BUSINESS MODELS

Learn everything you need to know about business models. This guide on business models was created by an ex-McKinsey consultant and includes frameworks, case studies, examples, a step-by-step design guide, and an 18-page business model PowerPoint template.


THE BIG PICTURE ON BUSINESS MODELS


1. To Grow, Get All of the Elements Right


If you think through, analyze, and correctly solve each element of the business model, your company will grow.


2. Sequentially Solve the Business Model


Strategic planning should always start with the mission, then flow through the targets, value proposition, go to market, and finally the organization.

3. Understand the Role of Each Business Model Element


Once you understand each business model element, then it is much easier to solve for the right strategies to grow.


4. Strategic Alignment is the Key to Execution


Strategic alignment is when an organization is laser-focused on developing and delivering a killer value proposition and go-to-market that beats the competition.

A BUSINESS MODEL HAS 5 CORE ELEMENTS


There are five major components to any business model:

1. The Mission 
2. Targets 
3. Customer Value Proposition 
4. Go-to-Market 
5. The Organization

The way a business model works is: "The organization efficiently & effectively develops and delivers the customer value proposition and go-to-market to fulfill the needs of the target customers better than competitors, all for the purpose of achieving the mission."

The horizontal graphic below translates the flow of elements in a business model.


How a business model works
If you are looking for a business coach to collaborate on your business model, set up some on-demand one-on-one time with Joe Newsum, the creator of this content and a McKinsey alum

THE WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE & HOW OF BUSINESS MODELS


We can take the horizontal business model graphic and make it vertical, which is the graphic we use throughout the site.


Business Model Questions

Let's go over the big picture of the business model.

We start at the top with the "true north" representing a business' mission, vision, and values, which ultimately gives purpose and provides the "why" the company exists. An inspiring and enduring mission, vision, and values serve as a guide to align strategies, and help all employees make the right decisions, however big or small the decisions.

We next move down to the targets.  These include the markets and geographies ("where") the company competes in, for the business of the target customers ("who"). Companies that clearly define and deeply understand their targets, develop focused and aligned business models.

Next is the value proposition, which is the "what" and the core of any business model, composed of the business's productsservices, and pricing. Then, there is the go-to-market, comprised of the business's distributionsales, and marketing. The purpose of go-to-market is to amplify the value proposition to drive customer acquisition and loyalty.

Finally, the organization is organized into functions (e.g., sales, ops, finance). Everything the organization does is a process (whether defined as one or not) executed by team memberspartners, and infrastructure. The organization is the execution machine and the "how" things get done in a business model. And as stated before, the organization's purpose is to efficiently and effectively develop and deliver the value proposition and go-to-market to fulfill customers' needs better than competitors, all for the purpose of achieving the mission, vision, and values.

SOLVE A BUSINESS MODEL FROM THE TOP DOWN


Let's go over a few things about business models. First, look below to see all the different types of strategy, which are just the tip of the iceberg. Second, most companies make the mistake of solving their strategy from the bottom up, starting with functional strategies. The conversation goes something like this, "We've got our board meeting coming up. Bob, I need your ops strategy. Jane, I need your marketing strategy. Helen, I need your sales plan and strategy. Nate, give me a readout on the HR strategy."

I equate it to trying to design a car, with the chassis, brakes, engine, and electronics team independently designing their part. In the end, it won't work. Now, let's get into a simple case study to understand better how a business model works.


Types of Strategy


SOUTHWEST AIRLINES - ONE OF THE CLEANEST BUSINESS MODELS


Finding a better example of a well-tuned business model than Southwest Airlines is hard. Starting in 1967, Southwest Airlines has grown to be the largest domestic airline in the U.S., with $20 billion in annual sales and 50,000 employees. With a deep history of award-winning service, Southwest has amassed 43 straight years of profitability. If you were lucky enough to buy $10,000 worth of Southwest stock in 1971, it would be worth over $20,000,000 today.


