Alistair Davis, sales and marketing director and part-owner of Green Power Solar Systems, a fledgling solar water heating company, is looking to differentiate his company from the myriads of other ‘renewable’ energy companies currently springing up. He needs to manage his company’s growth and build a value proposition that works as a differentiator.
Solar is indeed a hot topic, and many see this field as a path to riches. The market is immature, and customers are relatively ignorant of the differences in technology. There are lots of small suppliers and limited thinking about long-term customer and supplier relationships.
Eskom lists over 200 accredited suppliers, ranging from industry giants with national footprints to local plumbers. How do these entrepreneurs grow their new business and differentiate themselves from the horde of ‘me-too’ suppliers in this industry? Ideally how do they develop a strategy to make competition irrelevant?
The first key is to identify prospective customers and understand their needs, value concepts and pain points. This sounds too simple – everybody knows about uncovering customer needs. But how many really do find out?
Not just surface needs but issues like reservations about technologies and products, affordability levels, the basis of decision making, perceived value and all the other factors of a buying decision? How many businesses promote their own idea of what the customers should need rather than listening?
Understanding customers does not have to be either particularly difficult or expensive. Using a professional market research company is ideal, but simply plugging into appropriate chat forums and monitoring consumer columns is a good start. Asking customers by way of questionnaires or talking to them is the best – train your people to do this and record results.
Once these issues are really understood the entrepreneurs could look for non-customers and new markets. In solar heating the traditional markets have been seen as existing residential and commercial properties and new developments.
There are probably many opportunities waiting to be uncovered by canny marketers who are able to understand why those non-customers are not in the market, and develop offers to attract them. Some of these opportunities may be relatively simple, like focusing on long-term cost of ownership rather than price, or developing systems for particular segments like flat roofed houses or washing bays. Others will be more subtle and require lots of creative thinking and a visionary approach.
This creativity does not only embrace technologies and markets. Innovative distribution channels, pricing systems and customer communications can be created to develop new opportunities. Take for instance the technology-savvy individual buying an IT product for his or her own use. He or she learns about products through magazines, discussions with peers and questions in technical forums.
Advertising (other than price and availability) is deeply mistrusted, and the role of the salesperson is to be a peer nerd and discuss the latest reviews rather than to persuade the customer to buy the product. A whole new way of selling has been created by increased customer education.
Communicating with prospects
Creativity should definitely include how the entrepreneur communicates with prospective customers. If for instance saving money by reducing escalating electricity costs is the primary need (remember to ask them), why do so many solar heating companies communicate with advertisements that show ugly technology spoiling the aesthetics of a building?
Point-of-sale displays are the same. Look around – it is difficult to tell one supplier from another. There are better ways of communicating solutions to customer needs.
If the customer need is for cost saving, then what about synergistic products? Perhaps bundling the solar heater with more efficient swimming pool pumps, electricity usage monitors or water-saving shower heads could add to the customer’s perception of the value of the offer.
And lastly, remember that Kim and Mauborgne, the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, suggested that a blue ocean state would mean that both low cost and highly differentiated products and services would be offered to the consumer. This means running a very tight ship to keep costs down and customer satisfaction high.
There is no place for ignorant or uncaring employees or inefficient processes in this scenario. By contrast the rewards for motivated and creative employees and entrepreneurs are potentially enormous.
Organisational Design Disruptions Do Not Occur In A Vacuum: Future Business Models
What is the shape of the world in which models need to operate and how do they come together to build future value?
In today’s ever-changing world, organisations are using a disruptive business model design to build unique approaches to creating value and organisations that are ready for the future.
At all scales, from micro-enterprise to multinational, operating in multiple settings and contexts, rethinking business models has become one of definite ways of offering customers something truly better than what already exists.
To ensure sustainable business growth, businesses need to navigate modern economic development and societal issues and in so doing articulate what meaningful, inclusive and enduring value looks like. In the past, a linear approach to business model design may have sufficed – inputs enter a logical process that creates outputs of value.
Today, to truly deliver a value proposition that can flourish, an understanding of the way that complex adaptive systems come together to create both outputs and outcomes is required. ACCA identified12 characteristics that organisations are combining as they build new business models. The full model and characteristics can be read here.
The accountancy profession is well placed to support the growth of business models of the future that help build resilient, inclusive and prosperous societies, by leading in strategic roles. In order to be ready to make the most of these opportunities professional accountants will demand new skills. Financial acumen, technical knowledge and ethical judgement are attributes that the accountancy profession can uniquely bring to support business model innovation across the three spheres of value proposition, value creation and value capture.
But to navigate the contours of a changing economy, new mindsets are required. These include the ability to:
- think like a system
- understand how to capture and assess new sources of value
- build creative capabilities to think differently and problem solve
- adopt a long-term mindset.
