Mapping A Small Business - Case Study
Updated: Aug 24
How do you scale a side business with Wardley Mapping?
This guy has an exciting challenge, and I hope he will solve it with #wardleymapping.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post using publicly available information. If I get any insider information, I will not update this post unless the business owner agrees.
Recently, one of my friend's friend wrote on LinkedIn (communication was in 🇵🇱, translation is mine):
I have been building desks for 3 years. I made 1300 customised designs. I had PLN 1.25m revenue in 2021. I do everything. I do not have enough time. How to scale?
The 1.25m PLN revenue is more or less USD 280k, which should give a profit somewhere between 20-40k$ (that's my guess). Not bad for a side gig.
How to approach this situation from a mapping perspective?
First, let's take a look at what they are really selling.
Each desk is different (which suggests custom)
Desks have common components (which suggests assembly)
A desk seems to play an important role in their customers' lives.
If you look at their pricing, promo materials and youtube channel (unfortunately, all in Polish, you have to trust me I know this language), you will also notice that:
Desks are significantly more expensive than those coming from a popular nordic furniture company
Those desks are almost a functional art - they cover everything from electric regulation to having USB charging ports and cable management solutions 🤩
The person running that company has a non-trivial knowledge about what works and what does not.
So, let's draw a map (you can learn how to do that here):
Analysing the map
Assuming that the person wants to grow and scale the business, there are three areas to inspect:
(Zone 2) the specification-driven desk assembly out of the 3rd party components is definitely a commodity. It is easy to train a person to do that if the specification is precise and clear. If that is not the case, it might be hard to outsource this part, which means that the person should focus on building working specifications, and then outsourcing this part (either, hiring people or outsourcing them completely).
to prevent vendors from going up in the value chain, the owner might outsource subcomponents assembly (drawers, legs, additional equipment) and do the final assembly by himself. Logistics becomes more difficult but only the owner has end to end knowledge how to make everything click.
(Zone 1) it would be super interesting to learn who are the customers and why do they buy those desks. From the gallery above, it is clear that it is not just about the furniture but about some other needs (such as status or signalling). Learning more about customers should open new ways of marketing and unlock new customer segments. The owner might be already aware of different customer types but that knowledge may never have been made explicit.
(Zone 3) is all where the fun is. Apparently, the owner has an impressive knowledge of what a given customer may need, and that knowledge may play a couple of different roles: sales (to overcome doubts), design (to find the best solution) or signalling (to make sure the customer values themselves).
Actions for Zone 1 and Zone 2 are pretty obvious. But Zone 3 presents us with a range of business models:
Unfortunately, only the business owner can tell what is the right balance of human experience and scalability, and probably only after doing customer research.
Potential action plan
Let's look at everything what we have learned so far, and let's put together a strategy that increases options in the future. The action that brings as there would be:
Learning how to outsource desk components and desk assembly repeatably and without errors. This is the most critical step that unlocks scalability.
Learning who are the customers, what are they really buying and testing different marketing strategies.
Testing a few standard desk designs with some minimal customisations. If people want just the desk, then it is a way to go. It may require pronouncing the desk value much stronger in the marketing materials.
Testing high profile designing services - where the owner spends time to discuss what is needed and prices that accordingly.
How would you approach this scenario?