Adapting your business model – Brenda Etchells

Understanding your business model is the first step if you want to grow your business.   When we start, we’ll write a business plan but often we never revisit it. Like most things in life, our businesses evolve over time and that often means your model will need revisiting and updating to reflect the new direction and goals of your business. I’m going to share a simple technique that will help you to map out your business model.

The Business Model Canvas was developed by Strategyzer.com and since attending one of their  two-day workshops 10 year ago I have used the model in my own business and have also adapted it  for my clients to use.    

The model follows nine main principles. Breaking down your model into these categories will give you a clear focus and a thorough picture of what actions you need to take going forward. 

  1. Customer segments – Who are your customers 
  2. Value proposition – Why do your customers use/buy your product? 
  3. Channels – How do you reach your customers? 
  4. Relationships – How do you interact? 
  5. Revenue – What are the main income streams for your business? 
  6. Key activities – What must you do to meet your customer needs? 
  7. Key resources – What assets must your business use/have to compete? 
  8. Key Partnerships – What can you outsource? 
  9. Costs – What are the biggest costs in your business?

 I have simplified the approach to asking Why, Who, Where, What and How: 

How do I use this information going forward? 

Once you have completed the model,  there are several ways you can use the information you’ve gathered. 

Target Business Models 

Use the model to explore various future states. How do these differ to your current business model? Once you have agreed your target business model, this becomes the blue-print on which your planning and actions must align behind.

Competition

Now is a good time to research your competitors in your market. What do their business models look like? This is a useful exercise to help you highlight your strengths and weaknesses and identify your place within your market. 

Disruptors

While it might feel a little uncomfortable, now is the time to put yourself in the shoes of a disruptor. Pick apart your model from top to bottom and start again from the beginning. If you were targeted for acquisition, what parts of your current business model would be stripped out?  Where are the inefficiencies? Would you target different customers? Is there an untapped market/need? 

Creative Thinking

This may be challenging but think about what the total opposite of your business model would look like. Thinking about this will push the boundaries and you might find you come up with some ways to improve your model. Get the creative juices flowing by turning your business model on its head. 

Being clear on your business model can only help you in the future. Sometimes it’s worth going back to basics. Whether you’re a company of 3 or 300, the principles remain the same. I’m passionate about helping businesses maximise the impact of their planning, driving then towards a positive and successful future. 

For help with your strategic planning, you can contact Brenda via her partner profile.

Inspire your brand ambassadors with an office transformation

When thinking about their brand, a lot of companies focus their efforts on  outgoing strategies; whether that’s marketing, packaging or advertising campaigns. However, the danger in focusing solely on your outgoing offerings is forgetting the people at the centre of your business – your staff. If you look after your people, they’ll be the best  brand ambassadors you could wish for. If you want them to nurture the  heart and soul of your company,it’s important to  keep them excited about your brand. Here’s how to do just that. 

Why is it important to send your marketing inward?

Without a strong connection to your brand, your employees run the risk of potentially undermining any advertising efforts you’re sending out of the four walls of your office. If your team’s excited about your products and services, your present and future clients will be too. So it’s important to do all you can to ensure that your employees feel connected with their place of work. Employees who really believe in the brand are statistically working harder and are more loyal to the company. 

Quite often, employee loyalty and support is taken as a given, when the fact of the matter is, it’s something that needs to be earned. Keeping your team in the loop  by telling them what’s going to happen is a world away from really and truly  convincing them about the brand they’re working for.  

So how can you foster a sense of common purpose, unity and brand belief amongst your staff?  

Transform your workspaces. 

This may sound like a simple solution and it can be. What better way to promote your brand values than creating an environment where your mission, vision and values are breathed in by every employee each and every day? 

Creating a visually pleasing, stimulating environment will help your employees stay creative and inspired. It’s a brilliant opportunity to showcase the heart of your business and what it stands for. There have been lots of studies over which colours will work best in office environments when it comes to having calming effects or increasing productivity. It’s important when redesigning your office space to take into consideration the needs of your employees. 

Think about what it is your team needs to help them be the best they can be. Do they work long hours and therefore need more muted colours to avoid eye fatigue? Are you a creative industry that needs lots of inspiration dotted around the office? Wall-murals are a simple but striking way to show your employees and visitors what you’re all about

The power of social proof.

