and how to achieve them. An operational plan helps teams identify areas that cause lack of clarity, missed revenue generation opportunities, inefficient strategies, or areas of reduced business partnership.

What are the Benefits of Operational Planning?

The advantages of operational planning can impact organizations of any size. An operational plan helps teams reach strategic goals by connecting teams and their individual tasks to company goals. A detail-oriented operational plan has many benefits.

It clarifies organizational goals. Operational planning helps leadership define responsibilities, daily tasks, and activities in detail. It also sets out how individual team members support overall department and organizational goals and defines outcomes for them to measure daily tasks against.

It also boosts team productivity. Operational planning enhances efficiency, productivity, and profits by ensuring employees in each department and across the company know their daily responsibilities and objectives.

Operational planning disadvantages include creating an operational plan based on human error, or whose success is overly dependent upon effective coordination of diverse cross-functional teams. Singular focus only on coordination and not connecting the business is a primary disadvantage of implementing an operations planning process.

Who is Responsible for Operational Planning?

Create an operational plan at the department or team level to best precisely capture the roles and tasks. At a larger organization, an operational plan might even be specific to a particular initiative—much like a detailed tactical or work plan.

There several considerations that determine who creates operational plans:

  • Scope. For every activity, the operational plan includes the who, what, and when and must be laser-focused on the initiative itself and the team. Watch to ensure scope is not too broad.
  • Timeline. An operational plan should cover a quarter, six months, or a fiscal year, depending on organizational speed and velocity.
  • Stakeholders. To accurately predict what work to include in the plan, ensure operational planning stakeholders stay close to the work. Finance must unit the business from tactical details to strategic execution.

Typically, the operational plan is the realm of middle-management, in contrast to the top-down execution style from the C-suite the strategic plan receives. Its scope is also narrower and as routine tasks are mapped out, which continuously evolves Changes to the strategic plan will be less frequent.

Given the focus on day-to-day activities, allocation of resources, and tasks, middle-managers are often best-suited to map out and implement the operational plan.

Does Planful Help With Operational Planning?

Yes. Planful’s Continuous Planning platform unites the demand for structured planning originating in finance with the business need for dynamic planning. Planful empowers organizations to make smarter decisions more confidently, rapidly, and strategically and ensures the data collection process for operational planning isn’t a time-consuming, manual process.

Use Planful to build collaborative financial plans that align resources with strategic objectives. Adjust and pivot as business conditions change, model hundreds of different scenarios reliably, and turn annual plans into quarterly or monthly rolling forecasts, all based on what the organization needs now.

Find out more about Planful’s Operational Planning solution here.

Get Started with Planful

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Operational Plan: What is it & How to Create it? (Free Template Included)

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Want to create an operational plan to ensure smooth implementation of daily activities of your business? No worries, we have got you covered. Read on…

Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. ~  Richard Cushing

Running a business is quite similar to sailing a ship! You have to make sure that every aspect is working in the correct motion for you to stay afloat. Can you sail if you have no clear vision of where you’re headed, your destination, or how you will get there?

To answer these questions, you might need to create an intuitive  operational plan  for your business which would work as a lighthouse to guide you through the way and highlight any upcoming risks that could arise in the near future.

An operational plan lucidly describes the business vision and mission! This document is coherently chalked out for the day-to-day running of any business and outlines the operations related to finance, recruitment, marketing, and other resources required for a successful company.

However, crafting such documents can be time-consuming! Therefore, we decided to create a free plug-and-play operational plan template for your team! But before we hop onto our awesome template, let us first understand what exactly is an operation plan and what to include in such documents.

Read on…

What is an Operational Plan? (Definition)

An operational plan is a strategic document that outlines all the planning related to daily operations and processes required for running a successful business. It entails all the activities that different teams or departments like recruitment, marketing, and finance, need to perform to achieve company goals and objectives.

The main objective of a well-defined operational plan ensures each manager and employee knows their specific responsibilities, as well as how they should execute them within a definite timeline.

An employee creating checklist for operational plan

Why is an Operational Plan Important?

The whole point of operational planning is to see the effect of your operations on the business’s working in real-time, so you know exactly when to execute your major strategies.

An operational plan helps you identify areas that are not generating enough revenue or are causing losses, and then assists you with formulating the necessary changes. This document also plays a crucial role in keeping all key stakeholders, management, and board members on the same page.

Everyone needs to be aligned with the company’s mission, goals, risks, hiring needs, financial projections, key performance indicators (KPIs), etc. An operational plan will help every department focus on their contribution to the larger vision by bringing all leading members together under one roof!

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Read more:  Operational Efficiency: Definition, Importance & Ways to Improve it!

How to Create an Operational Plan? Follow these Steps!

Step 1. create a title page.

While writing an operational plan, the first thing to do is to create a title page for it. This provides all the information about the topic at a single glance.

Here, you will include the title of your document, the registered name of your company, the designation, and the name of the person who creates the document.

Step 2. Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary refers to a section that deals with what a topic is all about in a brief manner. This is to ensure that your readers have a rough idea of the content and encourage them to read on.

In this section, you emphasize the gist of your overall plan and provide a concise explanation of all the important sections in a few sentences.

Step 3. Define Mission and Objectives

Define your organization’s mission and determine your company’s goals and objectives.

Ask yourself what the company is trying to accomplish over the next year and what the major goals and milestones are that support the need for this operational plan.

Describe the company mission, vision, and the reasons this plan is important. Have there been changes in the competitive landscape? Have you raised a round of capital?

