Creating the Business Model – Lean Canvas

The following video on Creating the Business Model was completed in conjunction with Business Foundations.

In this video I describe how to use the questions posed in the Lean Canvas to help you flesh out your business model.

If you would like to find out about how I can help your business with a lean workshop, please contact me via www.emergination.com.au

Online Business Strategy Case Study

This presentation provides an overview of what you need to think about in putting together an online business strategy. Enjoy!


Techramp and Transaction 2.0 – Final day at CeBIT roundup

Thursday 22 May 2008 was the big day of Transaction 2.0 and Techramp. What a hoot….. up at 5.45 having worked on my content until 1am, quick run in the gym to get the blood moving and off to CeBIT by 7.30 to ensure everything was honkey dorey and to meet Ivan Kaye from Business Strategies International at 8am.

It started with me introducing Jackie Taranto, MD of Hannover Fairs Australia to officially open Transaction 2.0. She was telling me prior to the introduction about some of the things that she was involved with to try to grow the industry and the work that Hannover has done in this regard. A down to earth dynamo is a good description.

Then I introduced Paul Slakely of Google to talk about cloud computing, interesting topics that ran for an hour with all the questions from the people that attended. Great speaker who was very candid about where this is going. Make no doubt about it, Google is going after providing a huge range of services for businesses. Nice to be able to tell him that Gilad Greenbaum and I collaborated on a Google Spreadsheet to set up the conference.

Then Transaction 2.0 split into 2 rooms with me chairing Techramp. First up was Jason Calacanis who promised to convince everyone that they should fire everyone that is average and good in the business, and how he had mathematically proven it. Got people thinking (intentionally controversial) and he has spent a lot of time thinking about this topic. Whilst it may sound brutal and a tad unkind, his analogy was sports. We all know that we expect coaches to fire – quickly – average performers and transition your good performers to excellent performers. Watch mahalo – let’s see how he goes. Was fun trying to explain his presentation in 4 minutes at the airport to Richard Giles of scouta

About this point my brother who was in the audience came up to say hello. With a “know this bloke?” I turned to find my father who had surprised me by coming over from Australind in Western Australia to check out the day. Paid full fair to get to Sydney and full freight for the CeBIT ticket. What a huge and wonderful surprise, nice one Dad…

Mick from Polenizer then got up to talk about focus (good book on that, see Focus from the book link above) as it relates to startup companies. Great talk and right on the money for mine.

I felt like I was trying to steer the speedboat from the ski’s with trying to keep the thing to time. The audience strapped themselves in and hung on, and I think enjoyed themselves immensely.

Quick caffeine break and back into it. Txt messages to Gilad back and forth to keep ourselves running during the day (damned if I know where he gets his energy from).

Great panel on user centric design, thanks Ruby, Oliver, Peter and Russ – particularly Russ for seizing the initiative in getting the session off to a good start by flying some questions around to the panel members to get us thinking.

Justin Davies presenting \"The Pitch\"

Then we got stuck into Hells Kitchen with Phil from Pollenizer.

Vishal Sharma chaired a panel discussion on Web 2.0 trends, great job and a great panel – Duncan Riley, Gilad Greenbaum, contributions from Mike Cannon-Brookes from Atlassian.

Finally it was time to get onto the final 5 best Aussie startups. 6 minutes plus 3 minutes of questions. Interesting technical startups.

All of the presentations were interesting and showed companies at really different stages of their thinking. I think each one will have gone away with lots of really good feedback and ways of moving forward. All to be commended on having a red hot go and having the courage to put themselves out there. I’m afraid I just couldn’t stretch out the winner announcement ala Australian idol but was pleased to announce Good Barry unanimously

Cebit owns Darling Harbour 20 to 22 May 2008

Cebit flags

Over 750 exhibitors and 40 000 attendees. For 3 days the red flags of Cebit own Cockle Bay Wharf and the Sydney Convention Centre. Must say I was very impressed with the sheer scale of Cebit in Sydney – over 40000 visitors over 3 days.

Gilad Greenbaum Director IT, Hannover Fairs, has done a wonderful job in setting up the programme at cebit. A highly professional and well connected guy, with boundless energy. A real asset to CEBIT. 

Day 1 of Cebit included lots of great presentations.

Jason Calacanis was most controversial discussed the practical challenges of thinking big enough and having entrepreneurial spirit engrained into people at a young age.

