Business Plan Alternatives

Not a fan of the business plan that I talked about last week? As promised, this week we’re providing some business plan alternatives that may work well for your business model.

If you remember from our last post, three things you’ll still need to include a more streamlined approach are the business concept, marketing, and financials. The three approaches we’re sharing in this post don’t include the financials you’ll need, but they help you lay the foundation to move to that next step.


#1 Business Model Canvas with an expanded Value Proposition Design

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool that allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model. It can be used online as a web app or you can download a pdf of the canvas free of charge.

This web app is like a huge drawing board where you can manipulate your ideas into realities into a business model that you can test. You have options to use sticky notes, draw, use colors, sketch alternatives, tell a story, and even learn from the best within the canvas community. If you’re a book reader, there is a book that explains not only the method behind the canvas, but also shares valuable examples.

The building blocks provide a simple and easy way to create this canvas by giving you a unique way of viewing your business plan other than the typical blank piece of paper or a template. The tools isn’t for everyone, but can provide an insightful alternative to the traditional business model.

After the Business Model Canvas was released in 2009, a valuable add on, the Value Proposition Canvas was created to enable entrepreneurs to dig deeper and gain insight into this key element of the Business Model Canvas. A book is forthcoming, but the pdf can be downloaded now.


#2 GrowthWheel®

GrowthWheel® is a tool designed to give a 360 degree perspective that helps an entrepreneur identify and prioritize key challenges in their business – creating a business concept, building customer relations, maintaining profitable operations, and creating a viable organization.

Each tool in GrowthWheel® can be usedindependently as well as together. Unlike the Business Model Generation Canvas, GrowthWheel® is a product licensed to partners like the Kansas SBDC. We in turn have consultants across the network use the model to assist when consulting with your business. If this interests you, we invite you to download the Product Assortment worksheet and Product Value Pricing worksheet examples from GrowthWheel® .

growthwheel model overview graphic



#3 How It Works mapping

When searching for alternatives to the traditional business plan we found a simplified “how it works” approach on the website The Fresh Tilled Soil. The site suggests creatingsomething similar to a ‘how it works’ demo or tour you’ve seen on tons of application websites. It doesn’t need to be big or complicated. One page or a simple diagram often suffices.

For example if we were selling a 3D printer we might use this video as our talking points for a written on page diagram. Or, since Kansas is in the midst of summer mosquito season, we might use these talking points to build a business around selling a better mosquito trap. Pay special attention to the mosquito trap, the narrator does an excellent job using a human persona to explain the core premise of the product.

The key, according to the website, and honestly for any business plan is that the explanation must be so clear that a stranger, having seen your “how it works” model, could describe what you do to another stranger. Sound familiar? We know this is key with your elevator pitch and any time you are talking with a prospect or another individual that can refer business to you.

While neither video we’ve shared provides a full picture of how the product will result in building a business, both serve a good starting points. Working from the product, service, or technology your business has or is creating, using the How It Works approach you then will link these ideas to your customer development process (See diagram below).

how it works graphic


According to How It Works process, by drawing a simple initial diagram you’ll be able to show how your team will need to be aligned to get the product out the door.

The rest involves additional detailed steps of your marketing and sales process. Use simple step-by-step diagrams to show how your customer will be introduced to your business or product and what the various interactions would be along the funnel from stranger to customer (or even repeat customer).

How It Works then suggests showing these diagrams to 5 – 10 of your prospective customers and ask them to explain it back to you. If there are disconnects, fix them and redraw the diagrams. Don’t have any customers yet? Then use friends, family, or our consulting team members at any of our Kansas SBDC centers around the state.


One of our core areas of expertise in the Kansas SBDC network is business planning. Existing businesses turn to us for guidance when expanding their business, identifying new markets, re-organizing to improve profitability, and more. We work with a variety of businesses from manufacturing to professional services, from wholesalers to retailers, through every stage of the business life from start up to final sales. Search “success stories” on our site to hear from our clients.