Doing this will help you evaluate and measure your company’s performance against your missions and objectives and see how well you are doing in terms of achieving or meeting your goals.

Step 4. Provide Key Performance Indicators

In this section, you can break down each part of your business by evaluating all the major KPIs and metrics involved in measuring your results.

Provide proof of the importance of the operational plan by sharing key numbers that support the ideas in this document.

Step 5. Include a Financial Summary

The next section to be included in your operational plan is the financial summary. Here, you can give an overview of all the projects that will be included during the operational plan and include its financial breakdown. Make sure that there is enough capital to execute this plan.

Step 6. Create a Hiring Plan

Your company will have different hiring needs for each department, therefore, it is essential that you create a hiring plan to decide how many team members will be hired across different departments on a monthly/quarterly basis.

Step 7. Determine the Key Assumptions & Risks

No plan is ever free from risks and problems, so it’s important that you determine the risks to the business and address how the company could work towards mitigating those risks.

This will help your employees be prepared for any possible and potential risks and problems that may arise over the course of their projects.

Step 8. Include the Next Steps

Now that you have included all the major sections, it becomes crucial that you mention what’s going to happen next. Share the next steps, which could include the approval process, updates and reporting time frames, etc.

Step 9. Proofread

The last and final step is to proofread your document and ensure that all the major points are intact and the message is properly conveyed.

Check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, typos, or poorly constructed sentences. Make a colleague or another person go through your proposal to double-check everything.

Read more:   Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): What, Types, and How to Write?

Key Benefits of Creating Your Operational Plan Documentation on Bit.ai

To create an effective operational plan, you need a proficient tool that can help you create, share, and collaborate with stakeholders and work efficiently. This is where Bit comes in!

Bit.ai: Document collaboration platform

Bit serves as a central hub where collaborators, content, and communications can be accessed in one all-inclusive document. Managers can use Bit to create an operational plan document, collaborate with the team in real-time, and store all product assets in one place for easy and fast access.

Whether your team is creating the operational plan documents, project documentation, status report, release notes , roadmap, project charter , product requirements, API documentation, product launch marketing documents, pitch decks, business plan, SWOT analysis, competitive research, project management plan, etc, they can easily add spreadsheets, Slideshares, Google Slides, YouTube videos, PDFs, maps, charts, graphs, and more to your documents and make them visually stunning.

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Organization of information:   Organizational information is often scattered in cloud storage apps, emails, Slack channels, and more. Bit brings all your information in one place by allowing you to organize information in Workspaces and folders. Bring all your documents, media files, and other important company data in one place.

Brand consistency: Focus on the content and let Bit help you with the design and formatting. Bit documents are completely responsive and look great on all devices. With amazing templates and themes, Bit docs provide you with the type of brand and design consistency which is unheard of in the documentation industry

Smart search:  Bit has very robust search functionality that allows anyone to search and find any files, images, documents, etc quickly and easily across all of their workspaces. Users can search their digital assets using keywords, titles, descriptions, or tags. They can even search for files based on their source. (i.e., YouTube).

Media Integrations:  Companies use an average of 34 SaaS apps! No wonder why most of our time is spent hopping from one app to the next, looking for information. This is why Bit.ai integrates with over 100+ popular applications (YouTube, Typeform, LucidChart, Spotify, Google Drive, etc) to help teams weave information in their documents beyond just text and images.

Recommended power links and files you can add to your operational plan template:

  • Google Sheets, OneDrive Excel, Airtable
  • Social Media posts
  • YouTube, Vimeo
  • Draw.io, Lucidcharts
  • Sketchfab, Figma, Marvel
  • PDFs, PowerPoint in Google Drive/OneDrive

Sharing : Bit documents can be shared in a live state meaning that all changes that you make to the document will update in real-time. If you are sharing your documents with clients, they will always get your most up-to-date changes. You can even embed Bit documents on any website or blog.

Tons of other features:  Bit has a plethora of amazing features like document tracking, cloud-upload, templates, and themes, document locking, document expiration, and much more, making it a well-rounded documentation tool.

Bit provides a common workplace for project members to collaborate, document, share their knowledge, brainstorm ideas, store digital assets, and innovate together. The best part is that this knowledge is safely secured in your workspaces and can be shared (or kept private) with anyone in your organization or the public!

Here are some of the man benefits of using Bit:

  • Collaborate in real-time
  • Interlink operational plan documents and other documents
  • Create fully responsive documents
  • Create private operational plans only visible to yourself or your team
  • Track engagement on shared operational plans with consultants, partners, etc.

Read more:  Business Development Plan: What Is It And How To Create A Perfect One?

  • Operational Plan Template

To make the process of creating your operational plan documentation easier, we have created a ready-made operational plan template for you! Check it out below:

How to Use the Operational Plan Template with Bit

The process of creating an operational plan on Bit is insanely easy! Just follow these four simple steps to create your document quickly:

Step 1: Create a Bit Account

Go the home page of  Bit.ai  and click on Get Started for Free or Sign Up to get started. Enter your  email address  to sign up. Once in, you can create your personal profile.

Step 2: Create a Workspace

Workspaces are where the work gets done. Click on the  ‘Create Workspace’  button on the right. A popup will show up prompting you to add a name for your new workspace.  

You can create a workspace around a team, department, large project, client, partner, etc. Inside each workspace, you can create an unlimited amount of Bit documents and access your content library (storage area for all of your digital assets – web links, files, cloud files, rich embeds, etc.).

