Wanted: Business Model Researcher (submissions closed)

Does this sound like you? You strive to help companies unlock potential by using better business design techniques. You have already done so by researching, applying and "teaching" practical and visual business design tools, in particular the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas.

The opportunity

Work with me and the team behind Business Model Generation (500,000+ copies in 26 languages), the Business Model Toolbox for iPad, Strategyzer.com, and the Business Design Summit. Your research on interesting cases, their business model mechanics and their transformation into remarkable presentations and stories will transform the way people design businesses around the globe. You work from home, anywhere in the world, and with flexible working hours (potentially part-time).

What we expect

You have a deep curiosity for how organisations work and could work better. Your "hunger" to do your best work ever is insane and you are more motivated and better qualified than anybody else to do this job. You have a business research background, potentially a PhD, but also have practical experience in a company, as a consultant, or as an entrepreneur. Your conceptual and practical understanding of the Business Model Canvas is proven. Finally, you are NOT an asshole.

The challenge

You will put together amazing case studies and stories that help people understand business model innovation and transformation. What I'm taking about here are not the traditional text-heavy Harvard Business School cases, but beautiful, simple, and captivating presentations and stories that open people's eyes to the potential and particularities of business model innovation (cf SunEdison, Re-Inventing How We Do Start-Ups!). You will work with me and potentially others from the team on a regular basis via Skype.

How to apply:

  • Tell us: Which business design methods you deeply understand (your level: 0 to 10 / 0=never heard of)? Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder & Pigneur), Customer Development (Blank & Dorf), Lean Startup (Eric Ries), Strategy Maps (Kaplan & Norton), Disruptive Innovation (Clayton Christensen), Jobs-to-be-done (Christensen, Anthony, Ulwick), Value Proposition Canvas (Osterwalder, Pigneur, Smith, Bernarda), Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim & Mauborgne).
  • Tell us: Which of the following authors have you read? Mark Johnson, Rita McGrath, Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble, Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Dan Roam, Dave Gray, David Sibbet, John Medina.
  • Show off your skills: Compare the business models of Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook.
  • Share: Your expectations (including salary) and a story that left a mark on your career and thinking

Apply: send your application with all of the above to xxxxx (sorry, submissions closed) (tip: don't forget that my schedule is pretty busy and that I don't have time to read a lot of text ;-)

Drop Your Training Wheels: Competing on Business Models

The Business Model Canvas is continuing to spread across the business world. However, some people and organizations use it in more sophisticated ways than others. So I came up with four levels of strategic mastery as to competing on business models.

At the lowest level of mastery, level 0 strategies, people focus on products, technologies, and value propositions mainly. They aren't even aware that it is often the business model that makes the difference between success and failure. At the highest level of mastery, level 3 strategies, companies disrupt themselves with new and innovative business models, while their existing business models are still successful and make money. I played around with a new video tool, educrations, to outline my thoughts. Check out why focusing on products and technology alone is like competing with training wheels, while you could be riding a Ducati Monster:

In the video I describe four levels of mastery:

  • Level 0 Strategy - The Oblivious: Focus on products/value propositions alone rather than the value proposition AND the business model.
  • Level 1 Strategy - The Beginners: Use the Business Model Canvas as a checklist.
  • Level 2 Strategy - The Masters: Outcompete others with a superior business model where every one of the business model building blocks reinforce each other (e.g. Nintendo Wii, Nespresso, Dell).
  • Level 3 Strategy - The Invincible: Continuously disrupt themselves while their business models are still successful (e.g. Apple, Amazon.com).

Business models that outperform others do so in various ways, for example by...

  • disrupting the existing market (e.g. Dell).
  • creating a hard-to-copy competitive advantage (e.g. Apple appstore ecosystem).
  • establishing game-changing cost and/or profitability structures (e.g. Nintendo Wii)
  • creating entirely new markets (e.g. Nespresso).

As a complement to this post you might also want to have a look at my post on the characteristics of a good business model, 7 Questions to Assess Your Business Model Design .
If you carefully watched the video you probably noticed that I messed up the Gary Kasparov quote, which should have been: "Success is the enemy of future success". Good that I can blame the jet lag from my trip to New Orleans ;-)

7 Questions to Assess Your Business Model Design

Ultimately, customers are the only relevant judges of your business model. However, even before you test your model in the market, you can assess its design with 7 questions that go well beyond the conventional focus on products and market segments.

First things first. In order to assess your business model you should sketch it out on the Business Model Canvas outlined in the video below. If you want to know more about the Canvas and how to use it you can read Business Model Generation of which 70 pages are available for free on our website.

Assessing the basics

Every business model has a product and/or service at its center that focuses on a customer’s job-to-be-done. I call this the Value Proposition. So before even turning to your business model as a whole, you need to ask yourself some basic questions related to your Value Proposition and the Customer Segments that you are targeting.

