Define your business or startup strategy using this Business Strategy Canvas

An adaption of the Business Model Canvas to help you structure your business strategy.

Paul Elworthy
4 min readOct 19, 2020

A number of formats and approaches exist for how to write a Business Strategy. However, they don’t always cover the key elements I would expect to see in a strategy, and certainly not in a format that can be used in a workshop setting.

One of the most common models used for business design is, of course, the Business Model Canvas (BMC).

The BMC is a great strategizing tool, but it isn’t a business strategy template. I’ve therefore adapted the BMC concept, to meet the key components of a business strategy — the Business Strategy Canvas (BSC).

But before introducing that, it’s probably worth agreeing what a business strategy is.

What is a Business Strategy?

Both business model and business strategy are the basic conditions or blueprints of how a company exists. A business model describes and explains how a company works and makes money. A business strategy shows how a business will leverage its business model, position itself in the market and operate to overcome key challenges you face, in order to meet your business goals.

A business strategy should provide a high level illustration of how you will get from where you are now to where you want to go.

Introducing the Business Strategy Canvas

Like the Business Model Canvas, the Business Strategy Canvas includes elements such as value proposition, market drivers and key operational capabilities, but whereas a BMC helps you lay out how your business delivers value to your customers and how it delivers commercial return, it doesn’t help you define where you are heading and why, and how you will position your business in the market versus competitors.

With the BSC, you can compile, on one sheet, all the key components of your business strategy, including your business vision and values, how you will position yourself in the market, leverage the capabilities, products and services in your business model and overcome key obstacles to attract customers and income.

Another key benefit of working from a Business Strategy Canvas, is that because it is all on one sheet it enables you to brainstorm and co-create with others and forces you to focus only on the most important things.

Developing your Business Strategy

To develop a business strategy — there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. What is your reason for being (purpose), which needs to be a purpose totally connected to the business, believable and tangible. Your goal (vision), and what your will business do to realise that goal (mission)? To help you come up with a purpose, vision and mission, check out this website:
  2. What are the principles upon which your business will be based? What are the ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ that will inform the decisions you make about how your business is run?
  3. What is your market, who will you target and how will you position yourself versus competitors?
  4. What is your ‘value proposition’ ie. How will customers and your stakeholders realise value from the products and services you offer?
  5. What are the key obstacles that your business strategy and value proposition, need to overcome?
  6. What products and services will you provide that make your value proposition to be true, including how you will measure their performance
  7. How will your operation deliver your products and services to your market, in a way that also supports your value proposition and ensure you create commercial return?
  8. How will you attract and retain income (eg. revenue from sales, funding and capital from investors, income from repeat business), and manage your cost line, to ensure a sustainable business is achievable?

How to read and use the Business Strategy Canvas

The canvas is structured like a Business Model Canvas, however it includes some distinct differences:

  • The top layer — or block — focuses on your broader business vision, goals and values. Why your business exists, what market need it is designed to fulfil and the key values and principles that guide your business decisioning.
  • The middle layer is then effectively read — right to left. On the right is the market context, who your market and target customers are, what their needs and motivations are that you will addressing and also how you plan to position yourself against competitors in the market.
  • In the centre is your Value Proposition block. What are the assets in your business model that deliver value to your customers, in a way that will make your offering attractive?
  • Below that is the Obstacle block. This details the key challenges, risks and threats that you face and that your value proposition is designed to overcome.
  • The left hand block illustrates, at a high level, how your Value Chain (the products, services and operational support functions) will enable your Value Proposition to be realised foryour market and customers.
  • The bottom block focuses on how your business will meet its financial goals. How it will attract income (including by acquiring customers), how it will retain income (such as by creating repeat business) and how it will manage its cost line.

The time frame to consider in the strategy should be at least 1–3 years. It is not meant to be a detailed Business Plan, but act as an input into your Business Plan, which will include further detail on your financial plans, such as cash flow, your go-to-market plans and your operating plans.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy canvasing!



Paul Elworthy

Experience and business strategist and designer. Living and working in London UK.