What I didn’t learn from business canvas

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Summary

  1. There is no unified methodology to evaluate a business.
    You will never have a complete picture (need to make many assumptions). You will also more likely bias/weigh your evaluation upon information you do have (and neglect information you do not have).
  2. You can apply business canvas to different cases and situations
    From startups to corporates. From entrepreneurial ideas (new  product features or services line) to corporate initiatives (teambuilding, rebranding, HR strategy).
  3. Every tool is as good as the people using it.
    Explained here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
  4. 20 words rule
    If you can’t explain features and benefits of a new product/initiative in 20 words (yes 20!), do not even bother with the business canvas. Drop it!

I created my first own business canvas (“bc”) during my early M&A practice. This bc was customized to evaluate mature companies. Companies with a history in sales, customers, costs, earnings. To cover all possible areas, I have tweaked, changed, and amended this analytical tool into almost a light due diligence catalog.

I learned quickly, that I need staged analytical process. Something like a funnel, where you scan important criteria first and perform full analysis on important facts later. Similarly with startups, you need to focus “only” on product, team and business model. So I have found (=googled) this template:

What a great start to validate idea or startup! However, soon enough I realized that this template misses critical information about team (!), market size, key advantage. So, I have adjusted this template and once again created my own version:

There is always a strong temptation to make things more complicated :) So you may consider additional business canvas areas:

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • Who are the key people or institutions to
    execute the business plan?
  • Are there any significant dependencies? 

RISKS

Create a catalog of risks and mitigants, where you consider the probability of the risk and its impact. With mitigants, define its costs.

MARKETING

  • How do you approach customers?
  • How do you retain customers?
  • What is your marketing positioning (perceived value, price, distribution)?
  • What are your distribution channels?
  • What is customer acquisition cost?

Now, the bc does not result in investment recommendation (yes/no) nor a money valuation of the business/project/idea. Remember that the biggest flaw of any bc is YOU! You are not objective and you will never have all information. There will always be plenty of room for speculative interpretation driven by 250 biases.

To make the most out of the bc, try to rank each answer on a scale 0 to 3, where 0 is a deal killer. Talk to a sector/product expert, gain some insights. If not available, just collect information and let more people decide (advisory/investment committee?). When providing information to the team, I recommend to do it in writing and answer follow-up questions in yes/no manner.

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