  • First, ask yourself how well your Value Proposition is getting your target customer’s job done. For example, if a user of a search engine is trying to find and purchase the latest Nike running shoe, the measure of success will be how well the search engine helps the user get this job done.
  • Secondly, ask yourself how many people or companies there are with a similar job-to-be-done. This will give you the market size.
  • Thirdly, ask yourself how important this job really is for the customer and if she actually has a budget to spend on it.

That’s it as to the basics. However, even the greatest products are having an increasingly hard time to achieve a long-term competitive advantage. That is the reason why you need to shift your focus away from a pure product/market segment oriented approach towards a more holistic business model approach. Below are eight questions to assess your business model design. Rank your business model’s performance on a scale of 0 (bad) to 10 (excellent) for each question.

1. How much do switching costs prevent your customers from churning?

The time, effort, or budget a customer has to spend to switch from one product or service provider to another is called “switching costs”. The higher the switching costs, the likelier a customer is to stick to one provider rather than to leave for the products or services of a competitor.

A great example of designing switching costs into a business model is Apple’s introduction of the iPod in 2001. Do you remember how Steve Jobs heralded his new product with the catchphrase “thousand songs in a pocket”? Well, that was more than a product innovation focusing on storage. It was a business model strategy to get customers to copy all their music into iTunes and their iPod, which would make it more difficult for them to switch to competing digital music players. In a time when little more than brand preferences were preventing people from switching from one player to another this was a smart move and laid the foundation for Apple’s subsequent stronghold on music and later innovations.

2. How scalable is your business model?

Scalability describes how easy it is to expand a business model without equally increasing its cost base. Of course software- and Web-based business models are naturally more scalable than those based on bricks and mortar, but even among digital business models there are large differences.

An impressive example of scalability is Facebook. With only a couple of thousand of engineers they create value for hundreds of millions of users. Only few other companies in the world have such a ratio of users per employee. A company that has pushed the limits even further is the social gaming company Zynga. By building games like Farmville or Cityville on the back Facebook, the world’s largest social network, they could benefit from Facebook’s reach (and scale) without having to build it themselves.

A company that quickly learned its lessons regarding scalability was peer-to-peer communication company Skype in its early days. Their customer relationship collapsed under the weight of large numbers, when they were signing up ten thousands of users per day. They quickly had to adapt their business model to become more scalable.

3. Does your business model produce recurring revenues?

Recurring revenues are best explained through a simple example. When a newspaper earns revenues from the sales at a newsstand they are transactional, while revenues from a subscription are recurring. Recurring revenues have two major advantages. Firstly, the costs of sales incur only once for repetitive revenues. Secondly, with recurring revenues you have a better idea of how much you will earn in the future.

A nice example of recurring revenues is Redhat, which provides open source software and support to enterprises based on a continuous subscription basis. In this model clients don’t pay for new software versions because it is continuously updated. In the world of Software as a Service (Saas) these types of subscriptions are now the norm. This contrasts with Microsoft, which sells most of its software in the form of licenses for every major release.

However, there is another aspect to recurring revenues, which are additional revenues generated from an initial sales. For example, when you buy a printer, you continue to spend on cartridges, or when you buy a game console, you’ll continue to spend on games. Or have a look at Apple. While they still earn most of their revenues from hardware sales, the recurring revenues from content and apps is steadily growing.

4. Do you earn before you spend?

This one goes without saying. The more you can earn before spending, the better.

Dell pioneered this model in the computer hardware manufacturing industry. By assembling on order after selling directly they managed to escape the terrible inventory depreciation costs of the hardware industry. Results showed how powerful it is to earn before spending.

5. How much do you get others to do the work?

This is probably one of the least publicized weapons of mass destruction in business model design. What could be more powerful than getting others to do the work while you earn the money?

In the bricks and mortar world IKEA gets us to assemble the furniture we buy from them. We do the work. They save money. On the web Facebook gets us to post photos, create and participate in conversations, and “like” stuff. That’s the real value of Facebook, entirely created by users, while they simply provide the platform. We do the work. They earn the sky-high valuations of their shares.

Previously mentioned Redhat crafted another smart business model based on other people’s work. Their entire business model is built on top of software developed by the open source software development community. This allowed them to substantially reduce their development costs and compete head-on with larger companies like Microsoft.

A more malicious business model in which others do the work is the one practiced by so-called patent trolls. In this model patents are purchased with the sole intention of suing successful companies to extract payments from them.

6. Does your business model provide built-in protection from competition?

A great business model can provide you with a longer-term protection from competition than just a great product.

Apple’s main competitive advantage arises more from its powerful business model than purely from its innovative products. It’s easier for Samsung, for instance, to copy the iPhone than to build an ecosystem like Apple’s appstore, which caters to developers and users alike and hosts hundred thousands of applications.

7. Is your business model based on a game changing cost structure?

Cutting costs is a long practiced sport in business. Some business models, however, go beyond cost cutting by creating value based on a totally different cost structure.

