Art & Science of Business Growth

Art & Science of Business Growth

For a very long time the focus of business leaders has been improving the performance of the business through a diverse array of management practices and improvement processes. Today there’s a growing awareness of the need to balance these scientific methods with new ways of thinking and working that are more creative. Yes, the future of business is creativity!

Our New Business Model Blueprint

Uncover New Opportunities with the Business Model Blueprint


If your business needs a refresh or a boost, capturing ‘today’s reality’ in this 1-page business model template is a great way to get started. I created this template and use it with every business I talk to. It’s available to anyone who wants to use it for themselves or with their clients.  And now, it’s finally in a spiffy new format that’s an easy-to-use editable PDF form available for download on our homepage.


For anyone who likes the Business Model Canvas by Osterwalder and Pigneur, you’ll notice the familiarity, and I think you’ll love the changes we made—especially that it’s so easy to fill-in and edit. I added space to identify the business purpose, customer needs and differentiation, and revised some of the language to make it more user-friendly. These are the core reasons I remade the original into my own version.


If you’re new to the idea of documenting your business model, here’s the gist. The business model is the ‘formula’ for how the business creates value—it represents all the main drivers at a 40 thousand-foot view. It’s much easier to analyze and see new opportunities when all the moving parts are spread in front of you in one easy-to-take-in visual table. It captures information on vision, customer needs, product, marketing, operations and finance. Anyone who wants a lean approach to strategy and innovation should start by looking at their business model in this 1-page template.


Business models become outdated as internal and external factors change over time, so it’s necessary to make changes. To be vibrant and sustainable, businesses need to update their business model, not just products, services or marketing alone.  And thus, we also created a set of questions to evaluate your business model and identify target areas. This will help you think about things like changing customer expectations, changing demographics and trends, leveraging the latest technologies, dealing with workforce trends and aligning with new strategic partners.  


I could say more, but you should just check it out and see for yourself how you could use it to think differently about your business, your clients or your workplace.


If you’re in the central PA area, drop by the Lunch and Learn I’ll be doing on Oct 30 at The Candy Factory in Lancaster.  Learn more about that, and the innovation workshop we’re doing in November, at   Meanwhile, you can download the blueprint at the bottom of Align’s homepage or our Services page.


I’d love to hear your feedback!  

Strategy Sprint Creates Momentum

Use a Strategy Sprint to Create Momentum for Growth

We’ve developed a process to move from ideas to action in about 8 weeks. If you’re not sure how to grow your business, improve performance, or capitalize on disruptive forces, the strategy sprint will guide you to the answers.   

The key to success is having a solid plan and carrying it out effectively.  The strategy sprint creates the foundation for both.  

But, a plan that sits on the shelf is not our goal.  Instead, we provide an experience that energizes, strategic options that are impactful, and support through the planning stage to results.  This is something you and your team will enjoy—really. 

Strategy doesn’t need to be onerous.  It’s a balance of creative and analytical work. It’s a simple concept really— know where you are, envision where you want to go, and identify the right steps to get there. The strategy sprint is also a simple idea. It applies the 80-20 rule and is designed to ‘hit the high points’ while getting you to the finish line quickly.  (Saying yes to this, means you’ll actually get this off your to-do list this year!)

It’s an efficient, yet systemic way to turn ideas into action.  We use it to identify strategic objectives based on your strengths, your customers, and the market. Then we prototype simple ways to test feasibility and impact. Finally, we help you set up accountability and progress measures.   The process is built around our Business Model Blueprint and techniques we’ve borrowed from the field of human-centered design.  

Strategy should be a pro-active response to what’s going on in the business and in the market. Goodness knows, there’s been lot of change effecting both arenas, and this will only increase as technology becomes more complex and influential, and as customer expectations continue to evolve. Because of this, businesses need to pause regularly for a strategic assessment and adjustment.

Better yet, they need a strategy blueprint that is constantly syncing up with reality in and outside the business.  The sprint not only provides strategic options and implementation readiness, it will teach companies some of the techniques they can use to make their organizations slightly more agile and responsive in the future. 

How clients benefit:

·       Uncovering new possibilities for new revenue, new customers or internal efficiencies

·       Objective insights about the unmet needs and preferences of customers, which can be used to improve or expand products and services

·       A collaborative experience to energize the team, create consensus and communicate the big picture

·       Practices that help improve profitability while also improving stakeholder impact

·       Testing ideas for feasibility and effectiveness before investing resources and time

·       Hands-on support for implementation, if desired

The strategy sprint is smart and simple.  It brings together our collective knowledge about strategy, innovation and organizational change.  It addresses the negative attributes of traditional strategic planning, which can feel impractical, lengthy and resource-intensive.

Closing the gap between today’s reality and tomorrow’s possibilities is about seeing things others don’t yet see, and managing a strategy that fully leverages your competencies and capacity.  

If you want to learn how the process could be applied to your business, drop us an email, or just set up an appointment for a quick call with our Chief Strategist and Founder, Jen Reiner.

