Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Are you a mindful entrepreneur?

Local Singapore boy Chade Meng-Tan has made it to the highest ranks of Google, yet he’s not recognised for his exceptional engineering talent (which he clearly has), but is globally recognised and sought out for his contribution to the field of mindful leadership.
"A mindful leader embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the service of others. …It requires full and complete non-judgemental attention in the present moment. Those around a mindful leader see and feel that presence" so says the Institute of Mindful Leadership.
Chade Meng-Tan was responsible for developing Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself’ course back in 2007. Today, the waiting list for this in-house Google course can be up to 6 months. Most major companies from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Intel to Apple, Starbucks and Yahoo are using some forms of mindfulness as a business tool.
Mindfulness is about consciously paying attention to where you are, who you’reworking with and how you are impacting the now. By being present, managers can have a greater awareness of the value of their actions with those around them. Mountains of data exist to prove that mindfulness, both personal and professional, reduces stress and boosts clarity and concentration and thereby enhances leadership.
Here’s a couple of key exercises entrepreneurs can do to bring about calmness, clarity and compassion that will serve you well in life and business.


Putting aside a few minutes of your day to do a brief breathing meditation routine is one of the easiest ways to cultivate mindfulness. Sit still and observe your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs. Just observe and focus on your breath. Any creeping thoughts that enter your head (which they will, seemingly relentlessly!) should be banished as you consciously return to your breath. Whether it’s for 15 minutes or 60 seconds, you should experience a degree of immediate calm.

Eliminate rush

Swap your multitasking for delegation. Pare back the number of fronts that you are operating on and focus on what is most important. By eliminating needless rush you can focus on matters and people that are before you, here and now.
Dorotea Brandin, a Singapore based author and entrepreneur, says that mindfulness for SME’s “… should not be misunderstood as fire fighting by reacting as best we can to present circumstances. It is instead a state of being where you slow down and where you are perceptive to your own emotions as well as those of others.”

Take a break

Spend time in nature. Recharging your batteries through a short walk through a park or along the coast where you might also listen to your breath can be of huge benefit to your focus and attention span, making this time for your mental landscape is healthy and habit forming. Thinking thoughts of kindness and compassion whilst you take your break will re-invigorate you.

Cultivate compassion

Chade Meng-Tan swears by compassion. He says highly effective people feel you, understand you and want to help you. Empathising with those around you inhibits excessive self-obsession and creates humility. Compassion grows high-level leaders.
Ask yourself how you can be of value to those around you? What will make them happy? How can you make a difference to someone’s day? By consciously empathising and feeling for those around you on a regular basis you form the habit of compassion. Cultivate compassion.
So next time you find yourself a few spare moments amidst the hustle and bustle of business, resist the urge to pull out your phone and instead, take a moment to listen to your breathing, focus on clearing your mind and just take time to empty your mind.
In fact, before you share this article with someone who needs it, take a couple of minutes to yourself right now…

by Callum Laing

Source: TechInAsia

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Embracing Uncertainty Is Critical To Your Success

It’s official: We live in uncertain times.
Just pick up today’s paper and the headlines are screaming with news that let’s us know we are living uncertain times. Economic instability. Corporate restructures. Shifting tectonic plates.
There’s no doubt about it, uncertainty can be uncomfortable. We human beings are wired to want to control our environment. We enjoy the stability that comes from having continuity between our past and future, a future that is familiar, stable and predictable. We like to feel that we are masters of our own ship, in control of our fate, and so it’s entirely natural to find ourselves feeling a little out of sorts when our future becomes an unknown quantity.
But as much as we may try to do otherwise, it is impossible to  chart a certain path through uncertain waters. The reality is that in our fast changing, unpredictable and accelerated workplace and world, it’s those who are willing to embrace uncertainty and take decisive action, risky action, despite the many “unknowns” who will reap the greatest rewards.
When I first left my parents’ dairy farm at 18 to move to “the city” for college, I was part excited, part terrified and completely outside my comfort zone.  What lay ahead was all unknown.  But as I found then and countless times since, no worthwhile aspiration can be accomplished without surrendering the comforts of the familiar. Only in giving up the security of the known can we create new opportunities, grow capability, build confidence and expand our influence.

