Being Lightweight: Business Design

This is the third in a series of posts about Being Lightweight.  The first two were about Working with Clients and Tools We Use.

We are lucky to have a product that people like. Our challenge is to experiment and find the best ways to build a business around this product. To be successful we need the business to be profitable, but also work within the life we want to live.

We see this process as "business design" and as this series outlines,  being lightweight is a big priority.  Below are a number of ideas and thoughts about creating a lightweight business.

Two People - We are dedicated to being a two person company without employees. This is a fundamental constraint that guides nearly every decision. By making our size the priority, we have been forced to think hard about what is possible for two people and be prepared to focus on opportunities that work within this constraint.

Employees - We may work with contractors and short-term help, but we do not plan to hire employees.  In the last article in the series I talked about the heavy nature of stress and anxiety. Growing the business by hiring would add potential revenue, but also add significant stress and loss of focus on our work in order to manage those folks.

Business Model -  We ask ourselves - What business do we really want to be in?  What do we want to be doing on a day-to-day basis? Consulting? Custom Videos? Licensing? Ads? Commercial? To be lightweight, we need to bring focus to the 1-2 models that get us closer to our goals and put others on the back burner.

Scalability - We are small, but we do want to scale the business.  How? We consider business models.  The custom video model does not scale - we would have to hire employees to make more videos each month. A more scalable model is selling licensed versions of our videos in the Common Craft Store.  In this model, potential revenue is not tied directly to production time.  

Not Doing it All - When opportunity knocks, it's hard not to answer.  The problem is that we can't do it all and we've learned to say no, even if it hurts sometimes.  The key is being clear about our future goals.  If an opportunity doesn't take us there, then it's creating drag.

Marketing -  We don't spend time on brochures, fliers or ads of any traditional sort. We believe that the best marketing doesn't always come from a campaign - it comes from the users of our products.  We focus on making free versions of the videos easy to share.

Agility - About a year ago, a few companies started to become interested in our custom videos.  We literally woke up one morning and decided to focus 100% of our business on these videos. The same thing happened when we decided to focus on the Store. Our goal is to retain this freedom to react to changes and opportunities efficiently, and avoid the need to seek approval from others.  A beauty of being small and lightweight is the ability to react.

People Philosophy - We believe that people are essentially good and given limited resources, we'd rather focus attention on being open and helping them do the right things rather than trying to make the wrong things impossible.

Balance - We don't believe in working 80 hours a week, 51 weeks a year so that you can vacation when you're old.  We work more hours than most, but we're not bashful about making sure that we live a fun, interesting and balanced life. Lightweight businesses make this easier.

Investors and Partnerships - Often, these are required for business growth. The problem comes when the requirements and expectations of others become a part of the business. We've been careful not to form agreements with investors or partners because the baggage these relationships create may not balance with the benefits they provide.  It's added stress and anxiety that creates weight we would rather not have.  Advice is great, but financial relationships weight a lot.

Limited Middlemen - Each person who handles a product on the way to the consumer adds weight and removes reward.  We look for the best ways to get our product from an idea to the customer as directly as possible.  Outside of us, The Common Craft Store doesn't have salespeople, distributors, marketers or support.  We do it all, A-to-Z, using products like PayPal and e-junkie.

Contact Points - As our visibility on the web has increased, so too has our time managing communication. We recently decided to make email our most public source of contact and have removed our phone number from the web site. It's nothing personal, it just allows us to do a better job managing communications as lightweight as possible.

Supporting Two People - At the end of the day, we remember that we are two people.  Sure, our model may not enable us to dominate markets or become a Fortune 500 company, but that's not our goal.  We need our business to support us and the life we want to live.  

So, you might be wondering about the result of all these ideas.  Well, we've made a number of decisions lately.  Our future is devoted to building a library of videos for the Common Craft Store.  We are phasing out custom videos and devoting time to videos we can license to influencers and educators for use in the workplace.  This model enables us to be lightweight and 100% independent.

Ultimately, we want to wake up each morning and know we are choosing what we do that day. For us, that's lightweight.