Business Management

Would You Like to Build a Business in a Box


ActionCOACH defines a business as a commercially, profitable enterprise that works without the owner having to be there. This could be considered as a self-contained business. In other words a “business-in-a-box”.

So what is a business in a box – what are the key elements that go into building one.

Let’s start with strategy – every business has one. It might stem from an idea or an innovation. A new product or service that people will want or need and/or a new way of delivering it. It might even be as simple as: “this town doesn’t have anyone doing what I do, so I’m going to do it here”.

Taking this another step, there may be a vision of what the business will look like when it’s complete and the impact it will have in the community. This might involve some market research to uncover target markets and their needs and some research and development or prototyping to work out how best to fulfill them. It will also involve some decisions on how products or services will be delivered to customers, which may be encapsulated in a mission statement.

All of these things can be captured in your “business model”. A great way to do this by the way is with a business canvas (website and amazon link).

Sometimes this is all very simple and informal and may not even be written down.

Together with the strategy, a business also needs to deliver to its customers: a plan to execute the strategy and a set of processes and systems to make it happen. Again, to start with these may be informal. Indeed they often reside in the owners head. Nonetheless they exist and are essential and at some point must be written down.

A third element is the team. Even a sole trader has a team. A team made up of an accountant, solicitor, business advisors, bank manager, suppliers. Quite quickly, though, most businesses take on employees as well and create what is formally thought of as “the team”.

These are the core elements of a business. You can find descriptions of something like this in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins or “The Rockefeller Habits” by Verne Harnish.

But this isn’t the business in a box. It’s a triangle.

Let’s delve deeper.

Looking at execution, what kind of systems are needed. These usually fall into three main areas: sales and marketing, operations and finance. A business needs systems in each of these three areas.

So we have a second triad when it comes to systems. A detailed analysis of this is given in Michael E Gerber’s book, “The E-Myth Revisited”.

What about the team. To make a team most effective, they need to know what they are aiming to achieve – their quarterly and annual goals – and have a plan to achieve them. Finally, they need to have a framework within which to work that allows them to take responsibility for decisions within their remit and that places some boundaries on appropriate behaviour. This can be encapsulated as the “Rules of the Game”.

A good team also needs a good leader. There are many and diverse opinions about what makes a good leader. However, at a practical level, a large part of leadership is getting all of these elements in place to provide clear direction, support, empowerment and communication.

These then are my nine elements to building a business:

  1. Strategy
  2. Systems
  3. Team
  4. Sales and Marketing
  5. Operations
  6. Finance
  7. Goals
  8. Action Plans
  9. Rules of the Game

When we put these together we create a “Business in a Box”. How?

What do you see in the centre of the triangle? Do you see a hexagon or a cube tilted on it’s edge? That’s right: a business in a box (with a bit of out of the box thinking…).

How do we go about creating the business in a box? Where do you start? It’s clear with a startup business that the best place to start is at the strategic level. But what about an established business? Is it possible to “retro-fit” this framework? What’s the right sequence to do that?  Well the answer is that there are six steps to building your business in a box, but these will have to be the topic of a future article..

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