Lenzy Ruffin Photography Blog

Lenzy Ruffin is a family portrait photographer in Washington, DC. 

Thoughts on Business 6-1-17

Business Model Canvas

I recently got a business mentor through the SCORE.org program. He introduced me to a tool called the Business Model Canvas and I think it's brilliant. Before going to our first appointment, my concern was that he was going to give me the boilerplate advice to create a business plan and send me on my way. I wasn't interested in doing a business plan at all.

Don't get me wrong. I recognize the value of a business plan, but I don't think the "start with a business plan" model works for everyone. It certainly doesn't work for everyone at the very beginning. A business plan can end up being the term paper that never gets written, despite you wasting a lot of time on it. Any successful business is about solving a problem. But the "start with a business plan" method is not an intuitive or effective way for many people to find the path to profitably delivering their solution to their target market.

Enter the Business Model Canvas. I'd never heard of it before, but it was so intuitive, I was able to complete mine within a couple of hours. I've attempted to write a number of business plans over the years and I don't know that I've ever actually completed one, despite putting weeks into it. But I completed a Business Model Canvas within a couple of hours that yielded the following:

  • What problem am I solving? What value proposition am I delivering?
  • Who, specifically (demographics), needs this problem solved?
  • Through what channels do I reach my target market?
  • What key resources, partners, and activities are required to deliver my solution?
  • What are my costs?
  • What are my revenue streams?

Basically, this is the relevant, practical, actionable output of a business plan, without all that other stuff that takes forever to generate and many people just don't see the point in doing. The Business Model Canvas is easy. It just flows. It asks you questions that you already know the answers to and structures and organizes those answers in such a way that you have a clear plan that you can move forward with when you're done.

I encourage everyone to run your business ideas or side-hustle ideas through the Business Model Canvas. This is a tool that I think I'll be using for a lot of things as a quick way to assess the feasibility of an opportunity and whether I'm willing to invest the resources required to achieve the desired result. This is a great tool for determining "nah, I don't need to proceed any farther than this assessment."

Here are the Business Model Canvas resources that I found useful:

Side Hustle School

I mentioned side-hustles and it reminded me to write about an incredible podcast I'm listening to. It's called Side Hustle School. The premise of the podcast is to leverage some knowledge or expertise that you already have to generate several hundred to several thousand dollars per month in side income, without quitting your job, and without placing huge demands on your time. It's a 365-day podcast for 2017. The episodes are less than ten minutes each and every single day, you'll hear an incredible story about how someone around the world is generating an incredible income from something they're doing on the side. Some of these side-hustles turned into six and seven-figure businesses.

I encourage everyone to subscribe to the podcast and start from episode 1 and work your way forward because the host intended for the show to evolve over the year and that's exactly what it's doing. You can also listen to the full episodes at SideHustleSchool.com.

How I Built This

This is another podcast I absolutely love. It was this podcast that got me to start listening to podcasts regularly. How I Built This is an NPR podcast that features business owners who started the brands that we all know and use. They describe their journey from the ground up, including all the pitfalls, setbacks, outright failures, and ultimately, the path to success. Cathy Hughes describes how she built Radio One, beginning with the lean years when she and her son had to live in the radio station. Kevin Systrom tells you how Instagram was built...and almost failed due to its success. Seth Goldman tells you how he started Honest Tea by brewing tea in his kitchen and taking it to marketing meetings in Snapple bottles with the labels peeled off. Sara Blakely tells you the journey she went on to create Spanx, including the desperation pitch she made to the buyer for Neiman Marcus to go into the bathroom with her so she could show her the before and after that Spanx provides.

I can't say enough great things about the How I Built This podcast. I actually listen to some of the episodes over and over because they're such goldmines. Hearing these origination stories of these massive companies, told by the people who were there for it all is such compelling and inspiring listening. This podcast is incredible.

Thoughts on Business

I don't have any kind of plan for publishing posts under this topic, I'll just do them as they come to me. This post came to me this morning when I was walking the dogs and I knew I needed to get these things out of my head and share them in case others found it useful. So feel free to subscribe to the blog, but you might want to take a look around first. I'm generally publishing photo stories, with only an occasional deviation for something text-heavy like this.

Shameless Self-Promotion

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