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Feat Of Clay

The business models you didn't learn about in school.

Elizabeth Haughton had to use her hands to figure out what her brain couldn't understand. The owner of Haughton Learning Center in Napa, California, was making a clay model of her business plan at an unusual management workshop when it struck her. "I realized I didn't understand my market and how many options I had," says Haughton, whose company provides private education services to schools, parents and adult learners. More specifically, she realized she had to stop trying to sell so much to public school systems and go after parents and adult students, as well as the educational materials market.

"I had to learn to say no," she says. "I honestly didn't understand that before. But somehow, with the modeling, these things became clear to me."

Haughton's epiphany occurred at an avant-garde workshop put on by Sonoma, California, management consulting firm Need To Know Inc. John Ward, the firm's owner and a designer who once owned a custom woodworking company, helps entrepreneurs understand their companies by sculpting clay representations of their markets, operations, finances and strategies.

He calls the technique "kinesthetic modeling" and says that working with their hands and minds together allows entrepreneurs to feel what they know in their guts. "The brain is overrated as the headquarters of everything," scoffs Ward, 54. "The reason this works is because it taps into the rest of the body."

Mark Henricks is an Austin, Texas, writer specializing in business topics.

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Feat Of Clay.

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