Step 3: Add Team Members

Bit allows your team members to collaborate in real-time and get work done. Collaboration starts at the workspace level.

You create private workspaces by default. However, you can invite others to join you inside of a workspace and collaborate together with the knowledge, projects, documents, and content inside of the workspace.

Step 4: Create Your Desired Document

Once you are in the workspace, click on the ‘ Create New’  button. Select  ‘From Template’  in the dropdown. A pop up will display allowing you to select a template from the gallery.

In the search box on the top left corner, you can search for an “operational plan template”. Once your desired template pops up, click on it and click on the  “Use Template ” button on the bottom right corner.

That’s it! Your document is ready for use!

Few more templates you might be interested in:

  • SWOT Analysis Template
  • Transition Plan Template
  • Scope of Work Template
  • Business Plan Template
  • Status Report Template
  • Competitor Research Template
  • Training Manual Template
  • Project Proposal Template
  • Company Fact Sheet
  • Executive Summary Template
  • Pitch Deck Template

🎥Watch this video to learn more👇

Over to You!

Operational plans bring accountability into your everyday tasks. They help you analyze the performance of your business, goals, strategies and identify the resources required to achieve those targets. These documents are a great way of managing other performance measures too like team efficacy, staff optimization, or the number of employees achieving beyond their targets.

Bit is a great tool to manage all essential resources associated with creating an operations plan. It brings all stakeholders under one roof for the smooth execution of the plan. If you need any help with the operational plan template or want to know how Bit can help your business, let us know by tweeting us @bit_docs. Cheers!

Further reads: 

How to Write an Operations Manual?

How to Create a Killer Sales Plan Document?

How to Create a Product Plan the Right Way?

What is an Implementation Plan & How to Create One?

How to Create a Strategic Process Improvement Plan?

How to Create a Procurement Management Plan: Step by Step Guide

How To Make A Full Proof Business Plan?

How To Create a Partnership Marketing Plan?

How to Create a Clear Transition Plan for your Business?

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Scope of Work: What is it & How to Create it? (Template Included)

Project Charter: What is it & How to Write it Perfectly? (Template Included)

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How to Write an Operations Plan Section of your Business Plan

An Operations Plan Template

Free Operations Plan Template

Ayush Jalan

Operations Plan Section

Your business plan is an elaborate set of instructions stating how to run your business to achieve objectives and goals. Each section describes a part of the process of reaching your desired goal. Similarly, the operations plan section of your business plan explains the production and supply of your product.

An operations plan is formed to turn plans into actions. It uses the information you gathered from the analysis of the market , customers, and competitors mentioned in the previous parts of your business plan and allows for the execution of relevant strategies to achieve desired results.

Operations Plan Template

Need help writing an operations plan? Get our proven plan template.

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In this article, you will learn how to create an operations plan, its key elements, and an example to help get started drafting one for your business plan.

What Is an Operations Plan?

An operations plan is an in-depth description of your daily business activities centered on achieving the goals and objectives described in the previous sections of your business plan. It outlines the processes, activities, responsibilities of various departments and the timeframe of the execution.

The operations section of your business plan explains in detail the role of a team or department in the collective accomplishment of your goals. In other words, it’s a strategic allocation of physical, financial, and human resources toward reaching milestones within a specific timeframe.

A well-defined operational plan section of your business plan should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for a specific task or department?
  • What are the tasks that need to be completed?
  • Where will these operations take place?
  • When should the tasks be completed? What are the deadlines?
  • How will the tasks be performed? Is there a standard procedure?
  • How much is it going to cost to complete these tasks?

An Operations Plan Answers

How to Write an Operations Plan Section?

Creating an operational plan has two major stages, both addressing different aspects of your company. The first stage includes the work that has been done so far, whereas the second stage describes it in detail.

1. Development Phase

Development Phase

In this stage, you mention what you’ve done to get your business operations up and running. Explain what you aim to change and improvise in the processes. These are the elements your development section will contain:

Production workflow

: Explain all the steps involved in creating your product. This should be a highly informative, elaborate description of the steps. Here, you also mention any inefficiencies that exist and talk about the actions that need to be taken to tackle them.

Supply chains

Quality control, 2. manufacturing phase.

Manufacturing Phase

The development stage acquaints the reader with the functioning of your business, while the manufacturing stage describes the day-to-day operation.

This includes the following elements:

Outline of daily activities:

Tools and equipment:, special requirements:, raw materials:, productions:, feasibility:, why do you need an operations plan.

An operations plan is essentially an instruction manual about the workings of your business. It offers insight into your business operations. It helps investors assess your credibility and understand the structure of your operations and predict your financial requirements.

An operations plan reflects the real-time application of a business plan.

Internally, an operations plan works as a guide, which helps your employees and managers to know their responsibilities. It also helps them understand how to execute their tasks in the desired manner—all whilst keeping account of deadlines.

The operations plan helps identify and cut the variances between planned and actual performance and makes necessary changes. It helps you visualize how your operations affect revenue and gives you an idea of how and when you need to implement new strategies to maximize profits.

Advantages of Preparing an Operations Plan:

Offers clarity:, contains a roadmap:, sets a benchmark:, operations plan essentials.

Now that you have understood the contents of an operations plan and how it should be written, you can continue drafting one for your business plan. But before doing so, take a look at these key components you need to remember while creating your operational plan.