Southwest Business Model

TRUE NORTH - "THE "WHY"


The true north of a company includes the organization's mission, vision, and values, which provide the foundation for aligning strategies, decisions, actions, and culture. A compelling mission gives the team and organization the inspiration and the focus they need to make mission-based decisions and align their strategies. A strong vision of strategic pillars and ambitious goals provides the next level of focus for aligning the organization's strategies. And values are the foundation of expected norms and behaviors that foster a company's culture. Without a compelling mission, vision, and values, management teams often struggle with strategic focus since they try to navigate without understanding the direction of true north.

Back in 1971, Southwest's mission was so simple and effective, “Charge the lowest possible fare. And provide the highest quality service.”

Over the past 45+ years, Southwest's strategic and day-to-day decisions reinforced how they could charge the lowest possible fare and provide the highest quality service. You'll see Southwest's mission throughout Southwest's business model.

Today, Southwest's true north is encapsulated below in its purpose, vision, mission, and values.


Southwest Mission

TARGETS - THE "WHO" & "WHERE"


A business model has three primary targets: 1. Markets, 2. Customers, 3. Geographies. The targets define the "who" and "where" of a business model. A market establishes the solution space a business competes in for customers. If a leadership team truly understands its market dynamics, it can navigate its way to a leadership position. A defined target customer enables an organization to tailor their value proposition better to exceed the target customers' needs. While target geographies focus on the execution of a business and add to economies of scale.

Well-defined targets provide an organization clarity to make better decisions and execute at a higher level. Expanding into new markets, customer segments, and geographies can lead to explosive growth when a business already has a winning value proposition in existing markets, customer segments, and geographies. However, suppose a company expands into new target markets, customers, and geographies before the value proposition and organization are ready. In that case, it can fragment focus, create shoddy execution, and overextend the business into financial distress.

Let's better understand Southwest's target market, customer segments, and geographies.


Southwest Competitive Differentiation

Southwest's Target Market



The output of a market strategy is a differentiated positioning within the market. Southwest competes in the highly competitive commuter airline market, which, as an industry, lost $50 billion from 2001-2012.

The idea of Southwest was born on a napkin with lines connecting the three dots titled Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. Back in 1967, the founders of Southwest saw a hole in the commuter airline market. While the big airlines were built around national and regional hub and spoke route models, Southwest focused on intrastate point-to-point routes (initially Dallas, Houston & San Antonio). Since then, Southwest has stuck to this point-to-point route market positioning, while most other airlines relied on their hub and spoke models.


southwest

Southwest's Target Customers



You start a business to fulfill a customer's need. Southwest started a regional point-to-point airline for customers who wanted an hour-long flight rather than waste 3.5 to 4.5 hours in a car to drive from Dallas to Houston or San Antonio. Instead of spending 7 to 9 hours behind the car windshield for a day round trip, customers could be pampered by "the best service and the most beautiful girls in the sky." Southwest had a unique perspective on how they defined the needs of their target customers, as stated in their 1975 Annual Report,

"We believe that in short-haul markets of up to 500 miles, the private automobile is a worthy competitor for those consumers representing the great majority of us who cannot logically place a value on time commensurate with the airfares now charged in those markets. Except for the businessman and woman market, a fare that does not compete with the cost of personal automobile travel will not permit any air market to reach its potential.

By focusing on this unmet customer need to substitute a flight for a car drive, Southwest was one of the key influencers in driving astronomical growth in U.S. domestic air travel. They attracted business customers with low fares, convenience, and service, and leisure travelers with ultra-discounted weekend tickets to drive up their plane utilization. At the time, the ultra-discounted weekend fares opened up a whole new segment of travel customers who wanted to fly for pleasure, to visit family, recreation, and to explore new destinations.

Over the past 45+ years, Southwest has continued its focus on the business and leisure customer segments, tailoring its value proposition and go-to-market to these two segments.


