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Put Meaning at the Center of Your Business Model

Most business models cover the bases nicely: how the company will serve customers better than rivals. But they don’t really explain why the company matters. Why should anyone care that your company exists? Why should they walk past your rivals in order to reach you? What’s your real differentiation in the eyes of target customers? Without good answers, you aren’t likely to stand out in the marketplace for long. Once the shine wears off, or rivals match your pricing, you’ll lose both customers and employees. That’s bad both for your long-term competitive position and for society. Adding a larger meaning beyond the dollars makes sense for every constituent — investors, employees and the community. A successful business model connects with customers, employees, and investors, and builds a compelling vision for the long term. And the only way to do that is with empathy and imagination to gain a deep understanding of the needs of your target customer. In this article, author Ron Shaich, founder and former chairman & CEO of Panera Bread, shares how his team transformed a low-margin French bakery into a profitable French bakery café by listening to customers and pinpointing the meaning behind the business model.