  • Your operations plan is fundamentally a medium for implementing your strategic plan. Hence, it’s crucial to have a solid strategic plan to write an effective operations plan.
  • Focus on setting SMART goals and prioritizing the most important ones. This helps you create a clear and crisp operations plan. Focusing on multiple goals will make your plan complicated and hard to implement.
  • To measure your goals, use leading indicators instead of lagging indicators. Leading indicators is a metric that helps you track your progress and predict when you will reach a goal. On the other hand, lagging indicators can only confirm a trend by taking the past as input but cannot predict the accomplishment of a goal.
  • It is essential to choose the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) . It is a good practice to involve all your teams while you decide your KPIs.
  • An operations plan should effectively communicate your goals, metrics, deadlines, and all the processes.

Now you’re all set to write an operations plan section for your business plan . To give you a headstart, we have created an operations plan example.

Operations Plan Example

Operations plan by a book publishing house

Track and Accomplish Goals With an Operations Plan

Drafting the operations plan section of your business plan can be tricky due to the uncertainties of the business environment and the risks associated with it. Depending on variables like your market analysis, product development, supply chain, etc., the complexity of writing an operations plan will vary.

The core purpose here is to put all the pieces together to create a synergy effect and get the engine of your business running. Create an effective operations plan to convey competence to investors and clarity to employees.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What role does the operations plan play in securing funding for a business.

The operations plan defines the clear goals of your business and what actions will be taken on a daily basis to reach them. So, investors need to know where your business stands, and it will prove the viability of the goals helping you in getting funded.

What are the factors affecting the operations plan?

  • The mission of the company
  • Goals to be achieved
  • Finance and resources your company will need

Can an operations plan be created for both start-up and established businesses?

Yes, both a startup and a small business needs an operations plan to get a better idea of the roadmap they want for their business.

About the Author

operational plan development business

Ayush is a writer with an academic background in business and marketing. Being a tech-enthusiast, he likes to keep a sharp eye on the latest tech gadgets and innovations. When he's not working, you can find him writing poetry, gaming, playing the ukulele, catching up with friends, and indulging in creative philosophies.

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How to create an operating plan: Examples with template

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In today’s business environment, clear and consistent communication enables your team to have a shared understanding of the status and direction of your product. To this end, an operating plan collects your strategic objectives in one place, allowing everyone to grasp what they need to do, and how the product will remain successful.

How To Create An Operating Plan: Examples With Template

In this article you will learn what a product operating plan is, how it can help you achieve your objectives, and best practices for effectively implementing one within your project team.

Table of contents

What is an operating plan and why is it important for product managers, what goes into an operating plan, how to develop an effective operating plan, implementing and monitoring an operating plan, common challenges and how to overcome them, operating plan example, operating plan template.

A product operating plan is a document that outlines the strategic actions your team will take to achieve a specific goal. Most operating plans only cover a period of one to two years and serve a crucial role in the product development process . You can expect your operating plan to include budgets, resource allocation, timelines, and key performance indicators (KPIs).

The operating plan moves away from the big picture vantage point of vision and strategy, towards a more granular and tactical plan for the execution of product strategy.

The operating plan helps product managers assess the impact of changing business priorities and customer needs on the product roadmap . Product managers can use the operating plan as a tool to factor in and communicate changes across the organization, allowing the product development process to remain agile.

An operating plan seeks to outline your product strategy to guide decisions and deliver on your stated goals. The operating plan comprises of the following:

  • Product goals and objectives — Define the product goals and objectives based on your product vision. Objectives should have clear deadlines and measurable outcomes that align with the business strategy
  • Milestone based plan — Create a milestone oriented plan to map your goals and objectives that can be tracked and measured against target
  • Structure of team, budget, resource, and timeline — Design your team, resources for the project, and budget allocation in order to work on the scope of the project and adhere to the milestones
  • Product metrics to measure progress — Identify and create the product metrics which can be used to measure the success of the product once it goes live to customers
  • Status check and interactive corrections — Iterate to customer requirements and watch for opportunities to make changes to the product

To better understand what goes into an effective operating plan we will breakdown each step and discuss best practices for approaching the following:

Identifying the product goals and objectives

Aligning with the strategy and vision of the product, selecting and tracking the product metrics.

The product goals derive from the product vision and strategy. To define these you should:

  • Break your vision into executable tasks (include the ‘what’ and not the ‘how’)
  • Ensure consistency with the product vision
  • Make you have a way to measure success

In order to align with the product strategy and vision, one should:

  • Infuse the product strategy and vision into all the steps of the product life cycle
  • Align the product vision with customer and business needs, as well as the values and principles of the company
  • Check alignment and correct any deviations with the vision

Identifying and tracking the right metrics is key to the success of any product and therefore the product team. Below are the steps to identify and track the right product metrics:

  • Identify the goal of your business and business strategy
  • Ask the right questions to help determine which goals would help track the success of your product against the business goals
  • Assign metrics as acquisition, engagement, retention, revenue, or referral
  • Create a platform to visualize and track the metrics

A product operating plan provides you with an instrument to ensure your product will deliver on the stated vision, strategy, and goals. However, the success of your operating plan depends upon your ability to manage and monitor it throughout the course of the product lifecycle. Proper management of the operating plan includes:

Tracking success

Adjusting and/or pivoting course, keeping stakeholders aligned.

You can measure the success of a product operating plan by developing product metrics which allow you to quantify and track the progress of the plan. Also, having a visual representation of the metrics allows you to make better interpretations and display your progress visually.

Product metrics let you determine whether a product operates to plan or not. When your team performs as planned, there’s no need for further adjustment.