From Southwest's 1974 Annual Report
Southwest History

Southwest's Target Geographies



While Southwest Airlines now serves over 100 destinations, its deliberate geographic expansion strategy was one of the keys to Southwest's growth. In keeping with its low-cost provider mission, Southwest has always pursued a geographic density strategy to drive cost and capital synergies and utilization.

Over the six years after their 1971 launch, Southwest expanded just in Texas with routes to the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Lubbock, and Midland/Odessa. In 1977, Southwest's fleet of 12 737s carried 2.4 million customers, which equals 200,000 passengers per plane, or 548 passengers per plane per day. Considering the population of Texas was only 13 million people in 1977, the word-of-mouth of the new, cool, and cheap Southwest Airlines was unavoidable. This geographic focus also enabled Southwest to leverage its fixed costs related to airports, personnel, maintenance facilities, and advertising.

Southwest has always taken a highly deliberate geographic expansion strategy, choosing routes that are natural extensions of the existing route network, leading to 40 years of steady, profitable growth. Southwest has continuously focused on driving the economies of scale that a dense geographic strategy provides. Furthermore, Southwest has been extremely opportunistic with their airport selection, often focusing on lower-cost second-tier airports in a region such as Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby, Chicago Midway, Baltimore-Washington International, Oakland, San Jose, Burbank, Manchester, Providence, Ft-Lauderdale-Hollywood.

And, when Southwest expanded internationally, they made the strategic acquisition of AirTran, which had few overlapping routes but did have a robust business to the Caribbean, Mexico, and select Central American cities.


southwest route map

The Strategic Takeaway on Targets



Understanding, defining, and executing against target markets, customers, and geographies is core to building a killer business model. If you create a differentiated market position, you have a long-term vision of what you need to execute against. If you define the right target customers, you can tailor a differentiated value proposition to drive more customer value than competitors while also narrowing the scope of your go-to-market strategies. If you develop geographic density, then you reap economies of scale.

Keep your targets focused until your business and economic model are ready to scale into new markets, customer segments, and geographies. New markets, customer segments, and geographies can provide explosive growth, but only if your value proposition and economics are ready to beat the competitors in the new targets. The downfall of too many businesses is they overextend themselves by trying to expand into too many new targets, fragmenting the focus and execution of the organization.

THE VALUE PROPOSITION - THE CORE & "WHAT"


The value proposition is the core of any business model. If customers get more value out of your value proposition than competitors, your company will win over time. A value proposition is made up of the products, services, and pricing of a business. Ultimately, customers buy products and services to improve their lives in some way. Value equals the rational and emotional benefits customers get from products and services minus the price they pay. Management teams are responsible for improving the value customers get from their products and services in a way that creates sustainable competitive differentiation and drives financial results. If they do this right and sustain it, the company will grow for a very long time. So, let's move on to Southwest's value proposition.

Business Model Value Proposition

Southwest's Value Proposition



Let's return to the original Southwest mission: "Charge the lowest possible fare. And provide the highest quality service." Frankly, it sounds like their value proposition, which is what you want in a mission statement.

Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest, understood the customer value equation from the beginning, as he highlighted in an interview with Strategy + Business, after being honored as a "Lifetime Strategist,"

One of the things that people, I think, didn't understand is that we started out saying we're going to give you more for less, not less for less. We're going to give you new airplanes, not old airplanes. We're going to give you the best on-time performance. We're going to give you the people who are most hospitable."

1970s Southwest Ad


southwest ad

Southwest's Service - Rational Benefits



In evaluating a value proposition, start with the rational benefits of the products and services. Southwest's rational benefits are getting customers and their bags from point A to B through the air, which they do efficiently and competently.

They have the highest frequency of point-to-point routes, providing customers convenience and reduced travel time versus hub and spoke airlines. Southwest has the best historical on-time and baggage performance. They have a fast and convenient check-in process. In the event of a change, they have no change penalties and make it easy to book another flight. They also have the richest and easiest-to-redeem rewards program, averaging 9.5% of passenger miles flown on Rapid Rewards flights versus ~7% on other airlines.

