No matter which business you are in, no matter if you offer a service or manufacture a product, no matter how big or small your business is, at the core root there is a division that can always be made of parts that play a crucial role.

Every business has to deal with 4 core principles in order to be sustainable. They are:

  1. Structure
  2. Strategy
  3. Network
  4. Heart

I will explain these 4 principles in this article. Don’t be misled by the chosen names, they might not be what you expect in first place. Every principle plays an important role in the whole organism that a business is. With each principle I will go further into its purpose, the part that it plays and the challenges that a business has to overcome in order to become successful.

1. Structure

There are three main components to this first part of the universal business model:
  1. A business works in a specific environment = framework
  2. A business changes a certain situation in this environment to another outcome = main flow
  3. Side flows are generated as a consequence of the main flow
Structure is the entire framework in which a company is active. It will offer help in overcoming a certain situation for a client and in doing so, changing the original situation into a new outcome that helps the client (main flow). A business mostly starts with one core situation to further expand into more situations (and more clients) by using their know how in a bigger (and perhaps different) environment. The framework is offering a filter in order to capture incoming stuff and process it so that situation A can be transformed to situation B. This situation B is the preferred end result. All that has nothing to do with this process doesn’t need to be captured and guided into a consequent process flow. The challenge of this ‘structure pillar’ is to find and to stay in the right environment and attract the right clients that you can help with your main flow. This means that saying ‘no’ is the hardest task here for this principle. Another big challenge is guiding the incoming stuff into the right flow. A main flow will also bring other flows in the business game as well. Examples of these are a financial flow, a sales flow, an HR flow, etc. The main challenge is to first see all the flows that exist, to recognize them and determine the beginning situation and the end situation for each flow. A closer look into those flows leads us to the second principle of the universal business model, which is strategy.

2. Strategy

Strategy is the way HOW the main flow and the side flows are constructed. A business can contain a few or a whole bunch of these flows. Every flow has again a beginning point and a preferred end result. A sales flow for example has a starting trigger like an incoming customer and ends in a signed contract. The challenge of this second pillar is to determine the right decision parameters that are involved for each flow. You are able to create choices and opportunities at all times. Keeping things as simple as possible is a key feature of strategy. Another important factor is transparency. What are the conditions for a flow to start, what goes in and how does a flow transform it to a certain preferred result. Flow charts can be a great visual tool to map out all existing flows. When all flows are clear and they have an optimized strategy, then it’s time to start acting according to these well outlined roadmaps. By acting, you enter the next stage of the Universal Business Model.

3. Network

Network is all about communication and connecting. This creates an inside network within you business where all the flows are acting as one big organism. That big organism is interacting with its environment, creating an outside network.
  1. Internal communication
  2. External communication
The internal communication is the communication that happens inside the business organism. This is the internal check, is the organism still functioning as it should, is it healthy? Are all flows, strategies, small results all aligned and aiming for the best possible overall end result of the main flow? The external communication part is between the business organism and the environment in which it is active. Is the produced overall end result in harmony with the client’s demands and expectations? Has the environment changed and does the business need to adapt to the changed form of incoming stuff? Answering these questions leads to another deeper level of your business: heart.

4. Heart

This core principle is the heart of the Universal Business Model. It’s the reason of existence of a company. It’s why you do the things the way that you do them. A WHY has an impact on the HOW. Change the HOW of doing something and you will get a different outcome, which is eventually the WHAT. A communication network is only as strong as the message it spreads. Whenever that message is picked up and approved by the environment, growth will be the consequence. An organism with a communication network spreading a message that is not aligned with the surroundings, will be isolated and will have a hard time to survive. A major pitfall for this principle is that the message spread throughout the network is either unclear or contradictory with the actions that the business take. There is a lot of money going around nowadays in order to manufacture the ideal message so that everyone involved (clients, co-workers, suppliers, …) gets motivated to jump on the wagon and do their part. More and more companies are aware of the importance of the right message and how to communicate it. This is what marketing is essentially about. But the only recipe for sustainability is being honest in the search for the own purpose and finding the right environment based upon that. If you have those 4 principles nicely mapped out for your business, you will start to see how your business functions as a true living organism in this world. It is in constant interaction with itself and its surroundings. It is in constant change, each action matters and should be in line with the desired end result. Its purpose is to serve itself by serving the community. Only then can growth be sustainable. Before using this model in real life, a deeper understanding is needed of how these layers interact with each other. Read more in the next article: The dynamics inside the CBM.