However, when the team misses, or finds themselves falling short of the agreed upon target, you need to take corrective action and pivot course.

Here, corrective action could come from aligning or augmenting resources, changing the budget allocation, or moving around the tasks based on the dependencies in the plan.

Because the operating plan has many moving parts and stakeholders involved, you need to ensure that you have the buy-in from all the stakeholders involved.

The best practices for ensuring stakeholder buy-in include:

  • Communication — Constant and consistent communication with all stakeholders will allow all everyone to be on board and aligned with the operating plan
  • Transparency — Being transparent with all stakeholders in terms of progress updates and any challenges/roadblocks that crop up during the course of executing the operating plan will ensure all stakeholders are are able to provide their full support
  • Status updates — Providing status updates to leadership and obtaining regular status communication from other stakeholder teams will ensure everyone remains aware of the state of your product

As with anything, challenges will arise while working with a product operating plan. Rather than allowing these to grow into a bigger problem, you should work to mitigate following issues before they impact the health of your product:

Lack of authority

Communication challenges, visibility restraints.

Similar to the product manager role, the product operations or operating plan team has to work without direct authority, or people management responsibilities. You should be aware of this while trying to push the team towards your deliverables and use the operating plan as an influencing tool.

Communication is key to maintaining the flow of delivery across the product lifecycle. Insufficient communication or communication gaps can result in teams and stakeholders missing out on necessary changes or tasks. These knowledge gaps could result in misalignment, which impacts the product delivery timelines, as well as the scope.

Since the product operations team is a level above the product management, the product operations team may have limited visibility of the roadmap, customer needs, or the technical architecture/design information.

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Below is an example of an operating plan that provides an illustration of what the process might look like for you. The operating plan focuses on two main steps:

Product vision and strategy

Product operating plan components.

To provide a mobile based shopping experience for a retail grocery store shopper (in addition to in store shopping which is currently available)

Product goal(s):

  • Complete an end-to-end customer journey on a mobile app (viewing inventory by categories, adding to cart or wish list, checkout, and completing payment)
  • Seamless experience in terms of navigation on the site, as well as understanding the pricing and assortment to the mobile platform users
  • Additional benefits of the mobile shopping experience in terms of reordering items, mobile based return/refund for eligible items
  • Discuss the scope of work needed to deliver complete functionality in terms of the mobile shopping experience to the mobile platform users
  • Create the plan for delivering the identified scope (e.g., to have the first version of the mobile grocery shopping platform released to customer within the next six months)
  • Identify the data engineering needs to provide a seamless mobile platform experience for grocery shopping (e.g., identify what categories of products will be available for user selection in the first version of mobile application and how many concurrent users can shop on the platform)
  • Determine the structure of the team and resourcing needs to deliver to scope and planned timelines (e.g., scrum team would develop the mobile platform in terms of frontend and backend and user experience engineers)
  • Identify the success metrics for the product (e.g., how many users were activated on the mobile platform, how many users could complete one successful workflow of the mobile grocery shopping experience, or the time taken to complete a checkout in store checkout)

To help you get started on your own operating plan, use this template . The template includes all the key parameters that need to be tracked and mobilized in order to make the product operating plan successful.

The product operating plan is a key component of the product development and delivery lifecycle. Having a product operating plan allows you to outline the tactical steps and ensure successful product delivery and tracking of your product.

The product operating plan also fosters alignment with the vision, stakeholder buy-in, and sets the product and the product organization up for success.

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Business Plan Vs Strategic Plan Vs Operational Plan—Differences Explained

Female entrepreneur sitting within a home studio drafting up individual plans for her business.

Noah Parsons

5 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

Many business owners know and understand the value of a business plan.  The business plan is a key component  of the startup and fundraising process and serves as a foundation for your organization. However, it only tells part of the story. To get the whole picture and have a framework on which to build your business you also need a strategic plan and an operational plan.

  • What is a business plan?

In its simplest format, a  business plan  describes the “who” and the “what” of your business. It lays out who is running the business and what the business does. It describes the products and services that your business sells and who the customers are. 

  • What is a strategic plan?

A  strategic plan  looks beyond the basics of a business plan to explain the “how”. It explains the long-term goals of the business and how it expects to achieve those goals over the long term. A strategic plan explores future products and services that your business might offer and target markets that you might expand into. The plan explains your strategy for long-term growth and expansion.

  • What is an operational plan?

An operation plan zooms into the details of your business to explain how you are going to  achieve your short-term goals . It is the “when” and “where” of your planning process. The operational plan covers the details of marketing campaigns, short-term product development, and more immediate goals and projects that will happen within the next year.

  • What is the difference between a strategic plan and a business plan?

First, let’s look at the difference between a business and a strategic plan. For review:

A  business plan  covers the “who” and “what” of the business. The  strategic plan  gives us long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there, providing a long-term view.

In broader terms, the business plan tells us who by showing us:

  • Who is running the business? What makes them qualified? What do they bring to the table that adds value?
  • Who is the competition? What do they offer and what makes you different?
  • Who is your customer? How big is the market? Where are they? What do they want and how will you give it to them? Also, how will you connect with your market?

The business plan answers the “what” by telling us:

  • What the business provides and how it’s provided. 
  • Product, services, and operations are all explained so that readers understand how customer needs are met.