By consistently and efficiently getting passengers and their bags from point A to B, Southwest consistently ranks as one of the top airlines in customer satisfaction.


Southwest Value Proposition

Southwest's Service - Emotional Benefits



If you fly Southwest, you understand the difference in the emotional experience versus other airlines. It always starts with the people, and Southwest's employees have a fun, caring, and go-the-extra-mile attitude.

Then there is Southwest's physical experience of newer planes, with leather seats and extra legroom compared to other airlines in the same fare class.

Then there are the perks of free live TV, free snacks, drinks, and affordable $5 wifi and alcoholic beverages. If you're a frequent flier, they periodically send you free alcoholic beverage coupons.

There is also the emotional lift of not being taken advantage of with bag and change fees.

Southwest's service is so good, and their emotional connection with customers is so strong that they can pull off marketing campaigns centered around "Love." Imagine what a bad joke it would be if other airlines tried incorporating "love" into their marketing.


southwest emotional benefits

Southwest Pricing



In 1993, the U.S. Department of Transportation coined the term the "Southwest Effect" for the rapid growth in total air travel in a city-to-city route once Southwest started to fly the route. The "Southwest Effect" is driven by their value equation, which equals benefits - price. While we've gone through the customer benefits of Southwest, let's flip to the other side of the coin: pricing.

Historically, Southwest has been the price leader in the airline industry. With the growth of ultra-discount airlines (e.g., Frontier, Spirit), they may no longer be the ticket price leader. However, they are probably still the leader in the total cost of flying when you factor in the extra cost of bags, seat selection, change fees and the other charges of ultra-discount airlines.

Southwest utilizes its simple pricing in its #FeesDontFly marketing campaign. While the competitive herd goes one way, Southwest goes the other way, which is the essence of competitive differentiation.

Southwest Pricing

The Strategic Takeaways on Value Propositions



A business's value proposition comprises its products, services, and pricing. The goal of a value proposition is to drive better customer value (benefits - price) than competitors. Over the past 45+ years, Southwest has consistently delivered superior customer value, leading them to grow into the largest U.S. domestic airline.

For struggling companies, the first thing to look at is the customer value proposition, which is most likely deficient versus the competition. Even for successful companies, the bottom line is to continuously focus on differentiating the value proposition to improve benefits while driving down costs, which can translate into enhanced profit or price improvement. The Customer Value Wedge is a nice visual to understand this concept better.


The Customer Value Wedge

GO-TO-MARKET - AMPLIFYING THE VALUE PROPOSITION


The go-to-market strategy of a business model is how a company drives and fulfills the demand for products and services to customers. The three components of go-to-market include distributionsales, and marketing. Powerful go-to-market strategies effectively and efficiently amplify the value proposition to the defined target customers.

The big strategic choice with distribution is whether to go direct, indirect, or a hybrid model of both direct and indirect channels. The big strategic goal with sales and marketing is to drive campaigns and activities to increase the size of the customer funnel and accelerate customers through the funnel.


Southwest Marketing

Southwest Direct Distribution



With the rise of digital channels, distribution is currently a hotbed of disruption and innovation. Thousands of companies have cut out significant distribution costs from their value chain, by going directly to customers through digital channels.

Given Southwest's mission of low fares, in the late 90s, as Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, and other travel websites grew, Southwest decided not to partner with third-party websites and only utilize Southwest.com as their online distribution.  At the time it was a risky move as many airline analysts said Southwest was going to suffer. However, given the strength of Southwest's value proposition and loyalty, the direct distribution strategy paid off.

For Southwest, the estimated savings are ~$700 million a year by not using the travel sites. Southwest can split the $700 million between higher profits and lower fares for customers. It is an example of driving the customer value wedge.