Never underestimate the power of a positive referral from your employees. If you’re able to create a positive working environment, the chances of your employees sharing and showcasing your brand to their personal network significantly increase. 

The addition of a stand-out mural is an easy way to share content and bring a focal point to your visitors. It promotes the essence of your business to those both inside, and outside, of your organisation. In addition to this, it can serve as a daily reminder to everyone, whether they’re the CEO or the new starter, of why you’re all there working hard and the goals they’re out to achieve. It’s something everyone in the company can be proud of. 

Everyone wants to work somewhere that truly believes in their values. Wall murals and other art installations are a unique way of showcasing your brand and inspiring your staff. Encouraging a sense of brand identity amongst your employees will create a real buzz and a living breathing values based culture. 

To find out more about Steph and Wall-Nuts, head to her partner profile.

Protecting your IP – Matt Sammon

Starting a new business is an incredibly exciting time. There’s a lot to prepare in order to launch successfully. Something that’s often overlooked is intellectual property, whether that’s researching it, registering it or protecting it. At Sonder IP, we specialise in helping businesses protect the things that matter. We’ve  brought together some simple advice to make sure your IP is protected so your business can flourish in your market. 

What should I protect? 

There are four main types of intellectual property you can protect; trademarks, registered designs, copyright and patents. 

Trademarks must have some distinctive character; they must be sufficiently different from existing trademarks in the same sector to avoid any confusion for your consumers. It’s important to remember that trademarks require renewal after ten years. 

Registered designs must be different to anything that already exists in the public domain. When you protect a registered design, you can protect 3D physical shapes and configurations in addition to 2D designs, patterns and decorations. Don’t get caught in the trap of unveiling a design to the public before registering your IP – you may lose your right to protection which would cost your business. 

Copyright protection only exists when a piece of work exists physically and has been created independently. For example, a literary work must be physically written down. You cannot protect an idea, you’ll  need physical evidence. It doesn’t have to be visually appealing so can therefore apply to block text or building designs for example. 

Patents must be unique compared to other inventions in the public domain. You’ll need the cover of a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) when discussing the invention prior to doing your application otherwise your application could suffer. Your invention need not be be visually pleasing but must offer some technical value. Crucially, your invention should not be a modification of something that already exists. 

Why should I protect it? 

There are several benefits to protecting your intellectual property. The most obvious ones being saving your business time and money in rebranding. Secondly, you’ll  be safe in the knowledge that your brand is protected for the future. If you or your business find yourself in an IP infringement, the consequences can vary hugely. Don’t take the risk! 

Make sure you carry out your own research and due diligence. If you’re unsure whether the entity you’re hoping for is available, it’s always advisable to seek the help of a professional. You’d be surprised at how easy the process is. 

How do I protect it? 

When starting the process of protecting your IP, there are some steps you can take yourself. Firstly, consider the timing. The earlier you can carry out your research, the better. You don’t want to be in a position of launching your brand and only to  find out that you’re actually in an IP infringement. 

Check domains, research your particular market, check the Intellectual Property Office Register. After that, it’s time to seek the advice of a professional. At Sonder IP, we work with a range of businesses, big or small to protect their valuable property.  

Making sure you take the appropriate steps to protecting your IP is vital for any business, no matter your industry. We would encourage business owners to  put the research in on your IP before committing to a full brand strategy, whether you’re just starting out or carrying out a big rebrand. Protect the things that make your business unique and help yourself stand out in your market. 

You can find out more about Matt and Sonder IP on his partner profile.

The Northern Affinity (Virtual) Partners Meeting – Friday 27th March 2020

The Northern Affinity is all about community and support and never has this been more important. Many of us have had to make adjustments to the way we work at the moment. We know there are many of you juggling work with bouncing children and we salute you! We’re all in this together.

Despite the hurdles, we were so thrilled to be joined by so many of our partners at this month’s meeting. Thank goodness for Zoom, right? 

Protecting your intellectual property.
The meeting’s theme took the theme of protecting our businesses, particularly during these strange times. We first heard from Matt Sammon at Sonder IP. Often, when we think of intellectual property, we think of trademarking a logo or name. Matt took us through the many other components of your business that might be worth protecting. For example, colours or moving images as well as your company designs and website content. But why should we bother? Well, there’s many advantages to it as Matt explained. Not only will it give your business continuity, it protects your investments and helps future proof your assets. In addition, the improved continuity will help your commercial appeal.

