Business Model YOU

A One-Page Method for Reinventing Your Career


  • On Amazon
  • ISBN: 978-1118156315
  • My Rating: 6/10

Business Model YOU applies the idea of business model thinking and its business model canvas to career planning.

I found the idea of the personal business model an interesting framework for thinking about ones career. As I already read Business Model Generation, there was a big overlap.

My notes


Business Model Thinking: Adapting to a Changing World

At the most basic economical level, a business model is the logic by which an organization sustains itself financially.

Because they can't change the environment they operate in, companies must change their business models (and sometimes create new ones) in order to remain competitive.

The Business Model Canvas

To start understanding an existing business model, ask two questions:

  • Who is the Customer?
  • What job does the Customer need to have done?

A big part of business model thinking is helping you identify and describe both Customers and jobs.

Every enterprise has a business model. This is true because nearly every modern enterprise, whether for-profit, nonprofit, government, or otherwise, needs money to carry out its work.

Any organization that provides a free service to one Customer group must also have another set of Customers who subsidize those who don't pay.

Nearly all enterprises operating in the modern economy (including governments!) face a harsh truth: When cash runs out, the game's over. Different enterprises have different purposes. But to survive and thrive, all must abide by the logic of earning a livelihood. All must have a viable business model. The definition of "viable" is simple: More cash must come in than goes out. Or, at the very least, as much cash must come in as goes out.

Customers are the reason for an organization's existence. No organization survives long without paying Customers.

Think of Value Provided as Customer benefits created by "bundles" of services or products. The ability to provide exceptional Value is the key reason why Customers select one organization over another.

[...] examples of different elements of Value Provided:

  • Convenience
  • Price
  • Design
  • Brand or status
  • Cost reduction
  • Risk reduction

Organizations must: (1) figure out what Value Customers are truly willing to pay for, and (2) accept payment in ways Customers prefer.

We tend to think of our work in terms of tasks – Key Activities – rather than in terms of the Value those activities provide. But when Customers choose an organization, they're more interested in the Value they'll receive than in the task itself.

The Personal Business Model Canvas

In a personal business model, the Key Resource is you: your interests, skills and abilities, personality, and the assets you own or control.

A personal business model takes into account unquantifiable "soft" Costs (such as stress) and "soft" Benefits (such as satisfaction).

Individuals [...] are "resource constrained" – we must rely primarily on ourselves. Your personal Key Resources include who you are: your interests, abilities and skills, and personality, and what you have: knowledge, experience, personal and professional contacts, and other tangible and intangible resources or assets.

Your interests – the things that excite you – may well be your most precious resource. That's because interests drive career satisfaction.

Abilities are natural, innate talents: things you do easily or effortlessly. [...] Skills, on the other hand, are learned or acquired talents: things you've gotten better at through practice and study.

Key Activities – what you do – are driven by Key Resources. In other words, what you do evolves naturally out of who you are.

A good way to begin defining Value is to ask yourself, "What job is the Customer 'hiring' me to perform? What benefits do Customers gain as a result of that job?"

Understanding how your Key Activities result in Value Provided to Customers is central to defining your personal business model.


Who Are You?

Dream jobs are more often created than found, so they're rarely attainable through conventional searches. Creating one requires strong self-knowledge.

[...] it often takes a crisis – such as losing a job or failing at a new business – for us to reflect carefully on our careers and ourselves. Without one, extensive self-reflection may strike us as selfish. But thinking about yourself is not selfish [...] because it is concerned with what the world most needs from you.

It's worth considering the possibility that our careers and values evolved around expectations set by others rather than by us. Especially with respect to career decisions, family, peers, and teachers often urge us to make choices based on "security", "stability", "respectability", "good pay", or other attributes.

Each of us carries within a secret yearning – a yearning that, as time and life march on, often becomes a secret sorrow. That yearning will be different for each of us, as it is the most deeply longed-for expression of self. Only to the degree that we – each of us – are able to bring forth our own heart's core will our lives feel fulfilled, truly worthwhile.

