Quality Assurance!

Making sure that the product or service your social enterprise uses as a vehicle to create the chosen social impact is right! This is a tough challenge for any social business given that they have to overcome the obstacle of always having new customers and employees! When you are dealing with a customer, he/she will not necessarily care that you are a non-profit. What matters to them is the quality of the treatment they receive. They are here on the promise you made them – through your product / service. Keeping the promise is the simple ask in any relationship – critical for a social business as the bad experience travels faster than the good – checking the very purpose of the enterprise.

Quality control through continuous inspection, training and feedback analysis coupled with proactive measures of product/service design clearly focused on the quality of service is very critical aspect of the business model design for social enterprises. Provisions for quality assurance at all stages of product/service design and delivery will add to the sustainability factor of the enterprise and help creating compelling value for all stakeholders.

Be Local!

Yes. For a social business the simplest strategy for sustainability comes from being close, relevant and significant to their stakeholders. Social Needs, actions to create an impact and making sure that it is significant enough to permanently move them to next better state of living, requires every element of the social business to be local.

If you are planning a social business or expansion of your enterprise’s reach, make sure that you take only your business knowledge, capability building expertise and financial resources to the place you want the organization to operate. Every other element including infrastructure, staff and business model should be developed or customized for the local need.

Building an ecosystem around your enterprise purely based on the local resources and ambassadors provides the confidence to the stakeholders that you are here for a long-term and they have a hope of living on this great idea, for a longer time, may be on their own.

Sustainability of any enterprise is directly proportional to its ability to learn and develop continuously and organically. Planting a tree in a new place requires the ground work as before, but the nutrients, procedure for growth and upkeep – finely tuned to where it is being planted.

Confidentiality

It is a big thing. This has to be one of the core values of any social enterprise. Every for-profit business signs or executes client confidentiality in one way or the other. That makes the company provide the necessary confidence and shield that is so critical for being able to survive and stay ethical. Social enterprises with primary focus on social impact should never lose focus of this aspect of business.

In several instances of heroic style of operations, many social businesses consider the impact they create to individuals as a vehicle to achieve more for their own brand or their company’s image in the market. Showcasing videos, case studies, pictures of recipients and similar acts of publicity though provides a huge coverage of the impact a social business is creating, there are chances of compromise to privacy, dignity and other social status issues for the beneficiaries. Additionally, operational infrastructure being too simple and just enough to support the business needs, social enterprises might not prioritize investments in terms of infrastructure, training and other compliance measures required to maintain the confidentiality aspect of their customers to the highest level.

Every serious social business owner will have to include confidentiality as one of the main core values of their enterprise and hence ensure it gets the required attention in all aspects of its existence and functioning.

You can’t make people change!

It is true. You can’t do it for them….If you don’t agree with this, it can be a good source of frustration, certainly for yourself and for your organization.

“You know, We’re doing all this for you, come on, why aren’t you your life around? We can only provide the opportunity and support.” This is a common grouse with many first time social entrepreneurs. Like first time parents passionate to bring-up their kids in a great way, this is natural.

The fact is – the world existed before you embarked on this journey and will continue to exist – in its own natural way. To bring up a change, we volunteered to do this, for whatever drove us to this,  it is important that we change first. Like a purely for-profit business that is started with a purpose of making wealth for its stakeholders, social enterprise is also an organization born by the interest of a few passionate folks like you. It is important that you take every step required to make any business successful, more diligently here.

You surely can’t make people change – but you can show how they can and what will happen if they did! We are just trying to find and place puzzle pieces to see a dream of equality in this world – purely voluntarily! Live your dream and let others do the same!

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Seasonality!

Unlike most for-profit businesses that have a target to survive every season, specially focused social business have a seasonality associated with their business function. Many enterprises that recognize this aspect of their domain act smartly to be effective when they are required to function. If you are planning or running a social enterprise, consider validating the seasonality as a critical success factor and design your business accordingly.

