Strategy Talk

Profitable Yet Doomed: Using the Business Model Canvas to Unveil Unsustainability and Drive Strategic Change in SMEs

Many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) experience challenges in maintaining a sustainable business model that can lead to long-term success. These difficulties often stem from overwhelm in various aspects of the business, such as finances, operations, marketing, and staffing. In this blog post, we will explore the role of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) in identifying and addressing overwhelm in SMEs. By leveraging this visual tool, SMEs can gain valuable insights, uncover unsustainability, and drive strategic change to ensure a more sustainable and successful future.

Understanding Overwhelm in SMEs

Overwhelm can manifest in different areas of an SME’s operations, leading to unsustainable practices and suboptimal performance. Financial overwhelm occurs when businesses struggle to generate sufficient profits to cover expenses and reinvest in growth. Operational overwhelm arises from inefficient processes that hinder productivity and waste resources. Marketing overwhelm results from ineffective strategies that fail to attract and retain customers. Lastly, staffing overwhelm arises from high turnover rates or a lack of skilled employees.

The Business Model Canvas: A Visual Tool for Assessment

The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a visual representation of a business’s key components, allowing SMEs to assess their overall business model and identify areas of unsustainability and overwhelm. The BMC consists of nine building blocks, each representing a different aspect of the business:

  • Value Proposition
  • Customer Segments
  • Channels
  • Customer Relationships
  • Revenue Streams
  • Key Resources
  • Key Activities
  • Key Partnerships
  • Cost Structure

Mapping the value proposition helps assess profitability and sustainability. Analyzing the key activities, resources, and partnerships helps identify areas of overwhelm and inefficiency. Evaluating the customer segments and channels helps assess marketing effectiveness. By visually representing these components, the BMC provides a comprehensive view of the business and helps SMEs pinpoint areas in need of improvement.

Leveraging the BMC to Make Informed Decisions

The BMC enables SMEs to make informed decisions based on identified areas of unsustainability and overwhelm. It is important to consider both profitability and sustainability to ensure long-term success. Here are some examples of decisions that SMEs can make using the insights gained from the BMC:

Image by Ulrich from Pixabay

Implementing Cost-Cutting Measures

Identifying areas of unnecessary costs or inefficient resource allocation allows SMEs to implement cost-cutting measures. This could involve renegotiating supplier contracts, optimizing inventory management, or streamlining internal processes to reduce expenses without compromising quality or customer experience.

Enhancing Operational Efficiency

The BMC helps SMEs identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in key activities. By leveraging this insight, businesses can optimize their processes, embrace automation or technology solutions, and improve overall operational efficiency. This may result in reduced lead times, fewer errors, and improved resource utilization.

Refining Marketing Strategies

By evaluating the customer segments and channels, SMEs can identify gaps in their marketing strategies. They can refine their targeting to attract the most profitable customer segments and optimize their channels for better reach and engagement. This may involve reallocating marketing budgets, exploring new advertising platforms, or adopting data-driven approaches to personalize marketing messages.

Investing in Employee Training and Development

If the BMC highlights staffing overwhelm or a lack of necessary skillsets, SMEs can invest in employee training and development programs. By enhancing the capabilities and knowledge of their staff, businesses can improve performance, reduce turnover rates, and ensure they have the right talent to support growth and sustainability.


The Business Model Canvas stands as a pivotal instrument for SMEs in demystifying the complexities of their operations and shedding light on potential pitfalls of unsustainability. Leveraging the insights unearthed through the BMC, SMEs are poised to make informed choices, navigate through strategic pivots, and orchestrate transformative change to steer their businesses toward a more sustainable and prosperous future. In this journey of perpetual evaluation and adaptation, the Business Model Canvas emerges as an SME’s guiding compass in a dynamic business landscape.

To delve deeper into the world of innovative strategies and collaborative solutions, we invite you to join our Innovation Mastermind community. This thriving online ecosystem connects innovators from diverse backgrounds, offering invaluable collaborative opportunities and the essential tools to translate visionary ideas into impactful realities. Embrace the power of the BMC and the collective wisdom of our Innovation Mastermind to not only conquer overwhelming challenges but to flourish in the long haul.

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Emmanuel Setyawan

A Strategyzer coach and Blue Ocean Strategy Australia consultant, Emmanuel brings remote delivery and time-proven, case study backed frameworks to remote strategy coaching and facilitation while helping customers create new or improve existing business models, design value propositions that capture new market or untapped needs and create a new way to generate revenue streams. Contact Accolade Coaching now and let Emmanuel help you work on your innovation strategy.