It’s a lesson that was reinforced in my interviews with accomplished leaders across a diverse range of fields while researching my second book Stop Playing Safe. While each person had forged their own unique path to success – either up an organizational ladder or as an entrepreneur – the common thread of wisdom they all shared was that in today’s competitive and fast changing workplace, we can never hope to achieve success unless we’re willing to embrace the unknown and get comfortable with the innate discomfort of risk taking.

Creating a Road Map to Business Success

Starting a new business venture from scratch can sometimes feel like jumping out of an airplane and assembling the parachute on the way down. That's because, as is often the case, business success happens largely through trial and error. And that's where a road map comes in handy -- yours should help you so you don’t get stuck.
If your path is like most people's, here’s how it will proceed:
  • You'll start out with a personal road map, and when you find your passion, you'll develop a business road map.
  • Your journey will start at point A, but point B will not be linear: There's often no straight line between the two.
  • You'll plant seeds to achieve your personal goals and see which ones grow. When you find one that does, you'll chart a course to follow that growth.
  • Should that growth become a passion, and a business, you'll then plant more seeds (typically, more calculated ones) within your business, to see which ones work. This is the start of your business road map.
Don’t be afraid to aim high. Google wasn’t built in a day, and you won't reach your primary goal in a short time, either. In your business, production, marketing, sales and other departments will have to establish their responsibilities. Budgets will need to be created and adjusted. Products and services will need to be developed. Sales will need to be made, and orders fulfilled.
All these incremental activities are necessary to reach your goal. You’ll want to focus on the pieces of the journey as you build your road map, not just the end goal or the quickest way to get from point A to B.
Of course, not all incremental steps will go as planned. That won't be the end of the world or necessarily a major failure. Instead, the next thing on the horizon will be where you can refocus your attention, within the scheme of the larger goal of building and running a successful company. Each new incremental goal will become your next mountain to climb as you travel the road to your final goal.

12 Steps to Go From Employee to Entrepreneur

If you’re fed up with your job, it may seem like there are only two steps to becoming an entrepreneur. The first is to quit your job, and the next step is to start a company. While it is possible to transition successfully from employee to entrepreneur, it’s a little more complex than that.
Here are the 12 steps you’ll need to take to become your own boss.

1. Determine what you’d like to do.

Some people call this finding your passion, but it’s more than that. Think about your skills, abilities and experience. Consider what you can realistically see yourself doing for hours each day, for weeks and years.

2. Think about what others will pay for.

A viable business is the intersection between what you’d like to do and what others will pay for. Remember the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” from the movie Office Space? Todd loved building it, but no one was going to buy it. It wasn’t a viable business opportunity.

3. Interview ideal customers.

Find a few people that you think would be your ideal clients. Ask them about their biggest needs, fears and aspirations related to the business idea you plan to pursue. Are the benefits of your product or service in line with their real needs? Also, make a note of the words they use, as they’ll eventually help make your marketing more authentic.

4. Design your marketing and business plans.

Today’s marketing involves content creation, social media, email outreach and more. Make sure you know how you’ll approach each of these alternatives to introduce your idea to customers. At the same time, lay out a business plan that details how you intend your business to function. It doesn’t need to be super formal, but it does need to cover your operating structure, product, delivery systems and expansion plans.

Monday, July 20, 2015

13 Secrets to Success from Serial Entrepreneurs

Credit: design36/Shutterstock
For most entrepreneurs, starting and running one successful business during their career is enough of a challenge. But for serial entrepreneurs — those who start, run and often sell multiple businesses — the thrill of startup life is too appealing to do it only once.
These founders have mastered the art of growing a business from the ground up, and therefore have a lot of wisdom to impart to current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Whether you just want to focus on the one business you have or dream of launching several companies in the future, here's what you can learn from 13 successful serial entrepreneurs.
Hannibal Baldwin, co-founder and CEO of SiteZeus (previous company — Baldwin Beach Capital): "I believe the success of progressive entrepreneurship lies within ... identifying and understanding the gap worth solving, the system-level technology or design to solve that gap and the business and financial intelligence to execute with strategic speed."
Steve Gefter, managing director of IDDS Group (previous company — TSG Management): "Serial entrepreneurs have a mindset unlike anyone else; they are entrepreneurs on steroids. A 'get it done' work ethic is the most essential trait. Starting a business takes a lot — financially, emotionally and physically. To start one business requires a 'roll up your sleeves' mentality, so imagine what it takes to start five or 10. You either have it or you don't; and the most successful serial entrepreneurs do."
Devaraj Southworth, CEO of Thirstie (previous companies — Tailfin Ventures, iThinkLabs, 30Seven Design): "I watched [my grandfather] build his own business, Gotham Button Company, from an early age. He loved his business and the people that helped build it with him. What I remember the most was that he was always striving to do things better. I knew the road of the entrepreneur wasn't going to be easy, and that chances of success were very small, but I also knew it was the path I wanted and needed to try. Anyone can have a great idea, but turning that idea into a reality and executing on it is the difference between success and failure. For any entrepreneur, anything is possible, as long as you work incredibly hard, stick to your vision and build the right team."