The strategic plan, on the other hand, outlines long term goals and the “how”, focusing on the following:

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

  • Where will the business be in 3, 5, or even 10 years?
  • How will you expand to offer different products and services over time?
  • Will your market and industry change over time and how will your business react to those changes?
  • How will you grow your market and reach new customers?
  • What needs to happen so you can achieve your goals? What resources do you need to get there?
  • How will you measure success? What metrics matter and how will you track them?

So, your business plan explains what you are doing right now. Your strategic plan explains long-term aspirations and how you plan to transition your business from where it is today to where you want it to be in the future. The strategic plan helps you look more deeply into the future and explains the key moves you have to make to achieve your vision.

  • What is the difference between strategic planning and operational planning?

While strategic planning looks at the long term and explains your broad strategies for growth, an operational plan looks at the short term. It explains the details of  what your business is going to do  and when it’s going to do it over the next twelve months or so. An operational plan covers details like:

  • What activities need to happen to achieve your business goals?
  • When will each activity take place, who will do it, and when do you need to reach specific milestones?
  • How will your business operate? What suppliers will you work with? When do you need to have them in place?
  • What marketing campaigns will you run and what will they cost?
  • What investments will you make in your products and services this year?

The bottom line, your operational plan is the short-term action plan for your business. It’s the tasks, milestones, and steps needed to drive your business forward. Typically an operational plan provides details for a 1-year period, while a strategic plan looks at a  3-5 year timeline , and sometimes even longer. The operational plan is essentially the roadmap for how you will execute your strategic plan.

  • How to use your business plan for strategic development and operations

A great business plan can encompass both the basic plans for the business, the long-term strategic plan, and the near-term operational plan. Using a lean planning method, you can tackle all three phases of planning and make the process easy to review and revise as your business grows, changes, and adapts.

Start with a simple plan

The lean planning methodology starts with a simple,  30-minute business plan  that outlines the fundamentals of your business: who you are, what you are doing, and who your customers are. It’s a great way to provide a brief overview of your business.

Expand your plan

From there, you can expand your plan to include your longer-term strategy. Adding greater detail to elements of the plan to explain long-term goals, milestones, and how your products and services will change and expand over time to meet changing market conditions.

Finally, your lean plan will cover  financial forecasts  that include monthly details about the short-term revenue and expenses, as well as longer-term annual summaries of your financial goals, including profitability and potential future loans and investments.

  • Use your business plan to manage your business

Regardless of the type of plan, you are working on, you need a team of players on hand to help you plan, develop, and execute both the operational and strategic plans. Remember, your business needs both to give it a clear foundation and a sense of direction. As well as to assist you with identifying the detailed work that has to happen to help you reach your long-term goals. 

Learn how  LivePlan  can help you develop a business plan that defines your business, outlines strategic steps, and tracks ongoing operations. You can easily share it with your team and all of the right stakeholders, explore scenarios and update your plan based on real-world results. Everything you need to turn your business plan into a tool for growth.

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Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan.

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Operational Plan: Meaning, Example, Steps, Types And Importance

Ayesha is the operations project manager at a radiology informatics organization that intends to open three more imaging centers in…

Operational Plan Meaning

Ayesha is the operations project manager at a radiology informatics organization that intends to open three more imaging centers in different cities. The strategic plan goals for the company involve diversifying the practice, but Ayesha is aware that the details of how such goals will be accomplished won’t be in the strategic plan; they’ll have to be in the operational plan .

Ayesha and her team set about creating a tactical, detail-oriented operational plan to meet the goals outlined in the strategic plan. They chalk out targets for outreach, IT, development, research and staffing.

  • Arjun has to create the overall outreach strategy
  • Mehek’s tasks include deploying the radiology report search engine and upgrading the voice dictation system
  • Mohit is responsible for getting the website and staff credentials database up and running
  • Shruti has to design the online research form for data entry requests
  • Zayed is told to oversee the filling of informatics vacancies at the firm

Every team member’s progress and goal-fulfillment are recorded for each quarter of the fiscal year.

With Ayesha’s leadership and her team’s focused approach, the operational plan put together helps the firm reach important goals in the strategic plan, with the practice even being able to bring on board a new consultant to aid in identifying fresh business opportunities. Theirs is a successful operational plan example .

What Is An Operational Plan?

Types of operational plans, operational planning steps.

Before going into the types of operational plans and their importance, it’s imperative to form a clear understanding of the meaning of an operational plan . Simply put, an operational plan lays out the tasks a business must carry out to reach the desired outcome. More accurately, it’s a blueprint created by a department or a team within an organization that clearly defines the actions that must be taken to fulfill strategic objectives and meet the expectations of senior management. It also adheres to daily or weekly timelines for goal fulfillment.

Let’s consider an operational plan example where an organization is strategically trying to increase its production volume by 50% by the end of the fiscal year. Important considerations in such a strategic plan will be marketing, sales and operations. The manufacturing, financial and logistic components of an operational plan in this scenario will be crucial for boosting production.

It must be remembered that an operational plan and a business plan aren’t the same. This distinction is important to further understand the meaning of an operational plan . Business plans have operations segments, so an operational plan in a business plan is but one component of the entire structure. In other words, having an operational plan in a business plan is likely, not the other way round. Within a business plan, the operational plan section focuses on every step necessary to achieve the business’s objectives.

Having covered the meaning of an operational plan and highlighted its differences from a business plan or a strategic plan, it’s a good idea to consider the different types of operational plans and the steps of operational planning .

There are two types of operational plans : single-use plans and ongoing plans. How are they different? Let’s take a look.