Human-Centered Strategy

In 2016, when I started Align, I knew strategy would be my core service, but there needed to be more.

At the heart of it, I want to help people reach their full potential and affect positive impact on the greater good.  At the time, I had a growing positive reaction to human-centered design (HCD)— a problem solving and creative development process used in product development and popular with many of the best product and services companies.  

Remarkable Ideas –  Well Executed  

Much of business is about influencing human behavior, which is why business needs to be more human-centered.  This means putting the individual at the center of the process— not technology, processes, or the thing you are selling.  Specifically, it’s a development process that focuses on the customers’ needs, from their point of view.  

This isn’t about using feel-good methods. It’s about creating home-run solutions, which happens when you use deep and unique insights about what's important to the affected audience.  This piece is about converting novel, ‘killer’ ideas into amazing customer experiences. It's the creative piece.

In addition, for me, being human-centered means factoring in human nature, like what motivates people, how teams work, and what holds us back.  This stuff shows up in an organizational culture and an individual’s work habits.  It can stop strategy dead in its tracks, if it’s not taken into consideration. This piece is about execution and accountability.  

A Strategy Process That’s Lean, Systemic and Innovative

At Align I’ve taken the HCD concepts and applied it to strategy.  Strategy starts with the humans it’s intended to affect—including owners, employees, customers and the community. 

I start with Purpose. 

·       Why does this business exist?
·       Who, specifically, are you serving?  Who can benefit from your purpose and expertise?

A business strategy should focus considerable attention on customers. Among other things, it should also factor in the marketplace, social trends, technology, industry changes, and your capabilities and resources.    

Align is a human-centered strategy company that helps businesses grow.  We employ strategy techniques and some lean start-up tools that lead to development of an innovative business model and a competitive strategy.  This applies to young companies, as well as established companies who are continually adapting and growing.  The approach and the outcomes are different and better than what you see in a typical strategic planning process. 

On Your Terms

Let me interject a separate idea. In addition to developing better business model strategies by making them human-centered—my process for working with a business on its strategy is also human-centered.  I’m flexible.  I know you have many constraints on your time, your resources and your mental space.  I make the process of working together enjoyable and productive!  I approach each client differently, depending on where they are, what they’re trying to achieve, and what they’ve got to work with.

In short, Align helps companies develop a ‘killer’ strategy, using an approach that doesn’t ‘kill’ anyone in the process.  This entails:

·       Taking pain out of the process.
·       Being curious about what motivates you and your team.
·       Walking along side you to overcome obstacles and regularly check for progress.
·       Being deeply customer-focused.
·       Discovering stand-out solutions by tapping into the creativity and unique insights of team members.

Together we can create a strategy designed for growth that addresses what customers want, what your people can deliver, and what you consider success.

UPDATE - Sept 20, 2018

I wrote this over a year ago and would change very little about this article, except to add more references to the mounting evidence of the effectiveness of strategic design as the best way to lead business innovation. Here’s just one of thousands of articles you can read to better understand Human-Centered Design and Design Thinking. Forbes’ article on Design Thinking. Cheers!

What's in your Business Model?

The best businesses compete on business models, not just products.

What do Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Amazon and Google have that allow them to dominate their market? -- Finely tuned and innovative business models.  In fact, their business models are so innovative they’ve created new categories by re-imagining the rules of how a business should operate in their industry.  Nespresso, Hilti, Dell, iTunes, Xerox and Dollar Shave Club are other examples of success born from a brilliant business model, not the product or marketing alone.

The business model is a blueprint for how all the moving parts of the business work together efficiently and in sync to produce social and economic value.  It’s the link between the business’s purpose for existing, and its strategies for operations and sales. All strategic planning should flow from the business model.

The book, Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, popularized the business model concept and gave us all their Business Model Canvas as a design template.  I’ve adapted their version to create one that I believe is more complete, yet nowhere near as dense and speculative as a business plan. You can download it from the homepage and use it to evaluate your own business model. It’s a high-level organizing framework to explore the main factors of how the business operates.

ALIGN’s Business Model Blueprint identifies 12 key components, starting with the purpose for the business.  Besides making money, there’s a reason the business came to be.  Hopefully it’s rooted in the founder’s passion, talents and understanding of a market need.  Among the other components, businesses also need clarity around the customer group(s) they aim to serve and the problem, need, or ‘job to be done’ this group experiences. Turning inward then, we seek to understand what your business is exceptionally good at, and what competencies can lead to a competitive advantage and differentiation in the market. The value proposition lives at the intersection of the customer needs and the business expertise. Finally, how your goods and services are monetized is key.  What product or service ‘bundle’ is offered that provides such a high value to the customer that the selling price greatly surpasses the cost of production?  

These are the key elements we look at in phase one of any project, whether it’s a growth initiative, innovation or strategic business development. So… what’s in your business model and what elements need updating?  Download the Business Model Blueprint, fill-in your information and target at least 2 areas where it could be stronger. Let’s talk about how ALIGN could help.