4 Tips to Help Entrepreneurs Succeed

Many first-time entrepreneurs think their first steps should be to build a product or service and raise money to turn it into a successful business. But most experienced entrepreneurs and experts of entrepreneurial practices believe this thinking is wrong. They say the first thing an entrepreneur should do is validate that his or her idea solves a real existing problem in the marketplace.
Very few ideas ever survive the first contact with a customer, said Bill Mayer, vice president of entrepreneur services at Ann Arbor Spark. This is because entrepreneurs are often engineers, tinkerers or inventors who come up with ideas for things that they think everyone will love and buy. They don’t take the time to prove their concepts will address the needs of those who are not getting the job done. Consequently, most ideas fail.
Before they start building their products or services, entrepreneurs should talk to dozens of people they think will buy them, Mayer and other experts suggest. Through these conversations, they can find out with certainty if their idea will solve real problems; if by tweaking it in some way, they will solve existing problems; or if they need to discard their initial concepts and replace them with new ones.

7 Habits of Innovative Thinkers

Emotional Intelligence Plays a Big Role in Innovative Thinking. Here are Traits that these People have in Common.

Many people believe that creativity and innovative thinking are traits that we are born with—we either have them or not. However, we have found that people who are highly innovative are a work in progress, forever questioning and examining themselves and the world around them. Far from being something we are born with, we can all become more innovative and creative by developing the traits that innovative people share. Here are some of the emotional intelligence-related attributes that innovative people share.


Emotional intelligent people have their egos under control and are open to other people’s ideas. They don’t think their ideas are always the best. As a result of their openness to other ideas, they are able to accumulate a larger source of data from which to draw from. They are also less likely to fall into the trap of following up on ideas and prospects that are only popular and then receiving kudos for them.


Even though they may not think their ideas are always spot on, there is always a belief in their craft and innovate accordingly. They see failures as temporary setbacks. By failing, this will uncover a way that doesn’t work, bringing them closer to a way that will. Great innovators such as Edison, failed countless times before achieving a breakthrough that led to success. A common factor in all innovators is they see failures and setbacks as temporary and do not take them personally.


Emotionally intelligent people are curious about people, concepts, and issues. They’re open to new information always on the lookout for new ideas that can be put into practice. Being avid readers, forever seeking out new ideas, and expanding their knowledge base increases their repertoire of tools for future use. Noticing every opportunity, a random meeting with a stranger, conversation, or an event they are attending is always an occasion to learn something new. Every person they talk to is seen as possessing some knowledge that may be beneficial to them.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why You Should Quit Your Job

Elliott Hulse talks to Tai Lopez about how to do what you love and earn a living from it.

Elliot Hulse is a professional strongman and strength coach known for his YouTube fitness channel called strengthcamp. He has a another popular channel called elliottsaidwhat and runs a workout blog as well called hulsestrength.

Tai Lopez is an investor, partner, or advisor to over 20 multi-million dollar businesses. Through his popular book club and podcasts Tai shares advice on how to achieve health, wealth, love, and happiness with 1.4 million people in 40 countries.

Elliott Hulse On Why You Should Quit Your Job - Part 1 - Interview w/ Tai Lopez

Elliott Hulse On Why You Should Quit Your Job - Part 2 - Interview w/ Tai Lopez

Ambition. Discipline. Purpose. The Journey of Being an Entrepreneur

Ambition. Discipline. Purpose. The Journey of Being an Entrepreneur with Gurbaksh Chahal

Gurbaksh Chahal is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Radium One. A die-hard internet entrepreneur, he started his first company, at the age of 16. Series: "Distinguished Innovator Lectures"

