WHEN IN DOUBT, COPY SOMEONE ELSE’S BUSINESS MODEL

“When it comes to defining your business model, it’s best to copy somebody”, observes Guy Kawasaki.

If you are an entrepreneur yourself, you must know there is credence to this brilliant advice. Sales models knowledge doesn’t come naturally to most of us (unless you have an MBA), and the only way to really know anything about closing clients successfully, or streamlining your offers, is through trial and error.

Of course, the less excruciating route—copying somebody—is always available.

Most consultants who offer multiple services understandably try to copy other expert’ business models. The only problem with copying somebody is that you can’t help feeling like a copy-cat, 
and until you gain some business experience, you have no idea who is worth copying. But how do you gain experience without copying someone first? It is an ironic loop, which leaves you depleted and frustrated. 


Before I knew my business identity and brand well, I copied:

  1. A model for selling events for holistic practitioners (NOT US, and it was a miserable flop)
  2. A workshop model that didn’t work because I didn’t have the email list 
  3. The retainer model, which was successful until scope creep swallowed me alive

But it wasn’t until I fully understood our business identity as a branding agency that I found the perfect business model to copy.

I knew the small agency me and my husband Bob owned needed a framework that speeds the delivery of cash. We often wasted time in proposals that sometimes got ghosted, and our projects dragged on for months. I also knew that our dynamics were unusual–we were two creatives who were allergic to invoicing, tracking emails, paper trails, change of order requests, etc.

I also wanted to start offering brand strategy in addition to the graphic services we were providing. When done right, brand strategy has the potential to double your rates and deliver enormous value for your clients. 

The problem was, I had no clue how to turn from a visual designer into a brand strategist. I simply didn’t have a seat at the strategy table because those seats have been reserved for the academics and the MBA’s. 

And very few of the practitioners who are successful at delivering brand strategy actually reveal what it takes. And there are always steps, specific tactics you can take. But how would you know if nobody out there gives you the real deal.

So you can imagine my ecstatic relief when I finally found the right mentor.

Her name is Pia Silva, ashe is the founder of NO BS Branding Agency Mastery and leads a mastermind which I am part of. 

Following Pia’s model was a breath of fresh air also because she was unusually candid and accurate with her teaching. She laid the process bare of what it really means for a branding agency to make money through brand strategy.

Drilling down on all the points that I mentioned above was hard work, but it was you know what was even harder?

Knowing who I really was as a business owner and who I wasn’t.

The effort of digging into my own identity and business goals finally gave me the realization of who my mentor match was.

Getting to the heart of your own identity is hard because you have blind spots and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Though Pia’s model fit us in most respects, I still had to adjust it to our personality (which the model allowed for because it was flexible). There was also a hot second of harsh pivot during we had to stack two models out of fear of losing revenue.

But copying someone because you know yourself and copying them because you don’t can make the difference between succeeding or being down in the dumps.

And for that, asking the right questions is paramount. Smarter people who lived before us knew that.

Gertrude Stein is famously known for asking on her deathbed “What is the answer?”, and when no answer came, she laughed and said, “In that case, what is the question?”

This is why the first step for all my clients is a deep-dive interview with over 40 questions in the course of which we uncover their best business and brand opportunities.

Honing in on your brand identity takes asking the right questions, even if it takes taking someone else’s list of questions at the beginning.

If you need my help, book a brainstorm session with me here.



FANI NICHEVA
Partner & Troublemaker, Bigfish Smallpond Design
Brave Brander and Salad Smarty


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