For the last 15 years of my life post-employment I have struggled when people ask me what I do. More recently I have managed to crystallize a simple description of myself: Futurist and Entrepreneur. However that doesn’t explain the diversity of my companies’ activities, and how they fit together. In particular people are often confused by the relationship between our primary companies: Advanced Human Technologies, Future Exploration Network, and The Insight Exchange.
A few months ago I started designing a business model diagram to help me conceptualize the relationship between our brands and activities, our scalable and less scalable business models, and our current priorities. While it included a few personal aspirations, I ended up showing it a number of job applicants to help explain what we are doing. I soon realized I needed a public version of our business model. This is what we created.
Some comments on a few of the features of the business model:
Ross Dawson is a brand. As I recently wrote, it is increasingly important for individuals to have personal logos. One of the main reasons I now have a visual identity is to help explain the relationship between my brand and those of my companies. They are comparable entities from a business perspective.
The spectrum from scalable to fully scalable business models. My personal work is not scalable – however much demand there is for my time there is only one of me. Two of our companies draw on external professionals to provide larger scale service offerings, and our events business can be scaled, however there are constraints to how quickly these can grow and the availability of resources. Fully scalable models can grow to any size, though may require capital. Our current highest priorities are our fully scalable business models, though we will continue to run and grow our partially scalable businesses.
Visibility, Findability, and Credibility at the core. We create open content in a variety of guises: I have been blogging since 2002, and our companies generate substantial high-value content that we share openly under Creative Commons license. Together with our paid content such as reports and the content spin-offs from our more public consulting engagements, these mean we are visible, findable by search, and have a strong degree of credibility. Every year this online visibility and associated reputation becomes more important in how all of our offerings are found and purchased.
Global distributed talent. We have a fairly small core team, and a broader extended team distributed around the world. Currently a major focus is bringing on project managers to help us drive the array of projects we have on, and work with our extended team. Through this process we develop our expertise and experience in crowdsourcing, and share that through our content and events.
Evolves over time. This is our current public business model, dated February 2011. While it includes some offerings that are close to launch but not out yet, it does not include various larger projects we are developing. We may also over time select different frameworks to best represent the cycles that drive our business. As such the business model will be regularly updated.
Having this business model is very useful to us in understanding the scope of our activities and business, and the context for any of our activities. It’s also invaluable in helping explain what it is we do.
We believe there should be more business model visualizations in the public domain, so please share any that you have, and point me to any good ones you have seen. Let’s make this common practice.