How to Cultivate a Creative Thinking Habit


Think of your most common habits and the regular culprits come to mind—biting your nails, snacking late at night, cracking your knuckles. Do something enough times and it becomes a behavioral pattern you do almost involuntarily.
But what about creativity? Dictionary definitions can be misleading, offering the impression that creativity is something you either possess or don't. Here's one: Creativity, "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations." The ability to transcend. Sounds almost mystical.
Not so fast. According to research by psychologist and psychometrician Robert Sternberg, at its most basic level, there's nothing mystical about creative thinking. Like brushing your teeth first-thing every morning or biting your nails or any other regular action your brain is trained to automatically do, creative thinking, Sternberg argues, is a habit.
"If we are to assess creativity, we need to assess it as a habit of ordinary life, not merely as something one can do at extraordinary times," Sternberg writes in Creativity Research Journal. "Behind all innovations one finds creativity, so innovations arise from a habit."
Creative thinking comes in different forms. According to Sternberg, there are four such forms, ranging from "Big-C"—the stuff of creative geniuses like Darwin, Picasso, and Beethoven—to "little-c" where everyday creativity comes into play.
What's certain is that you don't just magically land in "Big-C" land one day. It takes the cumulative effect of thinking creatively every day, so much so that you don't even realize you're doing it. In short, creativity becomes a default mode. "Creative people are creative … not as a result of any particular inborn trait, but, rather, through an attitude toward life," says Sternberg. "They habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways, rather than allowing themselves to respond mindlessly and automatically."
As I write this, I cannot help but think of the magnificent short story writer Mavis Gallant, who died last week at the age of 91. Gallant made a life of her creative work. "When I’m here, chez moi, I write every day as a matter of course," Gallant said in a 1999 interview with The Paris Review. "Most days in the morning but some days anytime, afternoon or evening. It depends on what I’m writing and the state of the thing. It is not a burden. It is the way I live."
The way you live. It can seem impossible, breaking into this way of life. Routinely approaching problems in novel ways—essentially what you're doing when you think creatively—does not just happen on its own. Just as we are able to break bad habits, we can cultivate new ones. According to Sternberg, there are three basic factors that help turn creative thinking into a habit: opportunities to engage in it, encouragement to go after such opportunities, and rewards for doing so. "In this respect," says Sternberg, "creativity is no different from any other habit, good or bad."
At a pragmatic level, this might mean finding a community of people who support and encourage your creative work. For fiction writer Stacey D'Erasmo, this community is a kind of lifeline. "My private community is where I dream, where I feel most deeply that I can be known, where I am bowled over, where I am changed, where I break down, where I break through; it’s where I sweat, and who I sweat with," she writes in an essay for The Rumpus. "I always want to know: How do you do it? And how about you? How do you keep doing it? In seeking out people of whom to ask this question, I seem to have built myself a life."
There is more, of course, to cultivating a habit of creativity than finding a community. Writes Sternberg:
Creative people habitually:
  • Look for ways to see problems that other people don’t
  • Take risks that other people are afraid to take
  • Have the courage to defy the crowd and to stand up for their own beliefs
  • Seek to overcome obstacles and challenges to their views that other people give in to.


"According to this theory, creative people are ones who are willing and able to metaphorically buy low and sell high in the realm of ideas," says Sternberg. When you buy low, you're going after what is out of favor, in the hopes that it has growth potential. This means being ready to encounter resistance from others.
"The creative individual persists in the face of this resistance, and eventually sells high, moving on to the next new, or unpopular, idea. In other words, such an individual acquires the creativity habit. The question is whether the creative thinker has the fortitude to persevere and to go against the crowd."
When we start talking about buying low and selling high, it seems we're taking all the magic out of creative work. That's precisely what Sternberg is after. Creative work isn't magic. It's what you do. People won't always like it. That doesn't mean you haven't created something of value.
He's got evidence for this too: a laundry list of brilliant creative minds who faced rejection or negative criticism when their work came out: writers Toni Morrison and Sylvia Plath, painter Edvard Munch, psychologist John Garcia. This list goes on.
The takeaway here is that creativity isn't just a habit cultivated over time. It's also, to some extent, an act of bravery. Says Sternberg: "One has to be willing to stand up to conventions if one wants to think and act in creative ways."
[Image: Flickr user Lefteris Heretakis]

