The Key to Value

Tom%20Linfield.jpgBy Dennis Johnson - Sort Sol Group, LLC

We’re in the office for some of the last days of the year and at this time, we’re working on plans for the New Year. Like our clients, we’re talking strategy, too.

2016 will be an exciting one for Sort Sol Group. In addition to publicly introducing the new firm, we're also launching Creating Impact Together: A Summit for Community Change, which is part of our strategy to help bring new approaches to the social sector and to the greater Madison community.

Whether you've been in a leadership role for several years, you're a brand new leader, or just an aspiring leader looking to grow your skills and influence, the start of the New Year is a great time to focus on your strategy development and value proposition. Wait, value proposition?

Defining value proposition:

How does your organization create and deliver value? And for whom? This is the core definition of your business model. Understanding your business model can help direct your efforts to increase mission impact, improve financial sustainability, organize partnerships, and find bliss.

All work revolves around value – creating, searching, delivering, monitoring, growing … value is the common touchstone for every part of everything we do. So why is it so hard to define? Because it is so essential, we see the value through our personal lens. The lenses quickly add up when working together within a team, an organization, or with external partners.

So which key creates the most value? (hint: probably the one with the purple ribbon).  Using tools to simplify the language and break it into manageable pieces can help you work through the clutter. The two most important pieces to define are what is the value provided, for whom? This should closely mirror the mission statement.
It is generally best to begin with the recipient of the value. Types of stakeholder segments could include beneficiaries, customers, funders/donors/investors, and/or portions of the community. Organizations and collaboratives that provide social good often have more than one segment that receives value. Each one may receive different value from you. Most commonly in the nonprofit sector, the stakeholder receiving services is different than the one paying for it. Each has a unique personality, with different needs, goals, and concerns.
It is critical to define each segment clearly. What is this segment like? What do they think, see, feel, and do? What are they trying to accomplish? What expectations, desires, and goals do they have? What concerns, negative situations, and situations do they wish to avoid?
The more detail you can provide, the better. A key to clarifying value is to define it from the perspective of the stakeholder, not from the viewpoint of your programs, services, or organization. This sets the lens on the most important person (the client)!

Once you have defined your stakeholder, now turn to how you create value for them (your value proposition). (From the cover photo, you cannot chose a useful key until you know the lock.) What jobs do you help them accomplish with your services? How do the services create gains for the stakeholder? How do you alleviate those fears, pains, and concerns?
This can be organized using a helpful tool, the Value Proposition Canvas from Strategyzer. Tools like this simplify and organize the concepts to make a conversation about understanding (and improving) value possible.
Now, what about reaching the stakeholders? What about our relationships with them? What about programs, staff, partners? What about the mission outcomes? The revenue? The Business Model Canvas is a powerful tool to illustrate the whole picture on a single page.

So if you’re thinking about strategy this time of year, like we are, be sure you understand your value proposition. And if you need any help, feel free to reach out.

Dennis Johnson, MBA
Founder & Managing Partner
Sort Sol Group, LLC