For instance, your organization’s purpose is to help eradication of poverty via literacy programs in a village, check the patterns of farming – sowing to cultivation & distribution. Every village has developed over a period of time the kind of crops they grow and the timing of the year. Depending on this, their availability to participate in your programs and benefit, they will look for opportunities to adjust their attendance based on their time commitments than your program mandate. Careful study of their availability will provide you all necessary timing, resources and channels required to make the program successful. This might in turn mean that your enterprise will function only for a few months in a year.

Using the time spread based on the seasonality of your business, design the organization right from staffing, learning, funding, communicating and rejuvenating activities to programs to offer. This will help improve the business efficiency and the social impact you wish to create.

Careful growth!

Social enterprises should watch and moderate their growth. Unlike business power-houses living from quarter to quarter, Social Businesses require a firm focus on the impact they have agreed to create for the society in a way the value and the business is sustainable and self-healing – all the time! You can only be as big as the number of people you impact immediately. It includes your own staff, the target customers and the operational boundaries defined by the cash flows of the company.

For instance, if your social enterprise is dealing with healthcare and clean drinking water project, the first thing you have to do is make sure your customers are regular for the check-ups and take medicine as prescribed. You should ensure that they are not using contaminated water – at any cost. You can’t be shy about taking steps to ensure they are isolated from contamination or apathy. The accountability has to be there with your organization. There should be the right discipline, control measures and professionally trained staff to deal with these situations – right from the way they dress, speak and act!

The scale at which you operate is purely limited by the resources and ability to stand up for the true cause. It is important to be honest with yourself rather than building up a reputation for biting off more than you can chew. Any good deed will spread like a wild fire and can grow quickly than the infrastructure can keep up with. So, it is good to slow down, be moderate and remain organic in approach to growth.

Careful growth strategy helps in building a learning culture that is mindful of its actions at every step.

Resilience

History across the globe points to only 33% of the social enterprises being active and living on their purpose beyond 3 years of starting. Not every founder succeeds in translating their passion into organizational vision and build a self-sustaining enterprise. This is actually not different from the fact that any first class university in the world records only 35% of freshmen who enter every year to have completed the 4-5 year intense course. Not every employee in a social enterprise is ready for the long-term, two year commitment.

For a sustainable business model, social enterprises should device a resilient system. As a social entrepreneur committed to chosen purpose for life, you should remember that no one person is too important… and just go find somebody to replace him/her. The biggest thing is that you have to believe in the people you are wanting to help. Once they can feel it, they can feel that you believe in them, and they’ll work hard to make your enterprise successful. For resilience, recruit ambassadors, patrons and smart entrepreneurs in your social enterprise – not paid employees interested in manning a clock!

Why should I start or be part of a social enterprise?

Quite a few folks ask me this question – whenever we have a conversation around a social investment, mentorship or social grant opportunity. Having an accomplished career, good health, caring family and lot more opportunities to thrive… makes many executives in business find a good retirement like contentedness on the job, early enough! Continue reading “Why should I start or be part of a social enterprise?”

What is the purpose of your social enterprise?

Asking this fundamental question and answering it in one simple sentence is a good test to establish the longevity of your enterprise. Fully subscribed purpose acts as a binding force for all stakeholders and drives innovation necessary for sustainability. Dream&Reality

If a social enterprise is born through a passing mind wave, a tentative desire to experiment or some other quest for recognition etc., will mostly fail to exist beyond the promoter or their ability to continue to keep the momentum. Patronage will reduce over time as well. Exception is when the enterprise solidifies its purpose – irrespective of source/trigger of its origin.

Though it is an accepted regime to see business enterprises fail routinely, letting social enterprises fail will have an irreversible effect on the society/target it is intended to support. Social Entrepreneurs should be aware of this serious responsibility they are choosing to shoulder and plan the essential support system for the same. As a first step, do visit the purpose of your social enterprise and what are you doing to keep it relevant all the time…

Look at some of the (purpose) –reasons why successful social enterprises exist! – a driving force behind their journey!

“to eliminate needless blindness” – Aravind Eye Care System

“A dream to making quality healthcare accessible to the masses worldwide”- Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals

to enhance the quality of life of underserved households and livelihoods through sustainable energy solutions and services” – selco-india

“Sustainable Communities –connecting communities village by village” – Drishtee

“to stop the exploitation by middlemen” – Amul

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