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Is your business model up-to-date or out-of-date?


A good friend once said to me, “business has never changed this fast and it will never be this slow again”. It was a poetic way of saying that one of the few things we can bet on is that change will happen and today it’s happening faster than ever.

Over the course of my career I’ve worked for and alongside a variety of startups, established companies and organizations. There have been arts institutions, public schools, urban development coalitions, coffee shops, healthcare companies, banks, hair braiders, agricultural and financial technology startups and more. My work with these organizations has entailed studying their business model. We have reviewed how they create and deliver on their promise and capture the funding or support needed to keep pushing towards their goals. We then ask, “how might they evolve to better serve their clients?”. What have all these experiences taught me? I think a cooking analogy may help.

If a person who rarely cooks were to walk into my house and see on the countertop before them a variety of vegetables, proteins and spices they would see raw ingredients. However, if a chef were to observe the exact same ingredients, they would see potential meals. Their training and experience combine to help them transform a series of parts into a variety of possibilities. Conversely, observing an assembled meal the chef could break down how it was prepared and many, if not all, of the component ingredients.

My role can be seen as a business chef. I work with organizations like yours by examining the raw ingredients of your business to ensure its more than just what your clients want but crave. When caught up in day-to-day, a company can lose sight of what differentiates their business from their competitors and their clients desire, which can lead to them feeling pressure to discount what they offer their to attract attention or put out a new “recipe” before taking the time to make sure it’s what their client wants in the first place. Sometimes a dish needs to be changed, sometimes it’s the service experience and sometimes its about attracting a new audience who better values what you do. In the role of business chef, I workshop with organizations by using a series of visual tools to lay out the ingredients and processes, and then unlock the goals, frustrations and desires of their clients. When this is vividly displayed before us, we can readily conceive of what to experiment with changing and what should stay the same.

Change is the primary tension before us. One that exists between what got your company to where it is vs. what will keep it valuable in the future. The increasing pressure many companies feel today is to sell faster and cheaper. While a business modeling exercise may not exempt you from these forces, its goal is to ask, “how can I create more value for those I serve?” Rather than finding yourself on the hamster wheel trying to keep up, it’s about creating your own swim lane.

The oft-quoted Wayne Gretzky comment of, “don’t skate to where the puck is but where it will be”, applies. Skating to where the puck will be results from focusing on clients and further understanding what else you could be doing to more uniquely serve them.

When we consider our daily commute, our desk and computer, our business colleagues and customers most days are similar to the preceding ones. We don’t notice the constant, gradual changes. And then a tipping point occurs. Will you be ready for it or surprised by it? These modeling exercises engage us in preparing for the changes by identifying and then testing. Where the future will take us is anyone’s guess. The key is to regularly assess your business model, how it serves your clients and how the external market might impose change upon it. The risk is not in looking at what might be next, the risk is ignoring that there is always and constantly a next.

Go Forth Boldly


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