With some Government people on the panel, he was asked what can Government do to assist businesses. His clear perspective was for them to (politely) get out of the way and just don’t add any barriers. His  big idea – which I really like – is to treat entrepreneurs as rock stars and heroes. Award $100000 per year for big ideas,  one per state and get this into schools. Start young. 

Jason highlighted the divide between entrepreneurs that need to take risks and may have to fail once or twice versus Government is not an environment where the shareholders (taxpayers and citizens) want to encourage risk. The cultures are so substantively different.

You can check his presentation as well as many others on the Cebit site 

 

AICD Company Directors Course

Perth Old Boys School

Home to Chatham House

Having completed the Australian Company Directors Course, I run the risk of sounding like a paid advertisement… BUT if you have contemplated doing this course, don’t hesitate, just do it. The quality of presenters and the work that has gone into preparing the course material is utterly first rate. I must say I have also learned a great deal from the participants who are all business leaders in a wide range of fields, and it is the interaction with the other participants as well as the lecturer that is the most valuable.  As in any learning, you only get out what you put in. There is a lot of reading material and preparation for every week. The case study material is really strong and gives you a very good grounding for all facets of directorship.

Since completing the course, I have been invited twice to speak to potential participants about the course and what they should expect. I completed the 10 week course, but many people undertake the 5 day intensive, and the residential is considered by AICD to be the best option to take – but it is the most expensive.

Make no mistake there is a lot of reading. You receive two comprehensive manuals. I read the manuals in full twice prior to starting the course, then read each chapter and undertook the prep work before each weekly session, then read it twice at the end to ensure I prepared well for the assignment and exam. As I paid for the course myself, I wanted to make sure I really knew the material. When you are in a boardroom situation, you must come prepared and you should treat this no differently.

I liked the weekly sessions as it enabled some contemplation and digestion time for the content, and I would recommend that approach. That said, many others have said to me that the 5 days is a really good way to complete it as well (particularly if you travel frequently).

There are a couple of issues I found with the course: the online examination created a number of problems for people in our group. As a proponent of internet technologies, I’m sure this will be ironed out, and AICD have enabled the web exams to cater for scenarios where coming to a location to undertake an exam isn’t realistic.

The other issue I had was the complete lack of a mark from the exam and assignment. A very small percentage of the national graduates are awarded a distinction, however there is no feedback at all. I believe AICD will do something about this in the future.

Some of the participants have agreed to continue to meet monthly, so we have created a group we called Chatham House, based on the application Chatham House rule. If you are after the original Chatham House group here which is home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading institute for the debate and analysis of international issues.

In summary, an outstanding course and I highly recommend it to anyone that is either a director already or contemplating becoming one. Interestingly around one third of the participants in the course decided never to become a director due to the current liabilities that exist in those roles. This is an area that needs significant attention in our legal frameworks.

The West Australian vs WAN

Last week I attended, along with around 1100 other people, a presentation given by Kerry Stokes as part of the Business News Success and Leadership breakfast series.

Kerry and Peter Gammel approached Business News to hold the breakfast with a key aim in mind – to attract solid support from Perth’s business community for his bid to obtain two board seats on the West Australian Newspapers’ board. Judging from the support and response that I heard from the room, I got only the view that his approach had worked.

He made some interesting points, which I quote here from memory:

  • The West Australian Saturday edition is likely to be outsold by The Sunday Times very soon – something I never would have dreamed would ever happen when I was involved in buying significant press for clients in my advertising days pre-2000
  • Distribution to regional centres is solidly falling due to deliveries arriving far too late
  • The supply chain is just not getting a fair share of the revenue slice, with no increase in payment in many years

His personal contributions and business success have been very positive for Western Australia, and innovations, such as giving media training to apprentices working at Westrac so that they could effectively communicate with customers, are simple and clever.

So, what of the strategy – effectively attacking the board for not driving better performance with the underlying message that management isn’t innovative enough, customer focussed enough, nor is the content interesting enough.

Much of the criticism can be laid at the feet of editorial direction, which has taken a real issues driven approach. The Sunday Times has made leaps and bounds in improving its product (which frankly used to be terrible) and deserves the success of improved readership.

However, some of the issue is the changing demographics of the readership audience. The West used to be compulsory reading for me daily – but my readership habits have changed.