Distribution strategy is a critical element of any go-to-market strategy, and getting it right can be the difference between winning and losing.


southwest airlines distribution

Southwest Sales & Marketing



Southwest's marketing, encapsulated in their "Tranfarency" and "Love" campaigns, reflects their low fares and high-quality service mission. "Transfarency" amplifies the rational benefits of Southwest's value proposition, while "Love" amplifies the emotional benefits.

One of the main outputs of any marketing strategy is a campaign, simply a combination of messages and media. There are three media meta-channels: advocacy, owned, and paid. The beauty of Southwest is how consistent they are in driving its brand messages across all three of these media meta-channels.

With Southwest and most B2C companies, there isn't a "Sales" element to their business model, as in most B2B business models.

Too often, companies blame marketing for their growth woes instead of addressing the lack of value in their value proposition. Two of the most successful retailers, Costco and Trader Joe's, spend almost nothing on marketing but continue to grow through the strength of their value proposition and word-of-mouth advocacy. From 2010 to 2013, Southwest kept its advertising spending almost flat but increased revenues by 46%.


Southwest Marketing Channels

The Strategic Takeaways on Go-to-Market



Too often, executives blame distribution, marketing, and sales strategies for growth woes. They usually replace their sales and marketing leaders or spend more on advertising and salespeople when they need to improve their value proposition.

Go-to-market strategies amplify a value proposition. If the value proposition is inferior to the competition, improve the value proposition and then amplify the value proposition through bigger and better go-to-market strategies.

If your business has a strong value proposition, add growth fuel by heavily investing in distribution, sales, and marketing. And align the go-to-market strategies to the target customer and their typical purchasing journey. Lastly, get the brand messaging right to tap into the rational and emotional benefits of the value proposition.

THE ORGANIZATION - THE HEART & "HOW"


The purpose of an organization is to efficiently and effectively develop and deliver the customer value proposition and go-to-market. Reflect on this for a minute. Is your role and everyone in the company focused on developing and delivering the customer value proposition and go-to-market?

Organizations are simply a collection of processes executed by a combination of people, infrastructure, and partners. The processes are organized into functions.

There are two types of functions: 1. value chain functions and 2. support functions. Value chain functions create the value proposition and deliver and service the value proposition (i.e., logistics, product development, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and service operations). Support functions support the efficiency and effectiveness of other functions (i.e., procurement, IT, finance, HR, legal).


Value Chain

Solve the Top Before Getting to the Bottom



From a strategic perspective, the better the management team defines the top part of the business model, the easier it is for them to define strong organizational and functional strategies. Strategically aligning the value proposition, go-to-market, and organizational strategies to the targets and "true north" is one of the easiest ways to drive the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

Another critical component of organizational strategy is core competencies, which are those capabilities that a business needs to be world-class at to develop and deliver the competitive differentiation and advantage of the business model.

Now, let's dive into how Southwest reinforces its business model through its organizational strategies. Southwest's mission and value proposition of low cost, high service is accomplished through Southwest's strategies related to Team Members, Infrastructure, Partners, & Processes.


Southwest's Enduring Focus on People



People are the heart and soul of any organization. Southwest's mantra is "employees first, customers second, shareholders third. As co-founder of Southwest, Herb Kelleher said, "If the employees serve the customer well, the customer comes back, and that makes the shareholders happy. It's simple, it's not a conflict, it's a chain."

Southwest has one of the most passionate and loyal workforces. They were named the best company for work-life balance. They've ranked as high as #13 in the Forbes Best Employer list. They've never had a layoff or cut pay. Voluntary turnover is less than 2%. With over 50,000 employees, Southwest does an incredible job keeping its team members happy, productive, and passionate. So, the question is how?

There are three main elements to a holistic people strategy1. org design2. employee journey, and 3. culture. Let's dig into Southwest's employee journey and culture to understand how they elevate and realize the potential of their team.


Southwest Employee Journey

Southwest's Culture



A company's culture starts with its values, which are reinforced by norms and the environment. Benefits and compensation are also critical to a company's culture.

