Find the Right Path in Business to Build Value

Find the Right Path in Business to Build Value

Chia-Li Chien | Feb. 28, 2012

Since she was five years old, my daughter Con-Ning has never stopped telling me that she wants to ride horses. At that time, I was busy climbing the corporate career ladder and being a ruthless Chinese Tiger Mom, passing on what my mother taught me. Con-Ning participated in many extra curricular activities after school such as piano, ballet, ice-skating and math. Con-Ning had no interest in any of it, plus we as parents were tired of chauffeuring her around town. Somehow, I completely missed her passion.

After moving from Stamford, Connecticut to Charlotte, North Carolina, I made some adjustments in our family life. I asked Con-Ning, who was in 3rd grade by then, to pick only one activity, one which would give her an opportunity to get very good at one thing and not waste everyone’s time on other pursuits. To my surprise, she told me, “Mommy, I only want to ride horses,” which was not on the list of activities I had identified. Nevertheless, we consented and she started one-hour riding lessons.

Being a conscientious Chinese Tiger Mom, I could not help but wonder—what’s the ROI here? So I asked Con-Ning, “What will horseback riding do for your future career?” I admit, addressed to a 3rd grader, this is a bit harsh, but oh well, any proud Tiger Mom would not flinch. She told me that perhaps she could become a trainer for a jockey. However, having grown up in metro Taipei, and had absolutely no concept of any farm animals, and certainly did not know what a jockey was. Well, inquiring around, I felt the need to direct, and asked her, “Why not become a veterinarian?”

Obviously, there is no way of knowing if this is the career path Con-Ning would choose. So I’ve circled back to it often since middle school. She has also been a Girl Scout since 3rd grade and is a member of Beta Club today in high school. She is even preparing for her Girl Scout Gold Award project this year, which is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. And, she is now in her 3rd year of an internship in a local veterinarian hospital, working there once a month. She has been a “counselor in training” at both Girl Scout camp and at a local university summer camp for the past few years. Plus, she has just been accepted by a Girl Scout camp to be a Junior Counselor Riding Instructor, which she will start June of 2012. This will be her first paying job. She has lined up quite an impressive resume to prepare her for a career as a veterinarian.

I am so proud of my daughter’s accomplishments, and feel each of them will further put her on the path and get her closer to her dream of becoming a veterinarian. As a parent and advisor (when solicited) to her, my job is to create the opportunity to help her see clearly her vision, and to provide opportunities for her to build the right foundation toward her goals.

It is no different in a small business or entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs too need to have a clear path to build the business. A valuable business ultimately creates wealth for the entrepreneur and creates jobs in the community. Creative thinking is required to innovate the best business model for the business so that becomes a sustainable business. (Not just accidentally riding on the wave of the new technology, which many business tend to do.) It means intentionally or purposely creating a sustainable business that creates value or wealth for the entrepreneur/owner.

One of my tools in PROFITS MATTER® is to help entrepreneurs innovate a business model. I recently read this book — Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers written by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur and co-created by 470 practitioners from 45 countries. (

After reading it, I decided this book is a great tool to add to my toolbox for helping myself and my clients innovate their business model. Just like Con-Ning’s journey, entrepreneurs need tools to help them stay on the RIGHT path to a VALUBLE business. You can even model your own business model from examples of the 470 different businesses found in the pages. This visual book is an easy read and actually includes the business model they used for the book in its back pages.

One thing I will caution when using this book as a tool to innovate your business model is to revisit your core competencies, making sure you focus on the right ones in your business. Another thing to watch out for is industry trends, which are not talked about in this book. You see, creatively thinking about your business vision or business model while following a process can be difficult at times.

I often lead clients through strategy sessions with an outlook that tends to not show up in business models, but puts more of a focus on what the future can be. You can be on the leading edge or just a follower of the latest industry trend, but definitely don’t be the one lagging behind. Make sure you’re still in the trend so you don’t miss the opportunity to create VALUE for you, your customers and your business.

Con-Ning is only a junior in high school today, so there is no way to tell if she will eventually reach veterinarian status in her career. But keeping her on the right path and helping her stay focused on the path is critical. Your business needs that as well. Whether you use the “business model canvas” (from this book we’ve discussed) as a tool or for working with a strategy practitioner like my business team, you don’t want to miss the any critical junctures in your particular industry. And most importantly, stay on the path of making your business valuable!

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