A few months ago our leadership team went through a process of refining our business model. Our objective was to figure out how to sustain the rapid growth the company has been experiencing over the last few years and be the best organization we could possibly be. We based our efforts on the book, The Business Model Generation by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur… I highly recommend reading it!
I have found in the past that discussing, let alone developing, a business strategy can feel a little like the age-old analogy of the five blind men describing an elephant (It’s a rope! It’s a tree trunk! It’s a wall! etc.). This time however, rather than the usual brain-numbing experience, the exercise (called Business Model Canvasing) was quite practical and invigorating. It helped us understand the essentials of business models quickly, simply, and in a visual format, yet it also delivered deep insight into the nature of our business and real breakthroughs in our strategy.
As I proudly looked at our work, mapped out concisely on one page, I was delighted. At the same time however, I realized that our company strategy, as important and complex as it was, is only a piece of the puzzle. By itself it meant little. It only becomes valuable when it is connected with people, with teams, and with a larger marketplace or community. And each of those pieces of the puzzle add their own language, complexities, opportunities, and challenges. They are elephants too!
Building a company involves thousands of small decisions, each based on the answer to the question, "What does the company look like?" And while getting the business model right is imperative, in many ways that is the easy part. The difficult part is actually building the business. And to do that requires people and teams and over time, even the communities in which they exist.
The ultimate success of the business model comes from what goes into the white space in and around it. What does it look like when someone does his or her job well? When you've created a relationship of trust? When a team is “clicking”? As we actually build the organization it’s critical that people be their best, teams be their best, and the communities they come from are at their best. Just like The Business Model Canvas did for our company strategy, there are essentials that, if understood, can simplify and accelerate getting the best out of each these elements… or maybe I should say “elephants.”