It is hard to beat Southwest's culture. What other companies celebrate their culture in their recruiting materials? And, what other companies have a Culture Services Department and Local and Companywide Culture Committees?

It all starts with Southwest's values, which are broken up into "Live the Southwest Way" (Warrior Spirit, Servant's Heart, Fun-LUVing Attitude) and "Work the Southwest Way" (Safety and Reliability, Friendly Customer Service, and Low Costs).

Southwest norms, which define how Southwest team members interact with each other, reinforce the values. Southwest's environment (offices, planes, gates, etc.) celebrates employees, travel, and Southwest. Southwest also reinforces its values and norms with spirit parties, chili cook-offs, and Luvlines (their employee magazine).

Though Southwest is a low-price airline, its compensation is some of the highest in the industry. And they align all team members to their mission and financial performance through a generous profit-sharing plan. In 2015, Southwest paid out $620 million in profit-sharing, which amounted to over $12,000 per employee. This plan reinforces the Work the Southwest Way values. Southwest's benefits are numerous and generous. There are too many to list, but you should glance at them on Southwest's website.

While culture may seem squishy and nebulous, a solid and enduring culture can take root in any company if you get the values right and reinforce them with norms, the environment, benefits, and compensation.


Southwest Culture

Southwest's Employee Journey



Strong companies infuse their mission and values into their employee journey, including recruiting, hiring, onboarding, development, evaluation, and advancement. Some companies do it better than others, but great companies like Southwest are deliberate and thoughtful in their employee journey strategy.

Southwest leadership knows that starting with the right people, who inherently embody Southwest's values, is paramount to realizing its mission and preserving its culture. Southwest hires less than 2% of applicants and 6% of interviewees. Their interview process is rigorous, with group interviews, fit interviews, and a profile guide.

New hires go through a 4-week training program that trains them on the ins and outs of the job and enculturates them in the Southwest values with fun activities such as egg balancing relays and scavenger hunts. Once a team member begins to work, they are assigned a team member sponsor and participate in new hire parties and luncheons to reinforce the Southwest norms and culture.

Evaluation and advancement are based not only on a team member's skills but also on their demonstration of living the Southwest values. Team member development is reinforced through SWA University's extensive leadership and management development programs, along with continuous feedback and coaching.

There is also a continuous celebration of Southwest team members. Customers see it in the Southwest magazine with monthly articles on team members who have gone above and beyond. Southwest advertisements use team members instead of actors. Team members can give each other SWAG (Southwest Airlines Gratitude) points, utilizing an online platform that allows team members to recognize other team members for their Warrior Spirit, Servant's Heart, or Fun-LUVing Attitude. Team members can turn their points in for gift cards and merchandise. There are also numerous employee awards, such as the Spirit Award.

Southwest has thoughtfully optimized its employee journey to elevate and realize the potential of its 50,000+ person team.


Southwest Employee Journey

Southwest's Infrastructure



Infrastructure includes the equipment, information technology, facilities, machinery, and other physical assets a business uses. Infrastructure strategy and decisions are challenging, given the typical significant investment, sometimes long and complex implementations, against the backdrop of a continuously changing future.

In Southwest's case, its infrastructure strategy reinforces its low-cost mission. In 1971, Southwest began service with four Boeing 737s, which were introduced into the market a mere four years earlier. While competitors used 15-25 seat commuter jets for the same type of routes, Southwest's 737s seated 112 passengers, ensuring Southwest a superior cost structure once the planes were fully utilized (which took a few years). Still to this day, Southwest's fleet of 700+ planes is all Boeing 737s, compared to United Airlines, which utilizes over 20 types of aircraft.

As stated in Southwest's 10-K"The Company's low-cost structure has historically been facilitated by Southwest's use of a single aircraft type, the Boeing 737, an operationally efficient point-to-point route structure, and highly productive employees. Southwest's use of a single aircraft type has allowed for simplified scheduling, maintenance, flight operations, and training activities."