Protecting your website.
Next up, we heard from Phil Storey who walked us through his new app, Glow. Much like a car needs a regular MOT and service, so does your website and that’s where Phil and his team step in. It’s worth noting that Glow is only available for WordPress sites however, you can easily check whether your site is compatible or not on Glow. Investing in your website maintenance could save you a great deal of hassle down the line, as we found out from Phil’s case study. The client didn’t take up the monthly plan and then found themselves in the middle of an enormous hack and ultimately had to commit to rebuilding their website from scratch – ouch! 

Phil kindly left us with a few tips for protecting our websites that we can easily do at home. 

  1. Always change the default login. 
  2. Always update plugins
  3. Always change the default username
  4. Use a strong password. 

Thank you to both Matt and Phil for sharing some really valuable knowledge with us. If you’d like to present at a future partner meeting, please contact Michael. 

Update from Michael.
We wrapped up the meeting with a few words from Michael on how we can continue to support one another through the next few weeks. To all our partners, please continue to make use of the Whatsapp group and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or arrange a Zoom call, even if it’s just for a quick chat and a virtual brew. Michael has also curated a Twitter list where we can continue to share, like and support each other’s social media posts. 

We have recently set up Workplace by Facebook which is another social hub for us all to chat and share ideas. You can use Workplace even if you don’t have a Facebook account. 

Finally, we quickly discussed the available grants and schemes the government has announced for those who are self employed. We are lucky enough to have several partners based in finance who are happy to answer questions on this for those wanting some more guidance. Please see our partners to see who you can connect with. 

Remember, we will be hosting a series of webinars throughout next month as part of our April Business Booster. You can find more details on our Eventbrite page.

Thank you again to everyone who joined in this morning! We’re learning everyday and will be back with you next month for the next meeting. Wishing you all the best of luck and please stay in touch!

How to stay motivated during business challenges.

Any business has its challenges, there’s no doubt about it. Many of our partners in The Northern Affinity are self employed or part of an SME. These often pose their own unique ups and downs. How do we stay motivated when we hit the inevitable bumps in the road? We thought we’d compile a few tips and tricks to keep you going when the going gets tough. 

Set short term goals.

We all have big goals for our businesses, there’s no doubt about it. Ambition is imperative to driving a successful business forward. However, sometimes in challenging times, those goals and aspirations can feel a million miles away. Setting a list of short term goals will help to plan out your days and, more importantly, give you a sense of achievement at the end of them! 

If you know you want to double your annual turnover in 5 years, break that down into smaller manageable chunks. This way, you can devise a realistic and achievable action plan and get your mojo back. Whether it’s a bad day or a bad week, reaching those mini victories is a fantastic way of keeping your business moving forward. 

Remember to take care of yourself.

70 million work days are lost every year because of mental health related issues. Pretty alarming, right? 

When we start out in business, we often forget about looking after number one. Understandably, we put our hearts and souls into making ourselves and our companies a success but this means we sometimes forget to put the same effort in to ourselves and our own wellbeing. 

If you’re finding yourself becoming unmotivated or disillusioned, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether you’re doing right by yourself. After all, a car can’t run when it’s all out of fuel. The ‘SHED Method’ is a practical way of checking in with yourself to find out whether you’re performing at your best. Put some time back into you so you can maximise the time you put into your business. 

Relight your fire. 

This may be the simplest of advice but often the hardest to heed. It’s really hard to stay motivated during challenging times if you lose sight of the reason you started. Motivation without underlying desire will only get you so far. 

At times like these, it’s useful to have nailed down your business mission, vision and values. Being able to refer back to these will be useful during difficult periods. You will remember why you started. 

Despite living in a world where we now expect instantaneous results, business is not an easy route. There will always be challenges whether you’re a multi million pound cooperation or just starting out with your first business. Results take time and effort and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. In The Northern Affinity, we hope we provide a support network to our partners; a soundboard for new ideas and a shoulder to lean on during the tough times. You can read more about finding your business tribe in our previous blog.

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