Business Designers are at the core of the Venture Studio Model. It all comes down to the idea of building companies intentionally, putting humans at the center, and understanding the complexity of each sector, industry, and market.
In this article, we are going to review the fundamental role of business designers in our quest to create transformative companies for Latin America, we will discuss the relevance of this discipline in our day to day work and give you some advice on how to implement Business Design in your own ventures or, why not, become a business designer yourself.
What is Business Design
Business Design is a relatively new discipline that combines the practice of building business models with methodologies used by designers to create unique and effective frameworks to build, rethink or enhance Businesses.
Sounds cool, right?
But like everything in this complex world that we live in, it’s easier said than done.
Business Designers are people with the ability to understand and apply a variety of methodologies and tactics to create, launch and test business models that are not only profitable but also solve complex problems for a specific target or industry.
This is basically what we do at Polymath, and that’s why we consider our Business Design team to be at the very center of our process and methodology.
To explore a bit more about the nuances of the work our Business Designers do, we talked to Francisco Paz (Pancho) who currently leads the team. He told us a bit about his experience working at Polymath, and the main abilities we look for when recruiting the best BDs to build with us.
Pancho, as he will tell us later, has not always worked as a Business Designer, although he does have extensive experience working in finance, investment, and business in general, he was previously CFO and CTO for other companies before joining Polymath.
This gives us an important hint about Business Design already: there is not a unique path to get there. In fact, the best teams of BDs are made of people with a variety of backgrounds, basically because when building companies from scratch, the diversity of views is paramount to achieving disruptive and innovative thinking.
These multidisciplinary teams, work together to research and deeply understand the people we want to impact with our companies, they use quantitive and qualitative data to create business models and run the initial tests to prove their hypothesis.
It’s basically a scientific approach to building businesses, and in our case, they are all intended to serve the middle-class of Latin America, through intentional digital solutions adapted for the specificity of the region and the demographic.
That said, let’s dive into Pancho’s view with some questions:
What does it mean to be a Business Designer
I believe being a Business Designer in Polymath is being both the heart, soul, and brains of creating new companies.
The business design team is present from scratch. From the moment we have just identified a broad need and potential opportunity on a user segment until the moment we have found Product-Market Fit and started scaling a business. Even then we are also staffed on new challenges that arise in this more mature idea.
We have two types of business designers on the team:
- First is the “service designer” who would be the heart and soul of company creation: This is the person that is closer to the user and is responsible for uncovering their needs (even when the user is not aware of them) that leads to value creation opportunities. This person should be really creative and should have significant empathy with the users. Their main working tool is Human Center Design.
- Second, we have the “business designer”. Continuing with the analogy, this person would be the brains of company creation. He’s also a part of the opportunity identification nonetheless their main goal is to assess the feasibility of these opportunities and translate them into actual business models. The business designer is more contractionary and should be very savvy in understanding the status quo, competition, and developing financial models.
Despite having very specific roles, both types of profiles should be very hands-on and polyfunctional. When we have defined a concept and start the process to validate and build an MVP, it is also needed to be able to operate, iterate ideas, features and build at the same time.
What is the biggest challenge of being a Business Designer?
I think all the phases of Company Building have big challenges. From identifying needs in the very early stages to eventually building a product that is highly valued for a user segment (product-market-fit) are no easy feats that should be done by a business designer.
Nonetheless, I believe that the most important thing is being able to handle uncertainty and act on it. When you are starting a business from Zero - with no product, no processes, and just an idea, you will be facing many challenges along the way and it is our job to reduce that uncertainty.
At Polymath we have defined standardized processes in order to reduce this uncertainty in a systematic way but not everyone can adapt to this. You need to have very structured approaches for very unstructured problems - which sound like a hard match but that definitely can be achieved.
How do Business Designers grow and evolve within Polymath?
Business designers are at the center of the Company Building process. We are present in all the stages of company creation.
Something additional to mention is that 50% of the founders of our Ventures have previously been business designers. It is very normal that as a business designer you end up falling in love with the ideas we develop and tend to be a natural fit for the Ventures founding team.
What are the main abilities required to be a business designer?
These are some of the main abilities we have recognized in our most successful business designers:
- Analytical mindset and strong business understanding: Capable of creating and assessing a business model and unit economics. Outstanding problem solver.
- Creative mindset: Deep and structured thinking over complex problems.
- Flexible and versatile: Willing to face challenges and situations that take them out of their comfort zone. Be a fast learner and have a growth mindset.
- Entrepreneurial instincts: Resourceful, proactive, and hands-on. Hunger to be an entrepreneur and potential founder.
Some abilities like flexibility or being entrepreneurial are a total must. The rest are complimentary and most business designers have a stronger inclination towards one or two.
What has been the key for business designers to succeed at Polymath?
I think the best designers we’ve had are those that are curious, have grit, and are highly perseverant. These are traits that are shared among the business designers that are currently founders within a Polymath or an external Venture.
Another must-have is a high sense of purpose. Feeling that you are helping to solve a real need is important. Of course, economical rewards are important too, but they shouldn’t be the only driver to push them to give their best every day.
Another thing to mention is that background is not that relevant. Some of our best business designers had little experience or had very different backgrounds. As an example I come from a very different environment, I used to be a strategy consultant and then CFO/CTO in a more corporate world nonetheless being able to build new businesses has become my passion.
What are the main goals the Business Design team expects to achieve during 2022?
For this year we have a couple of relevant goals:
- We are going to be launching one new Venture and designing at least an additional one. These ventures will probably revolve around Health or Fintech where we already have some interesting insights.
- The other objective is team development. We have an amazing team of business designers and we want to be able to help them develop to their next level. This will help them to consistently add value to either existing Ventures or new ones. We have already defined very specific development goals as well as specific steps to ensure this.
- Finally, we want at least one person within the Business Design team to become a founder or at least a vital team member of our Venture Portfolio. Our experience has shown that team members that work within the business design process tend to fall in love with the Venture and eventually move on to be successful venture leadership members.
We are very happy to have had this conversation with Pancho, we hope it was as eye-opening to you as it was for us.
As Pancho said, business designers will continue to be a very important part of what we do at Polymath, and we think that with time we will develop better methodologies to help our team members build and scale companies that really impact the middle-class of Latin America.
To summarize, here are some of the most important insights Pancho gave us. We hope they are useful and interesting to you:
- Business designers are at the very core of the Company Building methodology, their job is to identify needs and behaviors to create solutions to complex problems.
- At Polymath we have two groups, and they act as different parts of the “body” of a Venture: Service Designers (heart and soul) and Business Designers (brain).
- Business Designers need to be able to thrive in uncertainty and build solutions from scratch.
- The most important abilities to become a business designer are Flexibility and Entrepreneurial Instincts. Others that could be complementary are Creativity, Analytical Mindset and Business Understanding.
- The most successful business designers have a strong sense of purpose, grit, and perseverance.
- At Polymath we believe business designers are a great fit to become founders or part of the leadership team of a venture.
That’s it! If you liked it, share it, and if you want to become a Business Designer, here you can check our open positions.