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Business Design: Creating a Sustainable Business Model

Architects take a client’s ideas and develop them into a set of blue prints. As strategy consultants, we take our client’s business endeavors and design them into a sustainable business model. In the next series of posts, we will explain the concept of business design and EMH’s methodology of developing sustainable business models. Throughout the essays we will use concrete examples from previous clients, to place these concepts into context and give you a better understanding of how we assist our clients during a business design project.

What is Business Design?

Flip the two words, add an “ing,” and you have a definition—designing a business. Business design can start with an idea or with an existing business that is expanding, entering a new market, or branching into another intrapreneurial pursuit. Business design can take place in both for-profit and non-profit organizations, or a combination of both.

The basic concepts, however, remain the same:
• Innovating value propositions
• Targeting appropriate market segments
• Navigating market channels to reach customers
• Seeking strategic partnerships to complement core capabilities and resources
• Developing an economic model that arrives at a sustainable business

Much like architects render their ideas and concepts on paper to realize a design, the same can be done when designing a business concept. In fact, penciling our client’s ideas on paper not only helps us visualize the various components of the business, but also allows us to better build on their concepts. Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, authors of Business Model Generation, do a wonderful job of simplifying this concept by giving the reader a simple template to begin their design. At EMH, we take our client’s back-of-the-napkin design, dive into the various components, research the market, explore the organization’s capabilities, and take the design from an idea to a sustainable model.

In the next essay, we will further explore the basic components that make-up a business by using a live EMH case study to show you our methodology of developing a sustainable business model.