Single-Use Plans

These operational plans are only devised when a particular problem or a time-specific challenge needs to be tackled. For instance, cost-saving measures for a new fiscal year would need a single-use plan.

Ongoing Plans

Such plans are designed with the long-term in mind. They can be applied to future timelines and adapted whenever required. An ongoing plan would be used for strategizing on how to retain a workforce rather than resort to workforce rationalization measures.

Regardless of the type, it’s important to be clear on the steps that lead to an effective operational plan . Let’s examine what these components of an operational plan are.

Put The Strategic Plan In Place

Operational goals are dependent on strategic goals. The importance of the operational plan is indisputable, but the strategic plan must come first, as the operating plan is ultimately a tool for reaching strategic goals.

Pick The Goals That Matter Most

An operating plan example that works will invariably prioritize the most important goals. It’s tough to follow through on complicated plans with too many vague objectives.

Use Performance Metrics

Predictive indicators are crucial in gauging how a project or a team is faring. To this end, it’s always wiser to opt for leading indicators (like excellent customer feedback) rather than lagging indicators (such as the attendee headcount at an event), as leading indicators help identify potential problem areas from beforehand.

Pick KPIs Wisely And Communicate

This should be a team exercise. Outlining the most suitable KPIs for a business is imperative, and so is discussing them with the entire team.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, it’s clear that the importance of operational plans can’t be emphasized enough. There are several reasons why they’re a prominent part of goal-oriented organizations – they enhance productivity, profit margins and give businesses a competitive edge.

The ability to create and execute solid operational plans is a skill of high value. Harappa’s Rise In An Organization program is designed to help ambitious professionals master such skills. With the help of a stellar faculty and 17 dynamic lessons, you’ll learn to lead with influence, inspire trust and get things done. Frameworks and techniques such as The Performance Equation and The Flywheel Effect are designed to help senior professionals manage projects expertly, adapt to situations instinctively and become reliable team players.

The Rise In An Organization pathway is the ticket to facing challenges head-on and influencing decisions masterfully!


What Is the Operational Plan Section of the Business Plan?

Learning what an operation plan is and learning how to make it is something critical to any business. 3 min read

An operation plan section of the business plan is an essential part of any business. Learning what an operation plan is and learning how to make it is something critical to any business. Here are the main things you need to know about an operation plan.

Definition of an Operation Plan

An operation plan is a guiding path for the business to follow in order to achieve all of its goals and objectives described in the general business plan.

The operation plan mainly includes details about the people responsible for completing the required actions, and all the costs and KPIs (key performance indicators) for these actions to be accomplished.

In order for any business to be stable in the long run, the operation plan must be updated regularly in order to ensure the stability of the business.

What Is the Operations Plan Section and How to Properly Make It

The section of the operations plan which is included in the business plan mainly specifies all the physical requirements for the operation of the business. These physical requirements mainly include equipment, facilities, and location.

In order to make a complete business plan , three things need to be clarified to the reader:

  • Everything was done for the business from the start to reach its current position
  • Acknowledgment that you know exactly what should be done for any business to get off the ground
  • Full awareness and understanding of the delivering and manufacturing processes of the service or the product you offer.

Operating Section of the Business Plan: Stage of Development Section

While you're developing the stage of development section, you should begin with the previous procedures that have been taken so far, along with mentioning what is best to be done in the future, it should be as follows:

  • Production workflow : In this, you will describe in detail the exact steps of how your service or your product will be made, along with the acknowledgment of any possible problem that could be faced during the process.
  • In addition, you will include details about how to train the employees to solve any upcoming problem and avoid any risks as much as possible. Along with mentioning any dangerous equipment that will be used, and the proper ways of using and storing these pieces of equipment.
  • Supply chains: In this section you clarify the identity of the suppliers, the prices they offer, and their terms and conditions, In addition to providing the possible alternatives in case it doesn't work out with the current suppliers
  • As an example, in case you are willing to have a specific quality control certificate, like the ISO 9000, you should identify and explain the required procedures.

What Are the Key Components to Include in an Operational Plan Regarding the Business Organization?

Here are the main components to be included in the operational plan:

  • Most of the tasks in the operation plan are carried out by the company's managers and the employees under them, so it is essential that to clarify their identity, describe their qualifications, and describe the jobs and tasks which they will be responsible for.
  • Providing an organizational chart to describe the structural hierarchy of the business.
  • The philosophy and tactics of the company, and the role they play in the development and stability of the business.
  • A statistical measurement of the performance of the employees and managers, and the ways of reward and punishment.
  • Explain the methods that you will use to find the right employees, putting into consideration the required qualifications needed, the job description of each one, and the compensation rates that you will offer.
  • In case the business will need any outside consultants it should be noted, along with the specific functions required from any outsider consultant or employee.

In the end, one could conclude that the success or a failure of a business depends heavily on the quality of the business and operation plan put forward.

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Leading with Intent: Differences Between Working "On" and "In" Your Business How to balance both strategies to achieve maximum success.

