The Business Development Plan

There are five types of companies: those who make things happen; those who think they make things happen; those who watch things happen; those who wonder what happened; and those that didn’t know anything had happened.
- Anonymous

In order to discuss Business Development Planning today, I was asked to travel to White Plains. I live in New York City. It was not a matter of blinking my eyes and appearing in White Plains. I had a number of items to consider getting to White Plains: Should I take the train or rent a car? What time do I have to be in White Plains? How does the mode of transportation affect my schedule? If I rent a car, what route should I take?

Planning is a part of our everyday lives. For most of us, it is not a formal written plan but a serious of small decisions about wardrobe, diet, time management and the like. If I have spent time with my family, accomplished my work, exercised and am not cranky at the end of the day, I call that day a success. Most of us participate in business in order to earn the bread which allows us to get through our personal lives, with the same goal of not being too cranky at the end of the day. Unlike our personal lives, however it is not enough to run a business by making a series of small incremental decisions. Generally, we know the goals are to sell our goods or services and, financially, to have income exceed outflow. It is critical to create a map of how to get there.

Components of the Business Development Plan

Strong business development plans share certain elements. The plan describes a mission to the stakeholders of the business and provides a road map for decision-making. Stakeholders include owners,employees, customers or clients, lenders, suppliers and distributors. The plan considers internal and external forces affecting the business, resources and financial indicia. Set forth below are the major components of a business development plan.

Mission or Executive Summary

This section briefly summarizes the plan.


List the goals of the business in a qualitative manner. For instance, what types of goods or services is the business to provide? Who are the target clients or customers? The business should set some financial goals, e.g., sale of a certain number of units, number of projects, gross revenues, etc.

Human Resources

The plan should list the participants in the business development effort and their roles therein. As a note, this is an area where firms often attempt to force round pegs into square holes, particularly in professional service firms. Recognize that there are many types of roles available in a well-rounded business development effort. For instance, those that are not“people-persons” can write or give seminars. Not everyone is cutout to schmooze and to force everyone to do so is a waste of firm resources (time).


This section of the business development plan should list the services or products offered by the business, last year’s revenues arising out of each product or service and the goal for the coming year. If possible, the plan should also specify the human resources to be devoted to each individual product or service.

SWOT Analysis

In order to develop an effective strategy, the plan should consider external forces, generally uncontrollable, which may impact the business, i.e., opportunities and threats. The plan should also review the business' internal strengths and weaknesses.


Strategy considers the business as a whole and what can or should be done in order to accomplish the goals.


This section lists the firm’s planned business development activities and the budget.

Implementation of the Plan

Although preparation of a business development plan can be a thoughtful and therefore useful exercise, preparation and implementation of the plan are quite different. The plan must not languish on the shelf rather it must be revisited routinely. Results must be tracked and environmental changes monitored. Client interviews or satisfaction surveys are excellent methods by which to evaluate results. Responses to environmental changes must be developed.

Evaluation of the Plan

Periodically,the business development plan must be evaluated in order to insure that the company’s goals, strategies and systems are sound and remain in sync. Each component of the marketing plan should be reviewed and addressed.

Developing a marketing plan is an ongoing process. The road will be bumpy with unexpected curves and dead ends but with proper attention, you will get there.

About The Author

Patti Harris spent 13 years as the Managing Partner of a New York City-based construction law firm; in addition to overseeing the business operations of the firm, she advised clients on office and business management issues.

Learn more about Patti on our About page.