Stepping out of the canvas: Small construction enterprises experimenting with business models
Paper in proceedings, 2015
Small and micro enterprises are often said to be in fragile position regarding innovation and business development initiatives. This is even more so in the construction sector which reputation is to be very conservative. However to face the new challenges related to the latest energy regulations, the construction SMEs need to upgrade their products, services and processes. The paper presents the preliminary results of action research project with small Swedish contractors companies from the Gothenburg region experimenting with business model to develop energy efficient solutions. This ongoing project (2013-2015) gathers 20 small companies active in different trades (carpenters, electricians, energy solution providers), who did not have any previous business relations. The project method includes single player interviews and workshops with the companies divided in three groups, as well as shadowing of single companies visiting their customers.
The business model approach has been booming the later years and the paper critically reviews this predominantly practically oriented literature, also drawing on the fewer more conceptual contributions.
Business model approaches enables change that requires crosscutting activities and inter and extra-organisational integration but may suffer from an implicit managerial prerogative and over focus on customer relationship. Similar to previous studies, our findings challenge some of these assumptions.
The first empirical results show a difficulty for these companies to focus on their own daily practices and they would rather tend to discuss the sector problems in general. Both the customer segments and customer relationships escape from formalisation as these small companies do not dare to exclude any potential client and are inclined to reduce the customer relationship to a face to face and very personal interactions. However even if internal changes are not yet apparent in the single company, one group has developed a new business model between the partners of the network created by the project. The value proposition builds on the complementarity of their actual competences and aims at creating a common service to their customers. So, stepping out of the business model canvas, they create a new business model.