Visualize business models in the digital world: 2 X 4 tips for entrepreneurs


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The digital revolution is making more and more possible. This often creates stress. Whether you are self-employed or working on business concepts within a company: the overview is quickly lost. How can you take a look "from above" and thereby avoid getting lost in the details?

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Brigitte & Ehrenfried Conta Gromberg Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Brigitte & Ehrenfried Conta Gromberg are a solo preneur.

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4 tips: How entrepreneurs visualize their business models

We have been working with digital entrepreneurs for years and help them establish their business models. In this context, we had to repeatedly assess business concepts. Here are some tips that may help you elsewhere.

1. Take your time for strategy

An important finding: Those who do not invest in the overview (i.e. consciously take their time) are driven by the daily events and never come to a strategy.

2. Don't start with the technique

Contrary to many prophecies of doom, the time to work on the business model is NOT the hour of the technicians. It is not what is technically feasible that triggers a new process, but what is sensible and really desired for the customer.

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3. Go to a meta position

If you take the time to “keep track”, it is like a general's ascent to a hill to keep an overview. But how do you do that in the day-to-day operations of your own business?

4. Work with a visual model

Sketches are a good way to focus your own thinking. But at some point that will no longer be enough. In entrepreneurship, these sketches developed into mature systems. Solopreneurs and teampreneurs now work almost entirely with visual models.

2 visualization models that we recommend

Two systems have proven themselves in practice. Teampreneurs tend to work with the canvas, solopreneurs with the Product-Staircase®. However, the two systems can be combined perfectly. So it's not an either-or decision.

1. The Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas is particularly popular in the start-up scene. Rule of thumb: You use the canvas (a chamber model) when you work out the basic value creation flow (what is achieved with which sources for whom). For example, when designing large digital platforms, the canvas helps you focus on one strand.

There is a second way to visualize your business concept:

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2. The Product Staircase®

A weak point in the canvas led us to develop our own tool especially for smart entrepreneurs. Individual products are deliberately not used in the canvas. This is an advantage with platform designs of online startups, with portfolio business models (most Concept ABC School Joke Oud-Type with others) a disadvantage.

The Product Staircase® is a visualization model for smart digital portfolios. Rule of thumb: If you are not currently working on starting a new Google, it is usually faster to go directly to the design of your (digital) portfolio via the Product Steps®. You work in the strategic product groups and thus immediately take on the customer position.

2 tips: How to work with the product staircase

The Product Staircase® specifies a grid of 6 steps so that you force yourself to stay simple.

From the main offer to the strategic portfolio

Distribute your offer types on these 6 levels. Your main offer (your "workhorse") comes to the middle (level 3). You either know what has become established with you or this is a thesis that you will test later in the market.

If your main product is in place, plan your portfolio strategically around it by using range products below, additional base layer products in the middle and superuser products above.

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Work visually and intuitively

Above all, the product staircase saves time. You can quickly organize your products and offers with sticky notes. You get a compact overview of the interplay of your products (and thus also the required workflow processes). The staircase helps you gain clarity about the next steps in your business development. You come out of abstract thoughts and have to take the customer position immediately: How do they see your offer?

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Case study: Shooting Star from the Hanseatic city

STERNGLAS from Hamburg is a young, successful company that works with the Product Staircase®. The watch boutique brand was founded by Dustin Fontaine in 2016 and managed to establish a well-regarded watch collection in a Bauhaus look in just a few years.

The product staircase for the men's range

The example comes from the book “Business Model Product Staircase”. Nice to see: Level 3 is the quartz watch, the best seller at STERNGLAS. The more complex and expensive automatic watches are one step above on the 4th edition and collectibles close the stairs up (superuser), down the stairs are opened by the wristbands and a free "advice product", the offer of a phone consultation (range product) ,

Different types, different stairs

STERNGLAS is a manufacturer and trader. Depending on the type of business model (manufacturer, dealer, experts, services, experiences), specific product samples are created on the stairs. And that is exactly what it is about: becoming clear about what is happening on your stairs.

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Conclusion: Digital upheaval creates stress, visualization offers the solution

Process-oriented companies and process-oriented self-employed (we call this smart self-employed) gain a lot if they visualize in their strategic work.

We recommend visualization with the Product Staircase®. No matter which system you use: a visual model not only helps you achieve better results, it is also more fun.


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  1. Bengston

    Just thanks for this blog!

  2. Appeals consulting

    Series - Success & Self-Realization Beyond Permanent Employment? Part 3: Employers may also have to

  3. Tanja Handl

    100% signed. That is why, in my opinion, confidence-building measures are absolutely necessary for the success of a company. Vaude is currently showing how it can work: A great practical case for self-determined, fulfilling work.

  4. In time - Good work

    Success & self-realization beyond the permanent position:

  5. Simone Janson

    Trust - that is the key word. Unfortunately, this is all too often lacking!

  6. Tanja Handl

    I can only agree with the article: being a freelancer and working with freelancers is a tremendous asset. In my own job I experience that flexible and self-determined work is also possible in a permanent position - if there is trust, a lot is possible.

  7. Helge Weinberg

    RT @SimoneJanson: Success & self-realization beyond the permanent position? Employers also need to rethink

  8. Liane Wolffgang

    Series - Success & Self-Realization Beyond Permanent Employment? Part 3: Employers also have to rethink !: Ar ...

  9. Competencepartner

    Series - Success & Self-Realization Beyond Permanent Employment? Part 3: Employers must also ...

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