The Business Model for Doing Something You Love

How do you build a business model for doing something that you love? It’s a difficult question. In most cases, it means that you need to build some sort of craft-based business model, which can be challenging. But if you do it right, you can create smarter conversations – a recent idea from Hugh MacLeod. Here are couple of things that he says about smarter conversations:

“Conversation” is a metaphor. Making your product sleek, elegant and graceful while all your other competitors make their product look cheap, plastic and clunky is a smarter conversation. Not all conversations need words.

If Smarter Conversations work, it’s because they help humanize the company.

For whatever reason, I’m uncontrollably attracted to firms and people that manage to do this. There are a few ways that you can do this.

One approach is Hugh’s – to turn your ideas into art. He’s actually writing some of the best innovation and management advice around these days, but it shows up in the form of art. To see how he’s doing it, check out his daily newsletter.

Another option is to take your ideas to an absolute extreme. That’s the Saddleback Leather approach – to build the strongest, longest lasting leather pieces that you can imagine. Dave is making briefcases with 100 Year Warranties! He does that by focusing on using only the best quality that he can find for every aspect of the pieces that he makes. That might sound expensive, but you can actually get a briefcase from him for a lot less than you can from many of the big name designers. And theirs won’t last 100 years…

The third option is to create a new meaning for your ideas. That’s what a company I ran across this week called the Cloakroom is doing. Their idea is to make Savile Row style bespoke suits, but in Brisbane. The problem in trying that is that Brisbane is not nearly as big a market as London, so there isn’t necessarily a ready demand for this. The approach that Andrew and Josh are taking is to create a different market for their suits by making a new meaning for them.

This is a bit of a challenge. They are targeting a younger market than is normal for this type of service – they’re actually trying to create a new set of customers. To do this they are doing several things. They are tapping into the culture and taking advantage of the interest in style that is being created by TV shows like Mad Men. They are pricing their suits very reasonably, so that they can attract people that maybe haven’t bought a lot of suits before. In addition to their bespoke suits, they have a ready-to-wear shop in the funky part of town (well, funky by Brisbane standards!). They’re writing a blog which can help educate people about suits and all the things that go with them. And they’re innovating – one idea that I particularly like is the phone pocket:

That is a contemporary touch to a classic piece of clothing.

All of these small innovations add up to a new business model. They’re trying to get younger men to think differently about what a suit means. I hope it works, because I definitely want them around long enough that I can get more clothes there!

The main point with these three examples is that in every case they have found a way to get really good at something, and amplify that into a unique value proposition. Or into a smarter conversation. That’s the best way to build a craft-based business model, and it’s the best way work out a way to do what you love.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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