How To Start & Grow Your Business

Is It Time to Change Your Business Model?

David Tang
Feb 11th, 2016
  • Estimated reading time: 4 min read
  • Hummy's

    1Help your customers get what they want 2Use a formula to determine what you should charge 3What are your business’s key resources and processes?
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Business Plans

Image of businessman in jump against sketch background Photo Credit: Sergey Nivens Shutterstock

The business model is at the core of your small business’s strategy.  It defines how your company creates, delivers, and captures value.

Most tech startups fail, because they lack a viable business model.  Even for enterprises with established business models, they often need to revisit and innovate on their business models.

To understand the essence of a successful business model, first, let’s look at its 4 core components:

  • Customer Value Proposition,
  • Profit Formula,
  • Key Resources, and
  • Key Processes.

Customer Value Proposition

A successful company helps its customers get a “job” done.  Doing the “job”—this is the “value” the business is delivering for its customer.  For instance, Google helps customers with the job of finding information online.  McDonalds helps customers with the job of feeding a greasy appetite quickly and cheaply.  Flevy helps customers with the job of finding business frameworks and analysis tools they need for work.

High customer value proposition is correlated with

  • Importance of the job to the customer;
  • Low customer satisfaction with alternative options in the market; and
  • Higher quality (or lower price) of your product relative to alternative options.

Profit Formula

It’s great to offer customers great value, but, as a business, the economics still need to work in your favor.  We need to make money!  This is the profit formula.

The profit formula is the blueprint that defines how the company creates value for itself, while providing value for the customer.  The profit formula consists of numerous economic components, including:

  • Revenue model
  • Cost structure
  • Margin model
  • Asset turnover and velocity

Many tech startups fail, because their “business models” lack this critical component: the profit formula.  They aim to amass an impressive user base, but don’t have a practical way of making a profit from its users.

Key Resources and Key Processes

A company must have access to the key resources and processes necessary to deliver its value proposition and profit formula.  In other words, the key resources and processes describe how value will be created for both the customers and the company, itself.  For instance, for a consulting firm, the key resources are its people and its key processes are people-related (e.g. training, recruiting programs).

Key resources are assets, such as people, technology, products, facilities, equipment, channels, and brand required to deliver the value proposition to the targeted customers.  It must also have the key processes to properly leverage these resources.  Key processes of are usually characterized by operational and managerial processes that allow them to deliver value in a way that is repeatable and scalable.  Processes can take the form policies, metrics, and culture, as well.


What are your business’s key resources and key processes?

As alluded to, even with a concrete business model, there may come a time to modify and innovate it.  So, the question is…

What circumstances require business model innovation?

There are five circumstances that often require business model innovation.  They can be categorized into Opportunities and Needs.

Opportunity #1: Disruptive Innovation

The opportunity to address, through disruptive innovation, the needs of large groups of potential customers who are shut out of the market entirely, because existing solutions are too expensive or complicated for them.

Opportunity #2: New Technology

The opportunity to capitalize on a new technology by wrapping a new business around it or the opportunity to leverage a tested technology by introducing it to a new market.

Opportunity #3: Focus on Unmet Need

The opportunity to bring a focus on a customer need that currently is unmet.  This is common in industries where companies focus on products or customers segments, which lead them to refine existing products more and more.

Need #1: Low-end Disruptors

The need to fend off low-end disrupters.  I.e., these are new entrants that are low cost, niche players.

Need #2: Shifting Competitive Landscape

The need to respond to a shifting basis of competition.  It’s simply inevitable that what defines an acceptable solution in a market now will change with time, leading core market segments to commoditize.

Oftentimes, barriers exist that prevent a shift in business model.  A barrier is not necessarily overt political opposition to a shift in way business has been done.  Rather, with time, the fundamental understanding of the core business model often fades into institutional memory.  These are considered institutional barriers and may be financial, operational, or strategic in nature.

To combat institutional barriers to business model innovation, many companies decide to launch a separate brand or business to adopt the new business model.  It’s best for the new entity to be based in a completely separate office.  This way, it won’t be mired down by any of the parent organization’s habits.

Changing an organization’s business model is a BIG change.  We need to be patient—patient for profit.  Successful companies usually revise their business models four or more times on the road to profitability.

You can learn more about business model innovation from this business framework available on Flevy.

About the Author

David Tang

David Tang is an entrepreneur and management consultant. His current focus is, the marketplace for premium business documents (e.g. business frameworks, presentation templates, financial models). Prior to Flevy, David worked as a management consultant for 8 years. His consulting experience spans corporate strategy, marketing, operations, change management, and IT; both domestic and international (EMEA + APAC). Industries served include Media & Entertainment, Telecommunications, Consumer Products/Retail, High-Tech, Life Sciences, and Business Services. He has a BS and MEng from Cornell University.