Monthly Archives: January 2014

The importance of industry and market research for your business plan with Howard Rosen, CEO of Lifewire

The challenge for any business is to collect the large amounts of research and then be able to condense it into an impressive (but brief!) twenty-five-page business plan. Howard Rosen, the CEO of Lifewire, says that the plan needs to be succinct yet comprehensive and match what you are saying.  If it isn’t, the listener will wonder why you don’t just get to the point and “get to the meat” of your business.

The “meat” of course comes from all the research you have done previously. In this two-part video, Howard discusses the importance of collecting research and validating it.

Show Me!

For Howard, it always came down to the basic question “does it work?” He knew he had an excellent idea for mobile health, but the more he talked to people the more he realized “I better make sure this thing works!” People were always asking him to show them the product, to prove it to them, and to match what he was saying by what he was showing them. Research helped him prove his product and prepare to present it in his business plan and to his customers.

Research, Research, Research

The importance of research is to test your idea, to see if and how it works in the real world—not just in your head. Is your idea really that brilliant? You might think it’s an excellent idea, until your research shows that you are wrong. Discovering that your idea might be conflicting with your research is a good thing: it means something has to be changed.

Part of Howard’s research process was to reach out to 3rd parties to help him validate his assumptions about his product. One of the key elements of planning is using 3rd parties that can help you confirm your assumptions and give you direction on how to proceed with your product.

Key Elements to Planning: 3rd Party Validation

  • Advisors
  • Thought Leaders in the industry
  • Professionals (Lawyers, accountants, etc…)

The validation of your idea gives decision makers such as funding bodies a reason to choose you instead of your competitor.

Getting Out There

In the “Knowing Your Market” video, Howard stresses the need to not only know your industry’s market from reports, but also go out to your market’s environment. For him, he went to hospitals, doctor offices, and any place that provided health care. You need to see how your market perceives your industry and its services and to delve deeper into your customers’ true needs. Howard says, “Just because someone says they need something, doesn’t actually mean they need [it], that’s what they perceive they need.” By going into these markets, you test those perceived needs and compared them to the real needs.

Getting out there and testing your product gives you an excellent opportunity to see what changes you need to make. What you think is simple to do, the user might find confusing and difficult. “Knowing how to evolve [your product] for the marketplace and [for] the changing marketplace” becomes an ongoing process in your product development.

It never really ends

Research never really ends. Even when the business plan is written, research continues as you build upon all the knowledge you have accumulated over time. For any new market you enter, a new business plan has to be created, researched, and validated.

Part 1 – Writing out your business plan

Part 2 – Knowing your Market

Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial

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Grant Writing and Business Planning with Diane Davy, Executive Director of WorkInCulture

In this week’s video series, Diane Davy from WorkInCulture presents information about how business planning can help the grant application process for Canadian content creators within the mobile sector. Diane’s three videos are also good primers for anyone who is in thinking about applying for a grant.

A large part of applying for a grant is having a strong and compelling business plan. It demonstrates to funders that you have strategies and objectives in place, that you possess a deep understanding of the market, the customer, and the business environment, and that you area able to deliver on that plan.

A business plan is a “description in words and numbers of your business with a focus on the future” Diane says. Seems daunting? It is the most time consuming aspect of the grant application process, but it will be the best time spent when developing your business. Give yourself the time to do the research and to write a cohesive and compelling plan. If you do, you will impress your funders.

Parts of a business plan include the following:

  • Mission Statement “Why does my business exist and for whom?”
  • Goals “Where are you trying to get to?”
  • Strategies “How are you going to get there?”
  • Outcomes and Measurements “How will you know when you got there?”
  • Financial Information “What will it all cost?”

“Why am I in business?”

The first part of your business plan is your mission statement, it is the guide for your plan, helping you make decisions through each section, bringing it all together under one focus defined in the beginning. When first writing your mission statement, Diane asks business to ask themselves the question: “Why am I in Business?” It’s for you to create a clear answer, to know what you are offering and it’s benefits and how it will bring value to your customer.

Understanding your market

You need to further prove that you understand your market and be able to clearly define your potential customers, in demographic terms, and their “wants or needs” says Diane. This is where taking the time to conduct research for your plan pays off. You need to be able to define your market, its size and potential, and your value proposition to differentiate your product/service within the marketplace.

Research is where you will gain the insights you need to develop your plan. You can use various tools and techniques, such as surveys, social media inputs, past project research, and online reports that you may quote to send a strong signal to funders that you understand the market you are entering. The goal of all the research is to prove that there is a real need to what you are offering.

Funders are like investors

When creating your financial reports for your business plan, Diane suggests taking the perspective that the funder is an investor. Funders take your numbers very seriously and so should you. They are investing in the future success of your business based on the numbers and the plan you are showing them. Some of the financial statements you might need include, profit and loss statements, short-term or/and long-term forecast statements, and cash flow statements. If you’re not strong with numbers, hire a financial expert or advisor to help you with this section.

Matching up your stories

The most important part of the plan as Diane points out, and many miss when creating their business plan, is that the two main parts of your must fit together. You need to make sure that “the story you are telling in numbers matches the story you are telling in words,” Diane refers to the written parts of your business plan versus the financial statements.  If you are asking for something in the first part of your business plan and it doesn’t match what you are asking for in your financial statements, then there’s a disconnect and the funders will not approve of your grant or loan. Both need to work together to create a successful plan for your business.

Your plan is there to prove you have a product or service that a target market wants or needs, and you are able to deliver if you receive the grant you are applying for.

