2 Alternatives To Kickstart A Traditional Business Plan

Writing a traditional business plan is unarguably an integral part of planning a small business -- particularly when you’re looking for funding – but there are two other (faster) alternatives to formally stating the essence of your new company.

Take a look at a Business Model Canvas or a Business Concept Statement, not as substitutes for making a detailed business plan but as alternatives that either serve as a “stepping stone” to a traditional plan or just a faster way to hash out the viability of a concept.

“In the early stages of your business’s development, you’ll hear from plenty of experts and prognosticators who will emphasize the need to create a sound, air-tight business plan,” writes Bridget Weston, acting CEO of the SCORE Association, in a post on the organization’s website.

And yes, while a business plan is an important tool for startups to define a strategy and detail the deliverables for stakeholders and developing cashflow forecasts for investors, there are also benefits in creating a Business Concept Statement. 

Business Concept Statement

Weston sees the Business Concept Statement as a way for entrepreneurs to “crystallize the idea behind the business.” Think of it, she says, as a tool to distill your voluminous business plan into a handy one- or two-page document.

“Not only does it lay the groundwork for the business plan to come, it also refines your idea, outlines the consumer problem it aims to solve, and discusses how the idea will fit into the overall market,” Weston writes for SCORE. “It’s a snackable snapshot you can share with investors, lenders, and/or future partners.”

It may be brief version of a plan but the Business Concept Statement still needs to provide a thoughtful analysis of your idea, she says, along with a glimpse into the existing market and how your product/service is distinguishable from the rest of the market.

The sections in your Business Concept Statement include The Market Need for your product or services, Your Proposed Business Model, Your Unique Value Proposition and A Succinct Competitive Analysis.

Business Model Canvas

Another format entrepreneurs can use to speed up the business planning process is the Business Model Canvas. 

“Just keep in mind this format isn’t an excuse for neglecting the details of planning your startup,” writes Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, in a Forbes blog.

And further, she says, if you’re trying to get a bank loan, angel capital or venture capital, you’ll still need to have a traditional business plan ready to show the financing source.

“But if you have sufficient startup capital on your own, there’s no law saying that you have to follow the traditional business plan format,” she adds.

There are several versions of a Business Model Canvas out there but basically it’s a visual chart with elements describing a firm’s or product’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers and finances.

The Business Model Canvas was created by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, according to Braden Kelley, director of Design Thinking, Innovation and Transformation at Oracle. There’s also the Lean Canvas created by Ash Maurya and other minor variations in the marketplace, he says.

At their core, the purpose is the same, Kelley writes in a post for Innovation Excellence, an online global innovation community.

 “The Business Model Canvas and the Lean Canvas seek to help entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and innovators quickly explore the desirability, feasibility and viability of their ideas in a more visual and collaborative way,” says Kelley.

The Business Model Canvas can work for entrepreneurs in a time crunch – when a traditional plan will take too long. There might be an opportunity that needs to be acted on immediately, i.e., you’re competing for a lease on a prime space for your retail or restaurant business, or you want to get your new app or invention on the market before a competitor. 

It’s a “high-level view” of your business idea, Lesonsky says, focusing on the key elements you need to make it viable. It can be created on paper, a whiteboard or through a business model canvas app.

The one-page chart-form document covers nine building blocks: key partners, activities and resources, as well as unique value proposition, customer segments, customer relationships, channels for distribution, cost structure and revenue streams.

“Many entrepreneurs start with a Business Model Canvas to give them a jump start and then flesh out a traditional business plan further down the road,” Lesonsky says.

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