by Jane Porter

Source: FastCompany

10 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Must Learn

As entrepreneurs, we all follow our own path. For some, the rise to financial success is a long, slow, painful process. For others, things just seem to magically fall into place. I believe that the latter isn’t a result of magic, however, but is the sure sign of an entrepreneur who understands the importance of learning from, adapting to and growing with their business.
The following are 10 lessons every entrepreneur must learn in order to build a long-term, healthy and sustainable business.
1. The customer is not always right. From day one, we’re told that “the customer is always right.” We’re expected to bend over backwards to please every single customer, even when they’re clearly and painfully wrong. This maxim, however, can do a serious disservice to ourselves, our employees and our customers. Give your customers the benefit of the doubt, but not at the expense of your (or your employees’) dignity.
2. Time is money. Money, customers, ideas: all resources you can potentially gain more of. Time, however, is the one commodity you’ll always have a finite amount of. One way to ensure you make the most of your time is to assign an hourly dollar amount to your tasks.
Ask yourself: What would be a fair wage for the tasks I perform? If someone else can competently accomplish these tasks for less money, let them do it so you can focus on higher level, revenue-generating tasks. As a business owner, you should only do the tasks that only you can do.
3. Not all money is good money. This is a lesson many entrepreneurs struggle with early in their career. When you’re getting your business off the ground, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking money from anyone who offers it. The problem is, not all customers or clients are worth it.
Avoid clients who take up too much of your time, who consistently have unrealistic expectations or who you just generally dread working with. It’s just not worth it!
4. There are no cheap shortcuts in marketing. I often speak to business owners who want marketing advice, but who then shun my recommendations as being “too expensive.” The truth is, cheap marketing can make your brand look cheap.
Low-quality content, cheap ads and "budget" SEO may save you money in the short term, but the damage they do to your brand’s reputation can last far longer. For insight on how to market the right way, see my ebook.

8 Invaluable Online Classes for Entrepreneurs

You have to continually expand your knowledge to succeed as an entrepreneur. Thankfully, educational institutions and technology are making continuing your education more convenient through online course. While there are thousands of  informative and inspiring online courses you can take, here are classes you definitely need to enroll in if you want to be an entrepreneur.

1. How to Build a Startup

This free course over at Udacity is instructed by Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, educator and developer of the famous customer development methodology. The course is an introduction to the basics of the Customer Development Process which includes learning how to develop and test ideas, how to listen and engage your customers, and how to deliver your product to your audience.
It only takes about a month to complete the eight lessons.

2. Essentials of Entrepreneurship

Through Coursera, you can learn some of the basic components of entrepreneurship by University of California, Irvine, instructor David Stranden, MBA. It’s an interactive course that consists of approximately four to eight hours of video and reading lessons, along with the occasional quiz.
The course covers entrepreneurial skills and tools, marketing strategy, human resources and accounting.

3. Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate

If you already have work experience, and about a grand to spend, then this online course offered by Stanford University is designed just you. The course was influenced by the spirit of Silicon Valley and will provide students with the tools and strategies to launch their start-up. What’s most appealing about this course is you can hear from successful entrepreneurs and customize the program with classes relevant to you.
The course is self-paced and should be finished within 90 days. After completing the course, you’ll have the official Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.

4. 21 Critical Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Presented by Jason Nazar, CEO of Docstoc, this two-hour video course includes 21 lessons Nazar has experience himself. Covered in the course is vetting ideas during the early stages of your startup, how to raise money, selecting the right team, and practical growth strategies.
This priceless course is great for potential entrepreneurs and can be taken for free at Udemy. You’ll even get a nifty certification after completion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