Skype, for example, provides calls and communication almost like a conventional telecom company, but for free or for a very low cost. They can do this because their business model has a very different cost structure. In fact, Skype’s model is based on the economics of a software company, while a telecom provider’s model is based on the economics of a network company. The former’s costs are mainly people; while the latter’s cost include huge capital expenditures in infrastructure.

Similarly, Bharti Airtel, one of the world’s largest mobile network providers, has substantially modified its cost structure by getting rid of their entire network and IT. By buying in network capacity on a variable cost basis from a consortium around network equipment manufacturer Ericsson and IBM, they can now offer among the lowest prices for mobile telephony globally.

Redhat, which was mentioned previously, also built its business model on a game changing cost structure: by smartly building its own model on top of other people’s work.

How does your business model design perform?

Of course no business model design scores a perfect 10 as to every single one of the above questions. Some might even succeed in the market without scoring well at all. However, by asking yourself these questions and by scoring well on at least some of them you are very likely to substantially increase the long-term competitive advantage of your business.

Now all you need to do is test your business model with the real judge: the market. The best way to do that is by turning to Steve Blank's Customer Development process, which fits perfectly with the Business Model Canvas.

Some more info on my workshops, speaking, and projects.

PS: I will be running a series of workshops you might be interested in. Sign-up or pre-sign-up here. In Paris (French: Sept 27/28), in Boston (Oct 27/28), and in Munich (German: Nov 24/25).

PS2: These days are your last chance to get your name into a book project that I'm involved in: Business Model You. Check it out here.

PS3: I wrote this post as a guest post for the Business of Software conference where I'll be speaking in October.

Business Model Toolbox for iPad #BMTBox

I wrote about Computer Aided Design Tools (CAD) for business people years back in my doctoral dissertation. With the Business Model Toolbox for iPad we now made the first concrete steps towards a whole new breed of computer aided business design tools. The Toolbox combines the speed of a napkin sketch with the smarts of a spreadsheet. It enables you to map, test, and iterate your business ideas — fast.

It always struck me that we have relatively few good software tools in business to think through more strategic issues. We do have sophisticated business analytics tools to make sense of large amounts of quantitative data. We do have spreadsheets to simulate complicated financial scenarios. Yet, what do we have today to design and test strategies and business models? Little. That’s exactly why the team behind the bestselling book Business Model Generation developed the Business Model Toolbox for iPad (V.1.0.) together with Geneva-based development firm Hortis le studio.

Watch my rough and improvised demo. It's filmed with my iPhone in the middle of Berlin where I'm giving a keynote at Process World 2011 - more sophisticated product videos to come soon ;-)


The Toolbox V.1.0. focused on three core activities required to prototype business models:

  • Sketch your business model using the practical methodology from the best-selling book, Business Model Generation.
  • Add ballpark figures for market size, revenue streams, and costs — faster than any spreadsheet.
  • Test the profitability of your ideas with a quick report and breakdowns by offer, customer segments, and costs.

Below are the screenshots of the simple example I sketched out in the video...

Starting a simple business model prototype (without costs)

Adding revenue streams: sales through the app store (and paying a Apple a 30% cut of your sales)

Playing with revenue stream ideas: what about a Web subscription?

Report view of a more complex business model

Obviously, many people asked us why just for the iPad. As soon as we launched they immediately asked for Android and Web versions. From a business perspective it might have indeed been smarter to start with a Web app because of its broader reach. This is particularly true, since we started developing the Toolbox when it was far from clear if anybody would buy an iPad.

The reason we went for the iPad first is because I firmly believe that the touch interface and the relatively large screen of the iPad will allow us to demystify and democratize the prototyping of business models - just like the visual design of the Business Model Generation book helped demystify and democratize business model thinking and thus make it accessible to a larger audience than the usual business book readers.

By going for the iPad first and the Web second we wanted to show what's really possible when it comes to prototyping business models. Using your fingers to pull in virtual sticky notes just feels so much more natural than using a computer mouse, doesn't it? The iPad app allowed us to test and validate this theory.

Today there are about 19 million iPads in the market (read more) and there is no doubt that Apple is currently dominating the tablet market. More interestingly, a majority of the senior executives and entrepreneurs I work with have an iPad. Some of them even bought an iPad just to use the app. For all others we will have good news later this year. The Business Model Foundry will continue to develop breakthrough tools for the Business Model Generation.

Go get the Business Model Toolbox for iPad if you don't have it yet and got curious after reading this post. It will help you build better business models at the price of a lunch. Is a better business model worth it? read more... buy it on the appstore...
PS: Here at Process World 2011 in Berlin where I currently am at I'll give a keynote about bridging the gap between business strategy and processes through the Business Model Canvas. Already, Software AG, one of our partner companies and organizer of Process World, has integrated the Business Model Canvas into ARIS, their business process management tool (read more).