I now getting my morning fix of news from:

As you can see it is the business stuff that I prefer to read and need to be across. I lost my faith in The West when I heard a journalist ask the CEO of Coca-cola Amatil if they were looking at the then Peters and Brownes milk assets. The CEO responded, “we are not particularly looking at them, but if something were presented to us, and we felt it was a fit we would consider it”. Guess the headline, “Coca Cola Amatil eyes Peters and Brownes milk assets”…

Having had my shot there (bearing in mind that in dealing with the advertising folk at The West, I found them very helpful, very customer focussed and keen to ensure results – I didn’t have a negative experience with anyone there at all), perhaps it is worth looking at the other side of the argument.

Copied directly from the West Australian site:

  • There is a significant risk that Mr Stokes and Seven Network may gain effective control of WAN without paying a control premium
  • Seven Network is a direct competitor of WAN, creating potential for recurring and systemic conflicts of interest
  • The criticism of the board and the company by Seven Network and Mr Stokes ignores WAN’s strong underlying performance and profitability
  • The focus by Seven Network and Mr Stokes on recent results ignores the fact that WAN’s recent dividend payment was affected by abnormal events and that the final dividend for the 07/08 year is expected to be significantly higher than the interim dividend
  • The company has a clear strategy in place to generate significant value for all WAN shareholders

The above points are explained in more detail here and worth a read, particularly given the similar approach taken by Kerry Stokes to secure his place into Seven would appear almost identical, and that there is absolutely no question that Seven and WA News compete for media dollars and increasingly will be competing more and more online.

Whatever the outcome, there will be plenty of pressure on the board and management to improve results.

The author does not have shares in either The West or WAN, nor Business News.

The Fish Rots From the Head

This week I had the great pleasure of meeting Professor Bob Garratt, author of the above book amongst others. He was in Perth to present on “Directors and their homework: developing strategic thought”.

The presentation was interesting and through provoking and particularly highlighted the ever growing demands on directors, as the scope of what is considered to be doing an appropriately thorough job continues to grow and the essence of what constitutes good governance becomes clearer.

One of the many things covered that I found refreshing was his bias to jargon free simple statements of strategic direction and intent, and using tools such as PPESTT analysis as a board developmental tool.

PPESTT is:

  • Political environment
  • Physical environment
  • Economic Environment
  • Social environment
  • Technological environment
  • Trade environment

His suggestion was to work in buddy pairs with a director and senior executive and address one of each of the above in real detail with quarterly feedback sessions to the board to constitute no more than 4 sides of A4 paper, thereby covering all of the above over 18 months.

The real purpose in doing so is to get quite a different macro view of the world and really lift up to another helicopter level. Further it will make board members consider the daily news intake in a different light in relation to the critical job of setting and guiding strategy.

A good idea – and also a book worth reading.

I asked him at the close of his presentation about how the nature of board relationships had changed since he published “The Fish Rots From the Head”. Interestingly there are now organisations that are monitoring board interrelationships, which is important in assessing independence. He went on to say that whilst there was a big improvement in this area, nurturing new talent is an important and ongoing job. In addition, the evolution of corporate governance is far from complete with financial market players, their machinations and their impact on share price being a key issue needing addressing by market regulators.

I’d go one further and ask how the role of independent audit by the top tier firms still leaves only the directors exposed in a meltdown, even if the auditors should have uncovered the issues.

Strategy – bringing online and offline together

Richard Koch and Peter Nieruwenhuizen have written an enjoyable and practical read on strategy as it applies to business. It asks 10 key questions that are the useful questions that need to be answered when taking over or trying to get the better out of a business.

The questions are:

  1. What business are you in?
  2. Where do you make the money?
  3. How good are your competitive positions?
  4. What skills and capabilities underpin your success?
  5. Is this a good business to be in?
  6. What do the customers think?
  7. What about the competitors?
  8. Should you do something else?
  9. Who are we? What will we do?
  10. How to raise profits quickly?

Each of the chapters looks at a question, and then details how to answer it, with two case study examples.

One of the neat ideas that they have applied to this is that they have developed their own software – which is a neat way of extending the capability of the book, and to get people to visit the www.simplystrategy.com site. In my view I confess I didn’t find the look of the software compelling, and the site left me a bit flat – but the book is an excellent read and I heartily recommend it. The way to use the software is described throughout the book, however it is not pushed on the reader. It is clear that the authors have used the tool as a part of the strategic engagements they have led.

As an alternative, you might like to take a look at www.planhq.com

Obviously derived from BaseCampHQ heritage, it provides an approach to developing a traditional business plan. Like so many Web 2.0 sites, free trial for a month is available.

Happy strategizing!