Recently I provided this contribution to Patrick Stähler’s blog that forms part of fluid minds, a think tank and consultancy for strategic and disruptive innovations. They focus discussions through their very distinctive version of the Business Model and its design.
This was on some thoughts on how to explain your business model through a story or your business narrative. The original post is here
The hard part comes after designing your new Business Model, when you have to explain it.
You have come to the end of a fairly long week. You have finally finished your Business Model Canvas. Finally you have a working hypothesis of something that is going to challenge some of the existing business models around. You should feel pleased; it took a lot of hard work to get to that point.
Laid out on one piece of paper is something that could have real business value yet although you can see where the dots connect, you begin to wonder if others will see the same compelling value, to invest in it, to back it, to simply support it and encourage you to continue.
Completing a business model and identifying its critical parts is only that first step, the hard part is getting it off the ‘drafting board’ and making it something tangible and potentially commercially viable for those around you to engage with.
What is the next step in executing this potential game changing business model?
Each new business model needs a compelling story – a narrative.
This business model narrative along with your business model you are potentially better placed to test it, to talk about it, to validate it, to make it ‘sing for others’.
You are out to get engagement and contributions everywhere, from everyone, as you tell the story, describe your potential new business model you gain from their reaction and improve your understanding of the real need for your idea.
So we need to think about the art of narratives and storytelling
So first things first, with setting about building your business narrative, we need to get comfortable, as each of us, in our own way are unique in how we would set about the initial thinking through of the business story.
We can certainly brainstorm, or free write, and it is certainly worth to complete some essential brain warming up exercises. All of these get that brain whirling again around your new business model but in a distinctly different way, as you are focusing this on the best way to communicate your story to others. You do need to really think about this, as it needs to appeal to them, even if you feel it is the best thing ever!
We need to find our own ways of doing this warming up. We are not warming up to figure out the business model, we have completed that; we are priming our brain to start structuring our thoughts to turn them into our narrative (about our business model story).
This can take as long as you feel it is useful. For me I take my time, I like to gather around me lots of my reference papers, all sorts of scribble notes and triggers to make a fairly exhaustive first ‘cut’. Then I set about circling or highlighting them with a yellow highlighter all the main themes, the important parts of what, why and how my business model came about.
Working through some useful but measured steps is the key
The question you need to ask is: “I certainly have to find within these notes a range of critical aspects that will make my business model story stand out”
Let’s go through these seven steps.
Firstly 1) you have to describe what your business model will do – even if this is still at this stage where it needs to be truly tested, what is it all about. You need to allow for action words that can be understood, keep it simple but on ‘message’ for others to quickly grasp the big idea.
2) What makes this business model special – I mean so special that it can resonate with others; they can see what it is going to do to change or challenge something they know. It needs to address identified needs but all the parts are seen as connected.
Then we move to the customer side
3) who is it for?– who are those customers that will show initial interest, the potential market place you see this addresses and listen to the reaction back- does it resonate with those listening?
4) what does your business model resolve – those famous pain points or jobs-to-be-done you feel that need resolving or will be valued to overcome existing constraints you feel there is within existing offerings. Are you getting that nod of agreement, that confirming back or increasing questioning?
So far so good we are building our story, we are telling our story, we are getting valuable feedback and identification. Now we need to reflect on the part that gives the real growing confidence
5) Why you are thinking beyond the immediate– some of your longer term goals and ambitions and the way you are setting about this and what the listener can do to help.
6) what do you envisage are the resources and actions needed that will get this going and led you beyond just the idea and turning this into something real and valued by others.
If this remains unclear to the listener then you are beginning to flounder, you might be losing their attention. Maybe your business model or narrative is missing some important learning points.
You are testing your initial hypothesis in the real market place and getting the feedback you need to stop and rethink or it validates your original thinking.
Then there is one final part, our No.7
As you search through your notes, full of highlighted points being ticked off as you go.
That is the most important one, our number 7) you are looking to summarize why you will succeed
This summary ‘wraps-up’ your solution; it provides the story behind your thinking, the final piece, it brings it all together. It is conveying why the business model you see, is valuable. It transmits the value of your idea, sitting on your one sheet of paper.
Now this is not the easy part, it is the ‘call to action’, the real identification you are asking of others to value and invest into your business model, to identify with it.
The tighter the story, the faster you get feedback and identification
This narrative needs to be a really compact synopsis, the real kernel of your business model, it forms the basis for the narrative and why your story is valuable to the one listening.
Irrespective your business narrative need to spark action
It is the story that makes the sense of your business model. It conveys its value, its sense of mission, your personal visions, it offers the place where you communicate and connect the business model with the listener.
By talking about it you are generating and testing a market-making narrative, to hone your thinking, to win over others to your solutions and ideas. You are testing your business model in the real world.
Your story narrative will be significantly tested and will change I am sure.
Your business model is closer to filling a real market need from this consistent telling of your evolving story. The business narrative is essential to your thinking.