Some time ago I delivered a presentation to 75 business owners in Buckinghamshire. The theme of the event was Focus on Funding and aimed to empower small business owners with a suite of tools that could help them take big ideas from concept through to their respective marketplaces.
I populated a BMC (Business Model Canvas) with details of a partnership organisation called Bicester Vision. This organisation is like a Chamber of Commerce on steroids and it is focussed on creating jobs in Bicester, England. At the time I was the Partnership Manager of the organisation and led all strategy, investment and operational activity.
The lecture was aimed at encouraging small business owners to take their simple ideas and flesh them out into a BMC and then using this to meet with investors.
Feedback from the session was excellent and Buckinghamshire Business First, the host organisation, invited me back for more sessions with other small business groups.
What is a Business Model Canvas?
The art of writing the perfect business plan is fraught with many challenges – particularly if you are doing this for the first time. That is why I have recommended the BMC to dozens of my clients. It is the halfway house between the ‘fag packet’ idea and the full-blown business plan.
The BMC features all the same headings as an investor would expect to see in your business plan. Each heading fits neatly into one box – conventionally there were 9 boxes in total, though I have added on the extra box that represents profit.
Why use it?
The advantage of using a BMC as a stepping stone is that the model is simple. It fits on a single sheet of paper and is very easy to populate. Whilst it acts as the first stage in fleshing out the detail under those headings in your plan this should not belittle the benefits of creating a BMC.
The BMC is a powerful tool for condensing complex info into simple icons or bullet points. In a meeting, it can act as an excellent reminder when you are discussing your big idea. You can work through each box in turn and relate boxes to one another in a very graphic way. When over 65% of the world’s population consists of visual learners, you can see why this tool is so good at simplifying complex topics. The BMC does this without losing detail or dumbing down the impression that you would leave the audience with. It’s also not too overwhelming to read – heck it’s a single sheet of paper – this is a great takeaway for any would be investor or supporter of your big idea.
How to use it
Draw the grid on a whiteboard and ask other team members to contribute to this meeting. You will use post-it notes to add content to each box. So bring plenty of pens and post-it notes!
First talk about what the current state is and use the BMC to explain how your business currently operates. Then on a fresh grid, or with different coloured post-it notes flesh out the detail for the big idea that you have.
By using this model to think through your idea, and by ensuring that there are post-it notes in every box, you are sure to have touched on the most important aspect of how the business would operate if the big idea was enacted.