The Art of Building Great: Frameworks in the Founder's Toolkit

If you’re one of us ambitious founders, you've taken a leap of faith and started your own business, driven by a deep need to create something meaningful and impactful in the world. You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and accepted that you’ve embraced a life filled with challenges others would prefer not to take on. You’re now sailing into unknown waters, all in pursuit of turning your Vision into reality. If you’re like most ambitious founders, at some point, if you already haven’t, you’ll find yourself collecting concepts, tools, and disciplines that will hopefully help you rise above these obstacles, conquer the unknown, and claim the treasure that awaits you. I’ve been searching, testing, and collecting these things for decades and know many ambitious founders who love doing the same.

This is where proven frameworks come in.

Just as a map guides an explorer through uncharted territory, a great collection of frameworks provides an ambitious founder with many of the essential concepts, tools, and disciplines needed to confidently navigate the uncharted waters between here and their dream of building an extraordinarily productive, humane, and resilient company — a company that has attracted and retained an amazing collection of Ideal Stakeholders.

In this blog post, I’ll be sharing the importance of proven frameworks for founders at every stage, from first-timers to seasoned leaders aiming to grow their nth business into a Stage Five Company or beyond. We'll cover the benefits of these frameworks, share success stories from companies that have used them effectively and inspirationally, and offer practical tips for adapting these tools to your specific needs. By the end of this post, I’m hopeful you'll understand and appreciate how time-tested frameworks can dramatically reduce the difficulty of turning your Vision into reality. Let's dive in!

The Importance of Frameworks

Frameworks are time-tested tools that provide systematic approaches for understanding, discussing, and tackling complex business challenges. They tend to offer structured processes for breaking complexity into manageable components; they also offer common languages and visualization tools that help teams discuss and present ideas, strategies, and priorities more effectively.

For example, the Business Model Canvas framework begins by displaying, on a single page, the nine key components of a business:

  1. Key Partners,
  2. Key Activities,
  3. Key Resources,
  4. Value Propositions,
  5. Customer Relationships,
  6. Channels,
  7. Customer Segments,
  8. Cost Structure, and
  9. Revenue Streams. 

This comprehensive, single-page view helps leaders document, refine, and articulate how they create, deliver, and capture value. Frameworks like this not only help leaders organize and explain their thinking but also explore potential changes or innovations in any segment that directly impacts customer satisfaction and overall business performance.

Frameworks also provide essential guardrails that prevent overcomplication and promote pragmatic decision-making. By establishing clear parameters, they prevent teams from reinventing the wheel or deviating into less productive paths (aka going down rabbit holes). Plus, during demanding times, these frameworks help leaders communicate strategies and decisions clearly. A well-established framework lends credibility to these strategies, reinforcing the leader’s guidance and facilitating alignment with one or more of their Ideal Stakeholders (like Ideal Team Members and Ideal Investors). By providing a common language as well as time-tested methodologies or structures, frameworks make it easier to communicate, collaborate, and build consensus and alignment.

Working with agreed-upon frameworks also minimizes misunderstandings — because both the components and their purpose are well understood and have been previously recognized as useful tools. As a consequence, agreed-to frameworks keep teams zeroed in on doing the work that matters the most. Frameworks often act as playbooks that synchronize everyone's efforts, enhancing the likelihood of success. They not only foster a culture of accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement but also reduce the need to reinvent how a group looks at an opportunity or issue, allowing the vested Ideal Stakeholders to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and capitalize on new opportunities.

Leveraging Proven Frameworks

While the specific frameworks relevant to your business may vary based on factors such as your industry, business model, and Stage of Development, the best have not only withstood the test of time but also are industry- and stage-agnostic. You may already be familiar with and using some of these frameworks in your company, such as the RACI model for establishing clear roles and responsibilities, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for setting and tracking goals, or the Lean Startup methodology for iterative product development. These frameworks help businesses focus, align, and thrive by providing a structured approach to common challenges.

At Ninety, we’ve codified more than a dozen essential frameworks into our 9 Core Competencies, which span the critical areas of building an enduring business. These competencies serve as a comprehensive framework (a “framework of frameworks,” if you will) to help you build the foundation needed to create a Stage Five Company. Within each competency, we employ specific frameworks to guide your efforts.