23 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know

A buddy of mine is a big-deal business professor at an even bigger deal university.  And for reasons I still don’t understand, he asked me to come in and explain to his graduate students what I have learned from spending 30 years talking to, researching and writing about entrepreneurs.
Here’s what I said.
  1. The best way to predict the future is to create it.
  2. The most important decision you can make iswhere do you want to spend your time. You only have so much time, energy and ability to focus. That means, as much as you would like to, you can’t do everything. That’s a given. So is this: The places which receive your full attention will do better than the places that won’t. What follows from that is this: You need to make hard choices about what you will do–and what you won’t. And it is really is the important decision you can make, because everything else you do will flow from it…including the next point.
  3. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, there is no such thing as work-life balance.  I am not advocating that you spend a disproportionate part of your life working on your company.  (I am also not advocating against it.) I am simply reporting that is what the most successful entrepreneurs do. I have never found an exception.
  4. The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas, they solve market needs. You and I can come up with wonderful ideas all day long but unless they satisfy a large enough need, one that can support a business, they don’t do anyone any good.
  5. The one thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is the desire to make their idea a reality. What entrepreneurs need most of all—above motivation, focus, hope, financing, marketing skills, a brilliant idea, etc.—is the will to bring their idea into existance. Unless you truly want to make something happen, the odds are nothing will. Without that desire, nothing else matters…or occurs. Your life will be filled in other ways.
  6. Action trumps everything.  Stop thinking and get underway.
  7. Take small, smart steps towards your goals.  Contrary to the popular press, the most successful entrepreneurs are not swing-for-the-fences, bet-everything-on-one-roll-of-the-dice  types.  They are extremely conservative.They take a small step toward their goal; pause to see what they have learned from taking that small step and build that learning into the next small step. Then they pause to see what they have learned from that second small step, build that learning in and then take another small step and so forth. They don’t take large risks.
  8. If you want to build a successful company give up control. You can try to micromanage but: the business will never grow bigger than one person (you, the CEO) can handle effectively; the company won’t be able to move very quickly. Since everything will have to flow through you, you will create a bottleneck; you won’t get the best ideas out of your people.  Once they understand the company is set up so everything revolves around you, people are not going to take the time to develop their best ideas. “Why should I,” they’ll ask. “He is just going to do what he wants anyway.” And it’s exhausting.
  9. Forget about working on your weaknesses, play to your strengths. This is what will make you successful in the long-run.
  10. You need to be able to turn every obstacle into an asset. Yes, every single one.
  11. All you need to know about marketing in exactly 30 words?Marketing, when you strip everything away, is extremely simple: You figure out who you want to sell to, and then you determine what it is that will get them to buy.
  12. Here’s the only market research you need: Get your product out in the marketplace and see if it sells.
  13. If you insist on doing market research anyway, here’s the one question you need to ask. Show potential customers a prototype, or describe the service you are thinking of offering and then say: ”Is this something you would buy,” and if they answer yes, ask for the order then and there. If, as the cliché goes, they are willing to put their money where their mouth is, you are probably on to something. If they aren’t, you still have work to do.
  14. You must figure out how you are going to collect what you are owed.  Nobody thinks about this before they get underway and suddenly they learn first hand what they phrase “cash flow crunch” means.
  15. As much as you are going to fight it you need a (really smart) advisory board.  You want a board to: give you new perspectives and ideas; to give you people to talk to and to provide honest feedback.
  16. If you want to get more done faster and better…create checklistsChecklists are a wonderful way to make sure you don’t overlook anything, and that it is true whether we are talking about the best way to treat someone in the emergency room or if you are about to make a big presentation to a client you really want to land.
  17. How to motivate yourself and stay motivated. Starting anything new is hard and the number of obstacles you are going to encounter can easily get overwhelming. Click on the link here for proven ideas that can keep you going.
  18. If the dogs don’t like the dog food it’s bad dog food.  You don’t determine what a good product is. Only your customer does.  And if they don’t like your product, it’s a bad product. Period. In others words, the customer is always right. Darn it.
  19. If the customer doesn’t like the product, there isn’t much you can do about it with pricing or promotion or positioning. Unpopular products are going to remain so. It is better to come up with a different version, than to keep trying to sell–at a discounted price–the one people don’t like.
  20. If you are going to fail, and sometimes you will, fail quickly and cheaply.  Always take small steps toward your goal and pause after each one to make sure you are staying on the right track.
  21. (Really) Learn from your mistakes.  You are going to make mistakes. That’s a) a given and b) okay, providing you truly understand what went wrong.
  22. Creativity and innovation must be linked to a business objective. Creativity is wonderful. But creativity that isn’t tied to making money is just a hobby. It isn’t a viable business concept.
  23. Get out while you still have your marbles. You never want to stay too long at the fair, even if you own the fair.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Better Way to Think About Your Business Model

The business model canvas — as opposed to the traditional, intricate business plan — helps organizations conduct structured, tangible, and strategic conversations around new businesses or existing ones. Leading global companies like GE, P&G, and Nestlé use the canvas to manage strategy or create new growth engines, while start-ups use it in their search for the right business model. The canvas’s main objective is to help companies move beyond product-centric thinking and towards business model thinking.
To start, it lets you look at all nine building blocks of your business on one page:
Each of these nine components contains a series of hypotheses about your business model that you need to test (click or tap for a bigger version):
Nespresso, a fully owned daughter company of Nestlé, is a great example of a powerful business model. It changed the face of the coffee industry by turning a transactional business (selling coffee through retail) into one with recurring revenues (selling proprietary pods through direct channels). Here’s what their strategy looks like on the canvas (full-screen mode works best):

The canvas is one of the three key principles of the lean start-up approach. For the other two, read Steve Blank’s May 2013 article “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything.”