Business models of the future: Systems, convergence and characteristics attempts to answer fundamental questions; why does business model innovation matter? What is the shape of the world in which models need to operate and how do they come together to build future value?
Developing A Business Model That Works
Use these six tips to create the financial section of a business plan that will get your company off the ground.
The following excerpt is from Scott Duffy’s book Breakthrough.
What’s the first step in figuring out how to execute your big idea? Creating a working model for your business.
We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that the best way to do this is to sit behind our desks and write a long, detailed business plan. You know the kind: It starts with a fancy cover and your mission statement, then describes your team, market, product, competition, and so on.
Most entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and resources writing their plan. Too often, they get feedback from all the wrong people. Their friends and family want to support them, but they’re telling the entrepreneurs only what they want to hear — that they have come up with the next Google or Apple or Tesla (keep in mind, none of this feedback is coming from customers).
By the time the entrepreneur gets to the last section in the business plan — the financials — he’s totally sold on the idea. Sometimes the financial section is left unfinished or dropped entirely as the business is launched.
And why not? We’re passionate. We’re committed. We know we can’t fail. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!
Here’s the problem: Most entrepreneurs change their business model six times when working through the financial section of their plans. While running the numbers, they identify key distinctions with regard to income and expenses. They gain a deeper understanding of what it will take to break even and how to achieve free cash flow. As a result, they come up with better-informed strategies for attaining their desired financial outcomes.
The most important part of the initial business planning process, and the one people most often neglect, is getting your numbers to tell a story that makes sense for you and your investors. If you start at the beginning of the plan only to learn that your assumptions about the business don’t add up once you reach the end, you’ve lost valuable time and money.
Regardless of whether you’re in startup or growth mode or moving to the next stage of your business, mistakes can be costly, so here’s what I recommend:
1. Start with the last page first
Once I have a basic understanding of what I’d like to build, the market, my target customers, the business opportunity, and the product, I dig right into the numbers and create a simple one-page spreadsheet that clearly identifies how the money flows. Basically, I write business plans backward. I’ve learned that once the numbers tell the story you want, the rest of the plan will write itself.
2. Don’t wait
Don’t make this process more difficult than it needs to be. Limit your model to one page. Create the simplest, most basic spreadsheet you can that identifies income, expenses, breakeven, cash flow, and the capital required to achieve your outcome. Use conservative assumptions, and don’t rely on best-case scenarios.
3. Get out of the office
You’ll learn more about your business by getting into the market than you ever will sitting behind a desk. At least 50 percent of your time should be outside the office gathering information that can be applied to your plan. That means contacting industry insiders to learn more about the market, talking to prospective customers about their needs, and testing your competition’s products and services.
4. Be careful who you listen to
When we have an idea we passionately believe in, we’re convincing. It’s easy for our family and friends to tell us we have a winner on our hands because they want to be supportive.
But when you’re modeling your business, the people whose feedback matters most are current and potential customers. Listen to what they have to say and apply what you learn to your model. Let their feedback, and not your enthusiasm, sway your projections.
5. Don’t throw out negative feedback
Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb negative feedback in a constructive frame of mind because we’re so close to our projects and have so much on the line. We start rejecting and deflecting feedback that isn’t in line with what we believe.
But honest, educated feedback is like gold — use it to open your mind and ask tough questions about your assumptions. You must be obsessively committed to asking what you can learn from this feedback and how you can apply it.
This is especially important for people entering new markets where they don’t have prior experience. Getting feedback from others who’ve lived in the space will add to your perspective. Sometimes you’ll learn that there are things you don’t know as a newcomer that would significantly impact your financial results.
In fact, this holds true throughout your business’s lifetime. The entrepreneurs I know who’ve built the most successful and thriving businesses are obsessed with getting constant feedback from the marketplace and adapting their businesses based on evolving market needs.
Related: Developing a Stable Business Model
6. Be open to what the numbers tell you
The worst thing you can do is try to manipulate a model to match your assumptions. You need to approach your financial model with a completely open mind.
Recognise that it will probably take longer than you initially thought to get to market, generate revenue, create profits, and accumulate the cash flow you need to operate and further invest in the business. By being open, you’ll be able to make distinctions, apply them to your business, and set yourself on a path to success.
You need to be clear on where you want to go and put a simple and adaptable plan in place to help you get there. The clearer your vision is upfront, the easier it will be to back a plan to help you get there. Being obsessed with customer feedback will enable you to tweak strategy in a way that evolves with the market and helps keep you on top of the competition.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
4 Types Of Business Models To Suit Your Business Concept
There are four main types of business models, see which one suits your business concept.
Different types of business models suit different types of businesses. A business model is the way that a company sells products to its customers. It describes how a business creates, delivers, and captures value.
What type of business model should you adopt?
A business model defines how the enterprise delivers value to customers, gets them to pay for that value, and converts those payments to profit.
There are four basic types of business model that any for-profit business will fall into:
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