9 Core Competencies_V5 [Hand Drawn]

For instance, our Vision Competency emphasizes the importance of crafting a compelling definition of your organization and its highest aims based on its Core Values; Purpose, Passion, and/or Just Cause; Unique Value Proposition (UVP); and Ideal Customers (or ICP, Ideal Customer Profile). These elements are frameworks in themselves — Core Values provide a framework for hiring decisions and culture-building, UVP offers a framework for positioning your product and/or service, and Ideal Customers gives you a framework for targeting, segmenting, and creating a laser focus on your market. By investing time upfront to adopt and leverage these frameworks, you'll be better equipped to guide your team in the right direction and make decisions that align with your long-term goals. A well-defined Vision is the foundation upon which many other frameworks are built, providing your organization with a clear sense of direction and purpose.

Another crucial framework is the Goals Competency, which looks at an organization’s ability to establish, track, and achieve its compelling set of long-term (10-year), medium-term (2–5-year), and short-term (1-year, 90-day) objectives. Tools like our 90-day Rocks help you ruthlessly prioritize, set goals, and assign responsibilities, fostering a cadence of discipline and accountability from day one. By focusing on the most impactful initiatives and regularly reviewing progress, you can ensure that your team is always working on the right things at the right time.

As your business evolves and grows in complexity, you can continue to overlay additional frameworks (like our Stages of Development Model) to level up your strategic thinking, streamline operations, and scale more smartly (aka more effectively and efficiently). In fact, many of the frameworks you would be wise to employ will depend on your Stage of Development — for example, early-stage startups may rely heavily on the Lean Startup methodology and OKRs. At the same time, later-stage companies may implement more advanced frameworks like 90os or the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®). From implementing regular meetings to establishing an issue-solving track, the gradual adoption of proven frameworks creates a backbone of structure and discipline that enhances your agility and resilience. By continuously refining and optimizing your go-to frameworks, you will create a well-oiled machine capable of handling the challenges of rapid growth and change.

Over time, as you internalize these frameworks and make them part of your operating system, they become some of the most powerful tools in your toolkit. Applying the right frameworks at the right time can accelerate your growth, help you make better decisions, and create lasting value for all your Ideal Stakeholders.

Adapting Frameworks to Your Context

When it comes to using frameworks, remember that they should be adapted to fit the unique needs of your business. Frameworks provide guidance and boundaries but shouldn't get in the way of creative thinking or limit your potential. As your company evolves, so should your approach to frameworks. They are meant to grow and change alongside your business, providing, where appropriate, a flexible structure that supports your growth and development.

The key is to find the right balance between commitment, structure, and flexibility. Determine which frameworks will be best to help build your company and meet your Vision, as the need for some of these frameworks will likely change over time depending on your company’s Stage of Development. Some are likely to be useful forever (for example, we strongly believe the framework we leverage for structuring has stood the test of time). Give yourself time to fully explore, absorb, and implement these frameworks. Some will be integral to your business permanently (Structure and UVP), and others will come and go (such as the Lean Startup methodology). This approach enables you to build a strong foundation of frameworks and skills, ultimately leading to more significant wins, and take advantage of the power of compounding when and where appropriate.

As your business grows, your choices must be intentional when upgrading your business operating system (BOS). A BOS represents everything from an organization's structure to how it sets goals, hires people, and runs meetings. It also ensures that everyone is focused, aligned, and working toward building a thriving agreements-based culture that has developed and sustained high-trust relationships with all its Ideal Stakeholders. While all companies have a BOS, many have an accidental one — a way of doing things that just happen. By committing to a select few frameworks and mastering them over time, you can upgrade/implement a powerful BOS that drives results and enables you to scale confidently. But it's also important to remember that mastery is an ongoing process. As your business grows and evolves, you may need to adjust your frameworks to accommodate new challenges (for example, the Cynefin framework was designed to help leaders deal with complex or chaotic markets) and opportunities (where frameworks like Blue Ocean Strategy are often useful).

One effective way to ensure your frameworks remain relevant and effective is to assess their impact across your business regularly. Set aside time to review your frameworks, evaluate their utility, and gather feedback from your team. This will help you identify areas where your frameworks may need to be tweaked or updated to serve your organizational needs better. By taking a proactive approach to framework management, you can ensure that your business remains agile, responsive, and well-equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way.

Remember, adapting and mastering frameworks is a journey; taking it one step at a time is okay. You can guide your team toward success with patience, dedication, and a clear Vision. So take a deep breath, trust the process, and let's get started!