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14 Ways to Apply the Business Model Canvas

When Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur wrote Business Model Generation in 2009 they couldn't have imagined all the different applications users would come up with for their Business Model Canvas. In this post I'll give you fourteen very different but very practical applications of the Business Model Canvas that we've observed first hand from our global community of practitioners.
Over the years we've observed a lot of different types of people who are using the Business Model Canvas in a lot of different types of organizations. We wrote about those learnings in a previous post where we shared our recently published research report. We shared why organizations around the world are adopting the tool and provided some general ideas for ways they are using it. We expand on those useful applications below. We focus primarily on applications we've observed from within large organizations but entrepreneurs and startups will find these ideas equally helpful. 

14 Business Model Canvas Applications

Strategic Planning/Development - One of the primary ways we've seen organizations use the BMC is in their regular strategic planning and development cycles. They use it to create a blueprint of their strategy. The BMC provides a very clear foundation and direction for the conversation at hand, whether done in a corporate offsite with the executive team or done around the board room table .
Retrospective/Outlook - When used as a strategic plan users apply the BMC to describe what they’ve done the past year and what they intend to do in the year ahead. If there are changes in the business model or entirely new building blocks to be developed then they would indicate that with color coding. An interesting trend here is that the BMC is increasingly used as a modern version of the strategic plan to co-create strategy with people from around the organization to boost alignment and buy-in.
Strategic Planning per Business Unit - In larger organizations we’ve also seen the canvas being used for strategic planning per business unit, because it gives you an overview of what the different business units are doing. The BMC works as a shared language across business units and provides you with a snapshot of your organization's business model portfolio (cf usage 4).

Dashboard - We’ve seen a couple of teams and companies start using the BMC as a dashboard. They define a set of indicators for each building block of their Business Model Canvas that they want to follow. Then they define a performance threshold for each indicator. It's on green if they are happy with the performance per indicator, turns orange if there is something to look at, and turns red if there’s a problem. For us it was interesting to see how some users hacked the canvas to "repurpose" it in a very very innovative way in order to follow the performance of their organization.
Understanding Competition - Another interesting way to use the BMC is to understand competition. By sketching out the business model of each one of your competitors you gain a better understanding of their strengths, limits, constraints, and what they can or can't do. This increased understanding of your competitive landscape will allow you to act accordingly and design a better business model.

Portfolio of Business Models - A particularly interesting area for application of the BMC is the idea of developing a portfolio of business models, ranging from improving existing business models all the way to inventing new business models. While product and brand portfolios are relatively well mastered in large organizations, business model portfolios are an entirely new phenomenon.
A business model portfolio helps you understand and highlight with which business model you are making cash today and with which business models you’re going to make cash in the future. Beyond growth and cash generation the portfolio approach also helps you understand synergies and potential cannibalization between the different business models.
Increasingly, organizations are moving away from just managing product portfolios and brand portfolios towards business model portfolios. This is still a very young field of development, but it’s a very very promising one.
A good illustration of this business model portfolio approach is Nestlé's use of it's machine and pod technology. It all started with Nespresso's innovative business model built around single portioned coffee. Today the same technology is used in its mass market coffee (Dulce Gusto by Nescafé), it's tea business (SpecialT), and even for its baby formula (BabyNes). While they all use the same underlying technology all of these businesses have different business models with potential synergies and cannibalization. 

Design, test, and build new growth engines - This application is very closely related to the original intent of the BMC outlined in Business Model Generation and refined in Value Proposition Design. Here the BMC is used to prototype alternative business models and test them with the Lean Startup / Customer Development Process. We call this the search for the right business model and value proposition.
New idea template - A lot of organizations use the BMC as a (sometimes mandatory) template to develop and/or submit new ideas. The interesting thing here is that then the ideas become comparable. This unifying lense or language allows you to compare all types of innovations ranging from process innovation and product innovation all the way to substantial business model innovation and the creation of new growth engines. Corporate incubators and accelerators in particular are huge fans of the BMC to manage the ideas of their different teams. 