Diane has some great examples about the parts of a business plan in her videos, check them out on our Mobile Ex YouTube channel:

Part 1: Tips for Business Planning

Part 2: Marketing Strategy

Part 3: Grant Writing

Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial

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How can we meet the Future: Introduction to Foresight Thinking with Suzanne Stein, of OCAD University

MEIC presents Suzanne Stein from OCAD University who introduces foresight thinking and ideation techniques that can enable mobile entrepreneurs to use “foresighting” for their business strategy. In turn enabling businesses the ability to look at the past, present, and future trends that might impact their industry. With this disorderly world of overwhelming amount of information, we need techniques to be able to start looking at the patterns of change over time and how those patterns impact the future, so by using foresight thinking and strategy it helps businesses to meet the future in the present.

Foresight techniques can be described as systematic approaches to gathering intelligence about possible futures and enabling present day decisions. The analysis of foresight thinking is to look beyond the short-term fads, and deeper into trends that are creating actual change in your industry. The difference between a trend and a fad is time and impact. Fads are short in duration in time and impact, while trends last longer and have a greater impact to creating change. A foresighter like Suzanne is able to see the difference and interpret their meaning in the overall significance.

One of the most important aspects of this is analysis. Suzanne explains the need for businesses to gain perspective over time and create scenarios for future strategy. When doing a foresight analysis, and seeing all the changes happening within an industry, we might end up asking ourselves “here is what is changing, so what? why do I care?” Instead, we need to ask: How will these changes lead to market opportunities for my business and how will we be able to take advantage of them sooner than later.

Creating a Timeline

Seeing your business within a larger industry and societal system in timeline format gives you the foresight perspective. The timeline is a tool to plot the signals, trends, and drivers that have happened over time. Signals include: social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and values. These timelines include the past, present, and future, blocked into five to seven year spans over fifty+ years. In the Identifying Signals ad Trends video is a perfect example where Suzanne looks at using a timeline.

With a whiteboard, markers, categories, sticky notes, and industry experts, a group was able to plot the changes to the mobile industry over time and possible trends. Within the timeline you can see how trends were created within different signals, their uptake, and mass adoption by society that led to changes.

The importance of looking ahead, say seven years, might give your business the indication of where the industry is heading. If your team hasn’t looked at it, you might be too late in the game, so you end up playing catch up. For Suzanne “it means your organization will probably recognize it, but it’s already in everyone’s faces, and there are other entrants already there, it will be fairly saturated.” Foresight is a method where you meet the future, before new entrants or competitors do.

After looking at the timeline and seeing what the future might bring for your business, scenarios are created and applied to your present strategy. Scenarios are based on the top trends you think will affect your business and how you need to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that might come from those trends. The whole point is to be prepared—as to be pro-active and not just reactive when faced with the future.

Video 1: Introduction to Foresight

Video 2: Identifying Signals and Trends

Video 3: Crating and Analyzing Trends

Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial

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“Looking through new Eyes: An Introduction to the Business Model Canvas

Looking through new Eyes: An introduction to The Business Model Canvas with Richard Norman of OCAD University

MEIC is pleased to announce the availability of three new videos featuring Richard Norman presenting on Business Model Generation—based on a book by the same name by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. Richard is a Foresight Researcher at OCAD University’s sLAB.

The videos include an introduction to the Business Model Canvas, an example of how to use the Business Model Canvas, and advice on how to apply strategic foresight as a framework to the Business Model Canvas.

As Richard said, “the real power of the business canvas is that I can now explore different kinds of evaluations for my company in a very easy way–as its strengths include economic, collaborative, strategic thinking, and visual methodology all in one tool.” He iterated that “one of the great things that the Business Model Canvas can help you do is look for alternatives. It allows you to expand your perspective, so it’s possible to shift my business model, but it might give me the advantage I am actually looking for.”

The Business Model Canvas is based on the work of Alexander Osterwalder and a large community of thinkers that came together to create a simple tool for designing innovative business models. The Business Model Canvas is made up of nine building blocks: customer segments, customer relationships, channels, value propositions, key activities, key resources, key partners, cost structure, and revenue streams. It’s dividing the many aspects of a business idea, but visually seeing how they can come together to create a working model.

Experimenting with different patterns

The canvas can be used to experiment with different patterns, where you are able to take your existing business model and see how your business would respond–without actually using many resources or writing a whole new business plan to experiment with a new idea. Examples of patterns include the freemium model, long tail, unbundling, and bait and hook. The question is can any of these patterns alter your business for the better to create another competitive advantage in the market place?

By using the canvas it pushes enough of your strategy where you might “look through new eyes” as Richard mentioned. Richard suggests that when adding a pattern on top of an existing business model, you need to ask yourself “what would my business model look like if I used a Unbundling Pattern, what changes need to be implemented within the business for it to make it work, and, in turn, will it help us reach our business goals faster, better?” This is when you use the canvas to create alternatives scenarios on top of your existing business model, which might give you that edge you have been looking for.

Isolation doesn’t help the process

It’s all about collaboration and teamwork that really pushes the success of the tool. It’s not only putting information into the canvas, but the conversation around the information and how each part of the canvas is interacting with each other. It brings together marketing, finance, operations, branding, sales, and so much more into the conversation so that silos are broken down. The whole picture comes together and more holistic decisions can be made about your business strategy.

Putting it to the test

At the end of the day, your assumptions made in the model will be tested. What’s innovative about the canvas is you can go back and update it and re-work it with the new assumptions. It’s dynamic and open to real world changes and challenges.

LINKS to Richard Norman’s videos from MAP 2013:

Part 1: Introduction to The Business Model Canvas


Part 2: Using The Business Model Canvas


Part 3: When to use the canvas

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Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial

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