Contact your local Kansas SBDC to access business planning assistance today.


About our Authors

Logan Hildebrand is an aspiring intern at the Kansas SBDC and is currently attending Washburn University in pursuit of three degrees: business marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. She has a passion for capturing the awes of consumers through social media and marketing, and has been interning at the state office and the Kansas SBDC at WU for the past 2 years in order to develop her experiences. Adapting to the ever-changing field of marketing and social media is a strength of hers, as well as making a delicious cup of coffee. Her dream is to one day open her own coffee shop and continue her marketing aspirations through that venture. Until then, she will be providing this blog with insightful, interesting, and useful posts to help aid in the development of marketing in businesses that need assistance.

Lisa Roberts is the associate state director/marketing and product manager with the Kansas SBDC statewide network. Lisa brings a background of marketing, sales, and media with a Masters in Integrated Marketing Communication to the Kansas SBDC network. She’s been with the team since February 2013. She believes that entrepreneurship is the lifeblood and small business is the backbone of an economy built on free enterprise.


A Family Business Machining Its Way To Success With Strategic Planning

Absolute Dimensions Stephen Brittain

Strategic planning, team training, and belief in employees have Absolute Dimensions machining its way to success.

The timing was right when Mike Rickords and his son-in-law, Stephen Brittain, decided to turn their dream of owning their own machine shop into reality. Mike had decades of experience working for a large aerospace manufacturer, and Stephen had held various positions from CNC operator to large assembly program manager at a small firm. So in 2003, when Mike heard that he might be laid-off, they both got serious about the idea of using their combined experience to start their own business.

Building the business plan

While they were putting together a business plan, they reached out to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Wichita State University. The KSBDC helped them create a more robust business plan to present to a bank for financing. “After 10 banks turned us down, Garden Plain State Bank approved a SBA guarantee 7(a) loan to finance one water-jet machine and some operating capital,” said Stephen. Then, on March 19, 2004, Absolute Dimensions, LLC opened its doors for business.

By 2008, the business was doubling its revenue every six months, and they needed another machine to keep up with demand. One week after they bought a new horizontal CNC machine, the strike at Boeing in Seattle hit the market hard. “Our financing and nerves got tight in those days. Luckily, we had some receivables and cash on hand to help us through those lean months” said Stephen. “Business was slow and we were concerned about our keeping our employees on the payroll, so we participated in the Kansas Shared Work program,” he added.

In 2009, Absolute Dimensions, LLC was able to obtain a SBA 506 Recovery Act zero-interest loan to help through the difficult time. They also kept in touch with the KSBDC for guidance on strategic planning, and even had all five of their office staff attend their workshops. The strategic planning process helped them diversify their product and service capabilities to include composite materials. They also added new customers outside the aerospace industry. Absolute Dimensions, LLC is now using their machining equipment to produce parts for a truck manufacturer, a company that makes signs, and they even make custom metallic inlays for tile.

By 2012, Absolute Dimensions, LLC, was growing to the point where they needed to consolidate their financing at a larger bank that had the capacity to service their needs. Today, the company’s 24 employees are trying to keep up with demand, and using every inch of available space in their facility.

Advice to other small business

When asked for their words of wisdom to other small business owners, Steven and his wife Miranda, who manages the office, said it is vital to manage the growth of your business. “You can grow too fast and put your business at risk”, said Stephen. “Save money when you have it because your cash flow can create constraints”, Miranda added. They both believe it’s important to reach out to organizations like the Kansas Small Business Development Center for expert advice on business planning. They gave a lot of credit to the KSBDC and the SBA for helping them navigate through the turbulent times.

The future looks bright for Absolute Dimensions, LLC. If things keep up, they may be looking for a new building and more automation to meet the growing demand.

Originally published at

Additional video footage of Absolute Dimensions can be found here.


Alan Badgley, consultant with the KSBDC at WSU assisted Absolute Dimensions. Alan has expertise in strategic planning, specialty finance, and training. Alan can be reached at  or 316-978-3193316-978-3193.