Understanding customers - An incredibly interesting and innovative use of the BMC is that of companies that use the Canvas to sketch out the business models of their customers. By better understanding their customer’s business model they can develop better value propositions and/or better explain their solutions in the context of their customer's business.
For example, Ericsson, the telecom equipment manufacturer, uses a version of the BMC to better understand the network operators they are serving. Or, SAP, the German software giant, uses the BMC in their pre-sales process. Sales teams map out the customer's business model in collaboration with the customer or as a preparation for sales meetings.
Alignment/CxO/executive on boarding - While we always saw the BMC as an alignment tool, it was a surprise to us that leadership teams would use the BMC as an onboarding tool for CEOs or senior executives.
The first time we discovered this type of application it was more of an accident. We were running a business model workshop in a company that just hired a new CEO. He loved the approach because it gave him an immediate understanding of the entire organization in one workshop. Another organization in Asia started using the BMC systematically for every senior executive on boarding. They get every new hire to sketch out the company's business model. In another case a CFO used the BMC to understand the business model he was getting into when he was starting a new job. He then got the entire leadership team to run an alignment workshop with the Business Model Canvas. 
Strategy diffusion and co-creation - A very powerful way to use the BMC is in the context of strategic alignment across the organization. On the one hand it can be used for strategy diffusion or on the other hand - as I mentioned previously (cf usage 1) - for strategy co-creation to create buy-in. The canvas plays a very powerful role in strategy diffusion because it becomes the blueprint of your strategy that shows more concretely, more clearly how you’re going to implement your strategy. 
Shared language across functions - One of the biggest areas of application where we’ve seen the canvas succeed phenomenally is as a shared language across the organization. The Canvas is particularly helpful when applied across functions. People from marketing, technology, engineering, operations, finance, and so on can all work together around a BMC and have a shared language to discuss their ideas. Whether it's new ideas on the table, new businesses on the table, or new business models that are going to be developed, the Canvas becomes the central, unifying tool to center the conversation. The Canvas doesn't just provide a shared language to make conversations better, it also makes conversations more strategic, and in particular, it provides an outcome that can actually be implemented.

General alignment - The BMC helps generally with alignment because on one piece of paper we have all the essentials of the blueprint of your strategy. In a previous post we shared The Business Model Theatre video and how the Canvas is made up of a front stage and a back stage. On the front stage, the Canvas very clearly delineates how you’re creating value for customers and how that allows you to generate revenues. On the backstage the Canvas describes what resources, activities, and partners you need to create this value and how that generates costs. The BMC makes it possible for everybody to have a shared understanding of what we’re trying to achieve as an organization. It makes explicit what the pieces of your business model are, what the blueprint of your strategy is, and guides everybody to work towards that end. 

Investment decisions - Some organizations are using the BMC to make better investment decisions. Once you've sketched out a business model(s) and you understand the underlying business opportunity, you have a better understanding of where you should allocate resources. This is true both for improving existing business models to inventing entirely new business models. Of course we recognize that it’s actually easier to generate quick revenues from existing business models and harder to generate long-term revenues from new ones, but we need to allocate resources across the entire portfolio of business models. The Canvas makes business opportunities explicit and can serve as a guide to how those resources get allocated.

Mergers and acquisitions - One application that we really didn’t expect would come up is the application of using the BMC in context of mergers and acquisitions. The idea here is that you would sketch out the business models of two organizations and figure out if there is a good fit. If you do this for a couple of organizations within a specific industry you'll better understand where there are potential synergies and opportunities for integration and where more differentiating factors will cause you to run into challenges. This application can be used for large and small mergers and acquisitions as well as in settings where an organization has an internal startup and wants to acquire or merge it back into the parent company or back into an existing business unit. 

Exit strategies (IPO, acquisition) - The last application we'll provide here is using the Canvas in the context of exit strategies. When assessing the opportunity of bringing an organization to the market you can use the Canvas to determine where you are going to allocate the money, how you will create better value propositions, how you will acquire more customers, or how to decrease your costs and increase your revenues. If you aren't going for an IPO and you want to sell the company and get acquired you will want to understand if and how your organization fits with other organizations. In this case you would apply the Canvas in the same way as we’ve seen with Mergers & Acquisitions (cf usage 13).


It has been incredibly exciting to see so many very different applications of the Business Model Canvas. Here we've provided 14 ways to apply the Canvas and I’m sure there are many more. Hopefully this gives you a little bit of a taste and some appetite to figure out how you could apply the Business Model Canvas within your organization. 

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