There is a lot to be said for proper business planning. It remains, in my mind, still one of the most under appreciated and understood aspects of starting a business venture, especially for those of us who seek to be successful Moodlepreneurs. This is all the more of a conundrum because the planning process can be a fairly painless and fun process – especially if you approach it from an exceedingly practical perspective.
If you’ve spent any time with traditional business leaders, in an MBA or just in the corporate world (especially if you have ever tried to get a loan), you’ll be familiar with the (dreaded) business plan. This is supposed to be a document that defines what your business does and how it does it, what the market looks like, who will manage the business and what your potential revenue and profits could be. As with all great “in the dark” processes, I’ve found that traditional business plans rarely reflect the actual business after the first few weeks after launch and, more importantly, never get used/seen/opened after they’ve been created.
The issue here, however, is the fact that just “starting” as a Moodlepreneur – without any thought about the what’s and how’s – is worse than going through the process of creating a plan that ultimately doesn’t get used. Tragically, this is exactly what most people (still) do.
As you might expect, there is good news: a happy medium exists that provides you with a solid planning option that doesn’t require a massive investment of time and money. And, yes, it then also creates a tool you can use in your day to day practice to guide your business decision making and activities. Enter the Business Model Canvas.
The business model canvas is not especially new – it has been around for more than five years – but it presents business planning in, what is, a refreshingly efficient and practically useful way. In brief, the tool allows you to plan your Moodle venture in nine steps, on one sheet of paper and should only take about 30 minutes (note: it will definitely take longer if you’re truly starting from zero or just the inkling of an idea).
Here’s what a typical business plan canvas looks like (source):
To complete the plan you walk through the nine steps in the following order (and, yes, the order is important:
- The first step is to ask yourself the question: Who are your customers? In this section you should write down as many specific identifiers as you can about your target learner population, but most importantly, ask yourself what problem(s) do they have that you (might) solve? In this way, you can also ask yourself, “Who do I plan on helping?”
- Next, ask yourself: How will I add Value? Answering this should be a simple process of looking at your customers’ needs and determining how you will fulfill those needs in a way that is not currently or successfully provided by the market. Another way to think about this section is by answering the question, “What do we do for those we expect to help?” Remember, you should try to be specific – just stating that you’re offering learning materials online isn’t enough in 2016.
- Third, define how you will reach your customers. These are known as your channels and are a two way street – you need to define not only how you will find and attract your customers (ads? facebook? google adwords? traditional print?) but also how you will deliver your courses (your website? mobile? affiliates? other)?
- Fourth, consider how you manage the relationship with your customer. As a Moodlepreneur, there is a high incentive to provide everything online with a no-touch, self service model for student support. However, really ask yourself if this is the best option and if there might be a better way of doing it that ultimately will result in higher value and profits.
- The fifth consideration is the one we’re all really interested in: How will you make money? At the outset, this might seem like a no-brainer. Of course, people will come to your site, put in their credit card and take your courses. But what about advertising revenue, or affiliate relationships or other models that can increase your revenues dramatically?
- Sixth, you need to define what specific things you’ll do to deliver on your value propositions. Know as your “Key Activities,” this is the place where you need to be specific about how you’re delivering the goods to your students.
- Next, carefully list out the essential assets, or key resources, you need in place to make your business a reality. In the case of a typical Moodlepreneur these are things like course materials, Moodle, hosting, payment gateway, etc.
- Eighth, consider the partnerships you can create to remove the burden of anything that is not essential to the delivery your value proposition. Said another way – what can you outsource so you can focus on building incredible content? Is it hosting? Website development? Advertising?
- Finally, create a practical list of your costs. Any and everything you’ll spend money on – from getting customers to keeping your site online – should be included. Most importantly, you should find that your costs are well aligned with your value propositions.
As a resource, check out the detailed presentation of the nine steps above by Alex Cowen on his blog here. I found them to be very helpful and he has a number of templates and videos that you can use to get your Moodle venture off the ground.
A final step in this planning process is the application of the plan. But we’ll save that for another Moodlepreneur Monday.
This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: Course Merchant, the leading provider of eCommerce, Training Management and Digital Marketing software for the Education and Training industry. Click here to learn more.
How did (or will) you go about planning for your Moodle venture? Tell us in the comments below!