Real-World Examples from B Corp Companies

To illustrate the power of frameworks in action, let's consider a few examples from B Corp companies that have successfully leveraged proven frameworks to drive growth and impact:

  1. Dr. Bronner's, a family-owned maker of natural soaps and personal care products, has successfully used the B Corp framework to embed social and environmental responsibility into its business. By sourcing fair trade and organic ingredients, paying living wages, donating profits to charitable causes, and regularly reporting on its impact, Dr. Bronner's has demonstrated that building a successful business while staying true to one's values is possible. As a result, the company has achieved strong financial growth and earned a reputation as a leader in ethical and sustainable business practices.
  2. Cariuma, a certified B Corporation and sneaker brand, has achieved remarkable growth and success by leveraging a sustainable production framework. By prioritizing transparency, positivity, and constant evolution, Cariuma has built a strong brand reputation for sustainability and quality. Its framework focuses on responsible design, ethical manufacturing, and eco-friendly packaging, along with a commitment to planting two trees for every pair of shoes sold. This sustainable production framework has been crucial to Cariuma's success in the competitive sneaker industry.
  3. Kickstarter, a certified B Corporation, has driven its growth and success by using a community-focused framework. As the world's largest funding community for creative projects, Kickstarter's framework empowers creators and entrepreneurs to bring innovative ideas to life through direct community support. Since 2009, this framework has helped 7.5 million people pledge $1.5 billion to fund over 75,000 creative projects. By staying true to its mission of helping bring creative projects to life, Kickstarter's community-focused framework has been instrumental in establishing its strong brand reputation and continued success in the crowdfunding industry.

These real-world examples demonstrate how embracing proven frameworks can help founders build successful businesses while positively impacting the world. By adopting frameworks that align with their values and mission, these B Corp companies have created a virtuous cycle of growth and impact, where their success as businesses enables them to do more good in the world, which in turn fuels further growth and success.

The Multiplier Effect

The impact of consistently implementing relevant frameworks across all aspects of your business cannot be overstated. It's the difference between being reactive and scrambling to keep up versus proactively charting your course with intention and discipline. With the right collection of frameworks in place, you'll be able to work more efficiently and effectively, achieving your goals faster than you ever thought possible.

As your team fully embraces and masters these frameworks, you'll spend less time debating how to proceed and more time focused on what truly matters: creating value for your customers and building an enduring business. By creating a shared language and improving collaboration, frameworks help build high-performing teams that can tackle any obstacle. They provide a common ground for decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation, enabling your team to confidently move faster and with greater clarity of purpose. Plus, by consistently delivering value to all your Ideal Stakeholders, you'll build high-trust relationships that increase customer loyalty, referrals, and growth opportunities.

Embracing Your Journey

As an ambitious founder, finding, adopting, and adapting proven frameworks are crucial for maximizing your success. In a world of constant change and intense competition, frameworks act as force multipliers, helping you plan, execute, and stay focused. They give you and your colleagues a versatile toolkit for not just seeing things more clearly but also decision-making, problem-solving, and goal-setting, enabling you to navigate uncertainty with confidence and resilience.

It's important to find frameworks that work for you and your business and stick with them rather than constantly changing or reinventing the wheel. A proven framework's power lies in consistently using the steps within it. As your company grows and evolves, you may need to add new frameworks that address specific needs, such as implementing a RACI model to help clarify roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities when you have more teams and team members. However, the core frameworks that have proven effective for your business should remain in place, providing a stable foundation for growth. Remember, mastery is not about perfection but the relentless pursuit of improvement, the humility to acknowledge that there's always room to grow, and the discipline to put in the work required to achieve your goals.

As you continue your journey as an ambitious founder, leading a confidently growing company surrounded by Ideal Stakeholders, remember that frameworks are powerful tools designed to help you navigate the complexities of building and scaling a business. More than that, by adopting frameworks that align with your Core Values and mission, you can build a business that succeeds financially and positively impacts the world.

If you're new to the concept of frameworks, here are some steps you can take to get started:

  • Identify the key areas of your business that could benefit from a structured approach, such as goal-setting, decision-making, or project management.
  • Research proven frameworks that address these areas and align with your Core Values and mission.
  • Implement one or two frameworks at a time, giving yourself and your team the space to fully absorb and integrate them into your operations.
  • Assess the impact of these frameworks on your business regularly, making adjustments as needed to ensure they remain relevant and effective.
  • As your business grows and evolves, consider adding new frameworks that address emerging needs while maintaining the core frameworks that have proven successful.

By embracing proven frameworks and adapting them to your unique context, you can chart a course toward a brighter, more prosperous future — not just for your business but for the world at large.

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