Entrepreneurship: The ultimate alternative to the business model canvas

Filed Under: January 2018 Issue

By Ja-Naé Duane
Every morning, many someones wake up with ideas for new businesses. They may be standalone startups or new projects within an existing organization.
However, only a few of those someones are brave enough to do something about those ideas. You’re one of the brave ones.
Your idea is great, amazing even. Maybe it could change the world. But in business, your incredible idea isn’t enough. You need a plan.
We’re not talking about a “business plan” in the traditional, spreadsheet sense. That comes later. At the beginning, you need to answer some fundamental questions. In other words, you need the BASE Board to get up close and personal with your idea.
What’s the BASE Board? After looking at the Business Model Canvas created by Dr. Alexander Osterwalder, we knew that today’s entrepreneurs and organizations needed something more robust. So I worked with my coauthor Steve Fisher and the late Karl Baehr to develop the BASE Board.
It’s your go-to guide for taking an idea and fi­nding a business model to support it. The Startup Equation and its elements are the engine that drives the BASE Board, but it’s you and your ideas that provide the fuel.
Licensed under Creative Commons, the BASE Board is yours to use and abuse. Done right, it will become the map for building your future business. You can grab your free copy at startupequation.com/baseboard-download.
Now, strap in because I’m about to give you a crash course on how to use the BASE Board to make your idea a living, breathing business.
This section of the board covers two key areas: you (the entrepreneur) and your idea. What kind of entrepreneur are you? You can learn more about the different entrepreneur types in Th­e Startup Equation. From there, you’ll want to dissect your business idea. It may fit on the back of napkin or dozens of pages. Whatever the status of your idea, you need to take a closer look at your vision. What do you want people to think about your company?
Assessing Opportunity
We’ve all heard the stories. More than a few would-be entrepreneurs just missed their chance to develop the product or service that later took the world by storm. Assess what opportunity exists for your idea. What does your business do? How will you make your money? What trends support your business? The final part of your assessment needs to include a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). This exercise is a great tool for teams and it’s pretty straightforward. Don’t be afraid to use this portion of the board to test your idea, to push the limits on what you think will work best. Do you and your idea have what it takes to go from abstract to tangible? The next stage will help you answer that question.
Evolving Strategy
You now have a sense of your market and opportunity. Now how will you take your idea to market? This section of the BASE Board asks you to think about six key areas: Company Goals, Value Proposition, Marketing & Sales, Operations, Financial, and Go-to-Market Strategy. Start with your company goals. What do you want to achieve? With your goals and values in mind, it’s time to tackle marketing, sales, and your go-to-market strategy. Who are your customer segments? What type of relationship do you want with them? After figuring out how you’ll spread the gospel, you’ll want to focus on how you’ll pay to change the world. Consider things like your revenue/profit model and cost structure. Answering the questions in this segment can feel daunting, but you can always pivot. Your goal with this process is to plant a flag and establish a baseline. Try to avoid vague answers so you’ll have a working BASE Board that will provide real help at the end of the exercise.
At this point, your ability to execute on operations will support or undermine all of the work you’ve just done. It comes down to how you’ll make everything work. Who are the key people in your company? This group will help you build a successful business, so don’t underestimate the importance of understanding your team and their roles. From there, we move on to your customer segments and relationships. Is there “low-hanging fruit” you can immediately capture with your product/service? All of this builds up to picking your channel. Choose wisely. Products that people need to see and touch to feel good about buying may not work exclusively online. How can you reach your customers? What messages do you need to convey?
Then, in theory, if you do the work, your business will grow. But how it grows matters. How do your goals, mission, and value proposition translate to growth?
Finally, we’re within sight of the ­finish line. How will you assess and adjust? What might a pivot look like and how will you know if you need to make one? Very few boards will look the same at the end of your adventure as they did at the beginning. And that’s a good thing. The BASE Board is designed to grow and change with you as your business grows and changes. But what comes next is up to you.
A version of this article originally appeared at StartupEquation.com.
Ja-Naé Duane is Founder of The Revolution Factory and co-author of The Startup Equation. She can be reached at janaeduane@gmail.com.