One of the simplest (and simplicity is key) ways to outline a business model is using Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas. The Lean Canvas is a tool described in detail in Ash’s book Running Lean, as well as in videos and articles online. There are many ways to create a Lean Canvas, from using leancanvas.com, to an iPad app, to just drawing it yourself on a whiteboard or a piece of paper. Wanting to make several Lean Canvases for my article I decided first to make it easy for me to throw together a Lean Canvas using just a PDF editor (like Preview on the Mac, or Adobe Reader on Mac, Windows or Linux).
One unfortunate side-effect of Lean Canvas being derived from the earlier Business Model Canvas, is that the order Ash suggests in filling it out is not in any order that makes sense from the layout. For people new to creating a Lean Canvas, this can be confusing, and it can be hard to remember which box to fill in at any given time.
What I’ve done is simply create a PDF version of the Lean Canvas, where each box is labelled with the name as well as the sequence number for filling in the box. The PDF also allows you to tab through the canvas in the proper order. So just open up the file, save a copy to edit, and then fill in the boxes in order.
There are two versions, one Letter size (used in US) and one A4 size (used most everywhere else). You may never print these, and thus this distinction may be irrelevant, but if you do plan on printing out your canvas on paper, these versions might help the pages line up a bit better on the page.
I welcome feedback, of all kinds, and if you suggest improvements they might end up in a future version of the PDFs. Keep in mind that there are many limitations to PDF forms, so certain basic things are not possible such as styling the text being edited, uploading images, etc. Please post your feedback in the comments for this post. If you use the PDFs and find them useful, please also share your experience in the comments.