What and where will our business be in one, two, three, five years? What are we doing NOW to get where we want to be? How should we get there? Do we have the resources in terms of machines, people, finances, technology and so on? Do we need to obtain external financing and what type/extent is convenient to us? We could keep going on asking questions as much as we would like our plan to be detailed.Probably the answers to some would need more effort in terms of time and resources than others.The most important factors which determine this preliminary stage of planning is to ensure that weare asking ourselves the right questions, that they are leading our business in the direction wewant it to go. On the other hand, a manager must be aware of asking too many questions that leadnowhere. The objective of this process is to enable the manager to grasp what the target is andthen plan on how to achieve that target. EFFECTIVENESS AND FLEXIBILITY What are the nuts and bolts of an effective and sound strategic business plan that truly deliversthe business targets? The mission, objectives and overall strategy must be determined. Particularattention must be focused on the implementation and evaluation stages that follow the setting ofobjectives and strategies. It is here that a business will succeed or fail. Experience has shown thatat times, a business plan needs to be radically changed after one year, to conform with the ever-changing and volatile business environment. Do not be surprised! This is a healthy experience. Asevery manager knows, rigidly sticking to a particular plan, where the business encloses itself in acocoon, can bring about those looming black clouds of ensuing business failure. Exhibit Apresents the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of good strategic business planning, whilst Exhibit Billustrates the benefits accruing from a properly organised plan that distinguishes one businessfrom another. These benefits ensure that the organisation is homogeneously geared and gluedtowards the ultimate objective of maximising profits. THE ESSENTIALS We must remember that even the best of business plans, which takes many hours to compile, willonly take a few minutes of the reader's time. Perhaps, a cursory glance at the executive summaryand the conclusion will be the main determinants for the success or otherwise of the plan. It is truethat great business ideas backed by superior management techniques will probably succeedwithout any written presentation. But, that minute possibility of failure necessitates extra effort forthat slight edge over the chances of success. In plain words, this means that a strategic businessplan MUST itself be planned! Exhibit C provides a practical guide, showing the essentialrequirements for the success of a strategic business plan. Managers must put themselves in theshoes of those who will read the strategic business plan and who will then subsequently take thedecision, be it the board of directors, the bank manager or a creditor. Thus, what the reader wantsor does not want to know, determines the structure and flow of the plan.