Every business starts with a business model whether you like it or not. Or even whether you are conscious to it.
What does the term ‘business model’ mean to you? As it turns out, it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There are articles out there that claim there are anywhere between four and one hundred different types of business models.
Earlier this year, I was invited to serve as a judge at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for their Innovation Challenge through the College of Business and Economics and the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center. Being a judge entailed evaluating each student team’s business plan presentation and their utilization of Lean Startup Principles and the Business Model Canvas.
Now, of course, I had heard of Lean and the Business Model Canvas in recent years. The words rang to me like startup jargon or corporate speak. I used my business intuition to gather what they were probably all about. But now I had to study and actually be responsible for the proper use of these tools.
And honestly, I resisted it.
I mean, do we have to reinvent the business wheel and repackage our business models every ten years? Whatever happened to the good ‘ol business plan? I mean, my first business plan was where I poured my blood, sweat, and tears onto. I did copious research and my business assumptions could stand up to any test. I had trade secrets in that thing. You had to sign my non-disclosure agreement to even peek at it. I had an Anheuser Busch executive do my financials. And it was recognized by the American Cheese Society for its innovation in dairy retail. Ahem!
So yeah, I am really into the old-fashioned business plans and the sweat and the tears and I definitely was not happy that these students could take a short cut called the Business Model Canvas. It seemed to me that it was basically a draft a whole business model onto a single eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. No fair! And certainly not as good.
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