George Kinder

[...] people express their personalities through career choices, just as they express their personalities when selecting friends, hobbies, recreation, and schools. Equally important, it means that career satisfaction depends on a good match between a worker's personality and the work environment (important note: "work environment" means primarily other people at the workplace).

It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.

Abraham Maslow

For many of us, it's a huge relief to learn that not knowing what we want is normal rather than exceptional.

Identify Your Career Purpose

Entrepreneurship is not about you; it's about effectively serving others.

Modifying or reinventing a personal business model calls first for clarifying its underlying Purpose. Consider Purpose a "meta layer" guiding your personal business model from above.

If you don't realign your work with your purpose, you're just going to relocate that problem to another desk.

Bruce Hazen

We [...] suggest that the overarching Purpose of our lives is helping others.

It's helpful to recognize that Purpose changes over time – and for different reasons. Life stage is one reason: Age 20 concerns (establishing a career, finding a significant other, etc.) are completely different from age 55 concerns (seeing children make the transition to adulthood, leaving a legacy, etc.). Big life events (marriage, divorce, births, deaths, new jobs, illness, etc.) are another reason for changes in Purpose. Finally, while our core interests and abilities tend to remain stable over time, the form of their expression may evolve.


Get Ready to Reinvent Yourself

Everything you perceive about your career, your love life, and your family and friends, is not necessarily reality, it's merely your perception of reality. And your perception represents only one possible reality, [...] not the only reality. Problems arise when we assume that the "reality" we perceive (reinforced by mental chatter such as I'm failing in my career, my boss hates me, jealous colleagues are undermining my efforts, etc.) is the reality.

The frames our minds create define – and confine – what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.

Benjamin Zander

Re-Draw Your Personal Business Model

Evaluating the effects of your changes is an intriguing – and sometimes complicated – process. That's because building blocks are interrelated: Changing an element in one building block requires changing an element in another block.

The Canvas's strength lies in providing a structured way to experiment with different personal business models. It's a way to try out (prototype) different work styles and discover what's best for you.

Experimenting with multiple models helps when life changes. What if your terrific manager is replaced tomorrow by the boss from hell? Generating multiple options helps you quickly switch to a workable model that gets you where you want to go.

Backcasting means envisioning a desirable future, then working backwards to figure out milestones needed to get there.

But remember that a personal business model conceived entirely on paper represents a hypothesis about your work life – it may contain untested assumptions. Scientists and entrepreneurs test assumptions by prototyping and experimenting. We should do the same.


Calculate Your Business Value

Creating just enough income to pay expenses and having nothing left over ("breaking even" in business terms) is a poor formula for individuals or organizations with aspirations beyond mere survival.

This is one secret of business model thinking: An employee's worth is measured by the Value he [...] ultimately provides to Customers. When an organization decides whether to hire you, it will consider whether the Value you can offer Customers is greater than the expense of paying your salary.

When you think about how much it costs a business to operate – and the logic behind determining prices – it's easier to understand why things can be soooo expensive.

Test Your Model in the Market

If [...] you're planning a significant career change, it's important to test the requirements and viability of your model. On paper, a personal business model contains a number of invalidated hypotheses within its building blocks: It's an untested proposal to help others while doing good things for yourself. You test your personal business model by finding, talking to, then acquiring the Customer(s) you want.

Everything great that happens in your career always starts with someone you know. You don't need to surf the net. Your next big break will not come from some mysterious technology, or discovery of new information. Your next big break will come from someone you know. Go know people.

Derek Sivers

Pivoting – action you take in response to prospective Customer feedback – means revisiting your model and improving it by modifying one or more building block elements. Pivoting is the appropriate response when you discover your model doesn't yet satisfy Customers.

What's Next?

[...] business model innovation – organizational and personal – never stops. Models work for a few years, or sometimes longer, until change is demanded. Your personal business model is certain to evolve again, if not in response to changing times, at least in response to the more experience you reveal in passing years.