The “one thing” you should do before filling your first Lean Canvas

Plamen Balkanski
Mar 24, 2017 · 3 min read

When we first came across the Lean Canvas, we were amazed by the immediate impact it had on the way we do things and the way we think. The lean canvas helped us explain our ideas better, recognise our risks earlier and identify aspects of our business that we hadn’t thought about before.

Since then we have worked on many lean canvases. We’ve been in the role of entrepreneurs working on our own products; we have been advised by others on how to fill our canvas; we have been in the role of advisors when helping friends; and in the role of consultants when helping other businesses improve their product management.

Over time we realised that one of the trickiest boxes to fill in on the canvas is the revenue streams section. We think that any numbers in that box should not be simply guesses. Neither should they be driven by closest competitors numbers. While being realistic could be useful, the numbers in that box can decide how you are going to spend your time for the next 2–3 years, if not longer. Therefore I think that these numbers should be carefully crafted.

And not just carefully crafted but I think they should also be driven by your core values and be in line with goals. Let’s illustrate that in an example.

Let’s say that your dream is to own a football club. You look at how much realistically you would need to buy a football club and turn it into a self sufficient business and you come up with say £10 million.

£10 million pounds may sound a lot but let’s focus on what you need to do to get there. If you build a business on your own, without giving up any equity you will need to build roughly a £2million a year business so it can sell for £10 million.

With that figure in mind you may want to revisit what ideas you try to validate. There might be great ideas in your list but if realistically they can’t bring you the amount you need, you have to consider, is it worth spending the next few years of your life pursuing those ideas?

Going by the rule that time is our most important resource, I think you should not pursue ideas that are not going to bring in the amount that you need for achieving your goal. Of course you could be thinking that it’s still a step in the right direction, however, remember that you would be investing a lot of time, which you aren’t going to get back.

“The One Thing” by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan

My recommendation will be to always start with identifying your goals and values. Our favourite method is called “The One Thing” which is introduced in a book with the same name by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan. Of course you could use a different method but the important thing is to always begin with your goals and values in mind.

Once you are clear what you are really after, many decisions on the way to finding a business model that works become really easy and straightforward.

Amongst them is the revenue streams section in the Lean Canvas.

Has this blog post changed the way you are going to approach your next Lean Canvas? Have you come across methods similar to “The One thing” that worked for you?


We share lean start-up techniques and practices from our Bootstrapping journey

Plamen Balkanski

Written by

Co-founder at and, Start-up geek



We share lean start-up techniques and practices from our Bootstrapping journey

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