Southwest's no-seat assignments policy massively simplifies its systems and processes, with no need to track seats and seat assignments for every plane for every flight for an entire year out.

Then there is the decision, back in the early 2000s, not to install in-flight entertainment, which would have cost multiple millions of dollars per plane and led to installation downtime. The weight of each in-seat display unit can be upwards of 13 pounds. Every pound of extra weight adds ~$1,400 per year per plane in extra fuel. 13 pounds per seat adds ~$3 million in additional operating costs per year per aircraft. In-flight entertainment didn't align with their low-cost mission. Fast forward a decade, and now Southwest has arguably the best in-flight entertainment with free live TV with BYOD (bring your own device).

Southwest has always aligned its infrastructure strategy with its mission and value proposition, leading to its unit cost leadership of 4.4 cents per available seat mile versus 5.4 to 5.8 cents for other airlines.


Southwest Infrastructure

Southwest's Partners



Partners are all those companies that support a business. To understand the breadth of partners in a company, simply look at the accounts payable list to see all the partners. Now, while many partners are transactional, in most businesses, a few strategic partners can support the success of a business model.

In the case of Southwest, Boeing is a strong and important strategic partner. Here is an excellent quote from a nice history of the Boeing / Southwest partnership,

"Our relationship with Southwest is about more than just delivering great airplanes," said Carolyn Corvi, vice president and general manager of the Boeing 737/757 Programs. "It's about understanding their business, trusting each other, and working together to achieve solutions. We know that while they have a lot of fun and play hard, they also run a business model that the entire industry emulates and admires. We are delighted and honored to have such a wonderful partner."

And you can see the benefits of this partnership, with Southwest often being the launch partner on Boeing's new 737 and customizing them to meet the needs of Southwest's customers. Take a look at the 737-800 MAX as an example.

Southwest's Processes



Every action in a business is a process, whether acknowledged as one or not. The key to processes is that they are lean and efficient by reducing non-value-added actions and inventory, otherwise known as waste. For Southwest, the foundation of processes is great people, infrastructure, and partners, which enables them to have super lean & low-cost processes and high plane utilization.

Just think about Southwest's quick gate turnaround, which originated as a 10-minute turnaround challenge, which you can read about here. They only use 737s, so their turnaround teams and training are optimized on one type of plane. They don't have food carts, and they have customers and stewards clean up during deplaning. Through the profit-sharing plan, their team members are incentivized to get planes out on time and turn them around quickly.

Or, think about their no-seat assignments, which help them lean out many processes. Customer service interactions about seat assignments are non-existent, which also lowers IT costs by eliminating the complexity of seat assignments. Furthermore, the first customers to check in are the first to get their boarding number, which drives earlier check-in and better over / under-booking metrics, eliminating the need to kick paying customers off an overbooked flight.

Southwest's lean processes also make it the historical leader in on-time and baggage performance. The collective focus on lean processes helps Southwest's team members realize their mission of being a low-cost airline.


Southwest Processes

Strategic Takeaways on Organizations



Southwest's organization efficiently and effectively develops and delivers its value proposition and go-to-market. Southwest's alignment of its entire business model from the mission to the targets to the value proposition, go-to-market, and the organization is extremely rare. So is their phenomenal revenue growth and 45 years of profitability.


Southwest Revenue Growth Historical

BUSINESS MODEL STRATEGY


If a company doesn't have a mission or has a weak mission, fix that first. If the target markets, customers, and geographies are too broad, then focus them on the most lucrative. If the value proposition doesn't drive better customer value than the competition, then solve that. If the value proposition is strong, then focus on scaling through an improved go-to-market strategy. The more focused the top part of the business model, the easier it is to develop great organizational and functional strategies. If the business model is robust and working, then, and only then, think about expanding into new markets, customer segments, or geographies.

Every company has the potential to grow for decades, but it all comes down to strategy and execution.

If you need to develop a business model strategy, I encourage you to read developing a strategy or set up some time with me to start figuring it out.


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