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Business Model Your Career: Tim Clark

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Tim Clark

Tim Clark is an entrepreneur who leads the global personal business model movement BusinessModelYou.com. After selling his Asia market entry consultancy to a NASDAQ listed entity in a multi-million-dollar transaction, he completed a doctorate in international business model portability. Clark then authored and/or edited five books on entrepreneurship, business models and personal development. They include the international bestsellers ‘Business Model Generation’ and ‘Business Model You’. He currently serves as professor of business at the University of Tsukuba in Tokyo. Clark also provides personal business models and related training to corporations, industry associations, and universities worldwide. See TimClark.net.

Who needs to reinvent his career?

Most of us do. In the past, organizational business models often lasted for decades or longer. Today, they become obsolete much more quickly, sometimes over just a few years. That means employees, too, have to modify their personal business models. For example, I went to work for the Eastman Kodak Corporation in 1988. When I joined, Kodak had been operating under the same very successful business model for over 100 years. It was also the year the first digital cameras appeared. Less than 25 years later, Kodak declared bankruptcy. Organizational business models change, and personal models must change, too.

Tell us about how the book is a best seller.

Business Model You became a bestseller for several reasons. First, it struck a chord by offering readers a logical, actionable way to think about the difficult subject of their own careers. Second, it was co-created by 328 people from 43 countries, so we had a small army of “ambassadors” who were enthusiastic about the methodology and helped us spread the word. Finally, it was built on the terrific reputation of its older cousin, Business Model Generation. That book offers a logical, four-step process for modifying or reinventing one’s career. While it incorporates principles and exercises familiar to professional career counselors, as far as I know, it’s the first to offer users a specific methodology conceived as a personal business model. So the previous success was

Business Model Generation? Tell us more.

Business Model Generation is an international bestseller that has sold more than 300,000 copies in English and has been translated into 26 languages. I served as contributing co-author and editor. Business Model Generation details an important new approach to describing, analyzing, and innovating organizational business models. Specifically, it presents the Business Model Canvas, a tool that “democratizes” business model thinking by allowing anyone--not just executives or consultants--to readily describe and work with business models.

But the Business Model You is based on the Business Model Generation canvas methodology-- meaning what?

It adopts the Canvas from Business Model Generation and applies it to individuals rather than to organizations. We call it the Canvas because it is like a white artist’s canvas on which you can “paint” a visual picture of an organization’s business model.

In fact, what is a personal business model?

A personal business model is the logic by which you create and deliver value to your customers. Careers, of course, are based on delivering value to customers, whether employers or clients. A personal business model lets you clarify career-related thoughts by putting them down in an organized, logical framework that you can manipulate and test.

What are the four steps?

The four steps are draw, reflect, revise, and act. First you draw your as-is personal business model in the form of a Canvas. Next, you reflect on that model and how it might be improved or modified, using exercises from the book. Then, you revise your Canvas based on those reflections. Finally, you Act, testing the various hypotheses inherent in your Canvas.

Why do you test the framework?

Business Model You is based on fundamental entrepreneurship principles that emphasize modeling and testing over planning and execution. Organizational business “planning” has been outmoded for years, and career “planning” has as well. We gain self-knowledge and move forward primarily through creation or testing rather than contemplation.

Tell us more about your framework.

A new personal business model can be tested in many ways: volunteering with an organization of interest, taking or teaching a class, taking a new part-time job, finding a mentor, conducting informational interviews with people working in the field in which you are interested, and so forth.

How can one page be enough for laying out your personal business model?

It’s certainly impossible to represent yourself entirely on a single page! But a career is a complex system. Like all complex systems, it’s very helpful to create a simpler model that lets you grasp the bigger picture without trivializing or disregarding its complexity. At the end of the book, I joke that the “one-page method” subtitle is misleading, because if readers go through even a portion of the exercises, they will use up many pages of paper, not just one! But the key point is that ultimately we must define both the purpose and the operating methodology of our careers cleanly and simply-- on a single sheet of paper.

You say that a team of 328 people created the book. Who are they?

These are people who joined the Business Model You community as we were writing the book, and contributed their ideas, comments and support before the book was published. In return for pre-purchasing one copy of the book, they enjoyed the privilege of previewing and commenting on draft chapters. It was a self-selecting group; they raised their hands, and they happen to represent 43 nations.

How popular is the canvas approach?

The canvas methodology is now being used by tens of thousands of organizations worldwide, ranging from traditional businesses to governments, non-profits, social ventures, and other groups. The book is also a main or supplementary text at hundreds of universities globally, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Michigan. So while I have no hard proof that it is the leading way to describe an organizational business model, I see no other methodology that can make similar claims.

You advise people to assess their marketplace skills. How can they do so?

The best way to do so is through objective customer feedback. It’s important to remember that customers might include your boss, coworkers, subordinates, partners, suppliers, or clients of your organization.

But you warn that judging skills is less vital than defining purpose...

Assessing skills is less important than defining your purpose. We all tend to over-rely on our skills, knowledge, and experience. They are important, of course. But Business Model You puts forward a specific method for defining your career in different terms.

How can people define their purpose?

The Purpose Statement exercise that starts on page 144 of Business Model You is a good way. It starts with identifying activities you enjoy, people you like to spend time with, and how you like to help others. There is a specific process readers go through to arrive at a provisional purpose statement. It’s important to recognize, though, that one’s purpose may change with time due to significant life events or with changes in the external environment.

What is the vision for change?

Change is constant and inevitable. Therefore one’s personal business model must change as well. It might change in response to life events, such as getting married, buying a house, having children, or an illness or death in the family. Or it might change in response to technology trends, such as the shift from desktop to mobile platforms, or the rise of electronic books. Finally, it might change in response to economic conditions, such as the severe worldwide downturn we’re now experiencing. It’s a safe bet that we all will be changing our personal business models.

Victor Fic (vfic@hotmail.com) is a veteran writer on East Asia in Toronto.

 

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