By Adam Povlitz • Nov 21, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • It is crucial to distinguish between working 'on' your business, which involves strategy, long-term planning, and vision development, and working 'in' your business, which focuses on operational functions and day-to-day tasks.
  • Business leaders should clearly define their role in relation to the organization's structure, create a leadership style aligned with company objectives, and understand team dynamics.
  • Building a successful business requires a clear vision and setting measurable goals.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a business leader, it's essential to understand the differences between working on and in your business. When discussing working 'on' your business, I refer to strategy, long-term planning, and analysis . These actions involve the development of the overall vision for the organization and how to implement that vision. On the other hand, when discussing working 'in' your business, I'm talking about operational functions such as implementation and day-to-day tasks. This involves taking those actionable steps to bring your vision to life.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Business owners must balance both types of activities to achieve success. Working on your business can provide invaluable insights into potential opportunities to capitalize on or threats to address. At the same time, focusing too much on this type of work could mean neglecting operational tasks necessary for achieving progress toward goals. Equally important is understanding which areas require attention – from customer service practices to employees' daily tasks – so you can ensure everything is running smoothly.

Clearly understanding these differences can help you create a successful plan for your business and ensure everyone is on board with the company's mission and goals. It allows you to evaluate performance objectively and adjust accordingly to reach desired outcomes more efficiently and effectively.

Related: 10 Tips to Go From Employee to Boss, From Franchisees Who Did It

Defining your role as a leader

Business owners must define their role to properly manage the dissimilarities between working on and in the business. Start by studying the existing organizational structure to pinpoint areas that can be enhanced and make any necessary adjustments. Create a leadership style that suits your company's objectives, goals, and values while considering the varying roles and how they collaborate.

Take note of each team member's strengths and weaknesses so you can construct a more productive team setting. Set goals for performance and hold every individual accountable for their actions. This will help uphold exceptional standards throughout the group and guarantee everyone aims to achieve the same target.

Communicate any modifications or fresh initiatives with your team so everyone is well-informed. With this guidance, leaders can devise a prosperous plan for their organization and ensure their staff are heading in the right direction.

Creating a vision and setting goals

Building a successful business requires clear and focused direction. To achieve this, it's crucial to plan and set achievable goals . This involves creating an overall mission statement that outlines the purpose of the company and its objectives. Once this is established, strategies can be developed, and goals can be set with measurable timelines to track progress.

When developing a plan for success, you must consider potential risks or challenges that could arise. Anticipating these issues will help create contingency plans or adjust existing strategies. Furthermore, everyone in the business should understand their role in achieving the outcome - this will ensure better collaboration between team members, contributing significantly towards meeting goals efficiently and effectively.

Related: This new government rule will crush franchising as we know it. Here's what you can do.

Identifying opportunities for improvement

Discovering chances for growth is a critical element of building a business. Leaders must be able to spot places where improvements can be made and then implement the necessary adjustments. Doing so assists in ensuring their team is on track and moving toward objectives.

One way to discover opportunities for improvement is through surveying staff members. Surveys can inform how well leaders understand the organization's mission and values and each person's role in attaining desired results. In addition, surveys offer valuable feedback concerning existing workflow processes or external factors impacting the business, such as customer service issues or product quality challenges.

Business leaders should analyze client feedback and employee performance data to recognize potential areas of improvement. This data offers insight into client expectations, product or service performance, and employee proficiency . This information helps create a plan to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, improve revenue, or streamline procedures.

External elements such as market trends and competitor tactics must also be considered when locating a company's development options. By understanding how industry advancements might influence their company model, business leaders can construct strategies to keep them ahead of the competition while effectively meeting customer requirements.

Evaluating performance and adjusting

For a business to reach its most significant potential, leaders must be willing to evaluate performance and make necessary adjustments proactively. This involves setting clear KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure progress, collect stakeholder feedback, and regularly review strategies against set objectives. It's also important for leaders to remain open-minded to take advantage of changing trends and innovative solutions.

Taking these steps to understand the differences between working "on" and "in" your business ensures you're advancing toward goals and objectives while remaining viable and competitive.

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Executive Officer & President of Anago Cleaning Systems

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  • Business Management & Operations
  • Strategy, Entrepreneurship, & Innovation

Developing an Operational Plan - Explained

Steps in Developing the Operational Plan

operational plan development business

Written by Jason Gordon

Updated at August 2nd, 2023

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Developing an Operational Plan

Below are proposed steps for developing an operational plan:

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1. Develop a concept of business operation.

  • Describe your product/service.
  • Identify the key competitive practices and important players:
  • Key Hires, Suppliers, Intermediaries

2. Acquire Necessary Information

  • Obtain Facts from Research, Field Tests, Experts
  • Be Mathematical Articulate in Formula, patterns, rules

3. Define the Challenges

  • Focus on Major Costs and Expenses
  • Present Achievement Milestones: (6 months, 12 months, 24 months)
  • Show where you will be and what you hope to achieve at that point.
  • Be realistic Don't just say you are going to be huge.

4. Build Plan

  • Organize Resources by Logical Functional Categories
  • Ex. Turn (Turn-over) 20x per year.
  • Convey Tactical Methods (Lots of Math please)
  • Just addition/subtraction, multiplication, and percentages
Back to:  Entrepreneurship

Developing the Concept of Operations

Developing the concept of operations restates the strategic position of the business. It involves explaining your business model and how you intend to transmit value to the intended customer.

Acquire Necessary Information

Use the methods previously discussed (primary and secondary research) to acquire necessary information about your operations. This can be done by studying competitors or like industries. It especially involves communicating with your prospective suppliers, intermediaries, and buyers.

Define the Challenges

From your research, you should be able to identify the key challenges of hurdles for being successful in the industry. Every industry is unique in this way. For example, your industry may have difficult licensing requirements (professional services), regulations (medical or environmental), competition (established product industries), high barriers to entry (high capital costs to enter), etc. Understanding what barriers exist will allow you to more adequately plan to overcome these hurdles.

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