‘I would like to see a Social Entrepreneurs Network in every region of the RSA and in every country of the world’, said RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor, at the latest RSA Social Entrepreneurs Network event.
The ‘Survive before you thrive’ event got off to an engaging and participatory start, using a giant bell curve [wikipedia] on the wall to show how social enterprises mature through a number of stages.
I would like to see a Social Entrepreneurs Network in every region of the RSA and in every country of the world - Matthew Taylor
The 70 participants - listen to six of them share why they became social entrepreneurs, in the embedded videos - had a chance to place post-its showing exactly where they thought they were in the lifecycle, from the struggle to ‘survive’ right through to the ‘thrive’ stage - of franchising and scaling-up.
Event chair Dan Snell (founder of Arrival Education) shared how his social enterprise has gone through a number of highs and lows, for instance saying: “If you asked me only three months ago I’d have been crying”.
If you asked me only three months ago I’d have been crying - Dan Snell
“It’s about not quitting until you get to that tipping point - you’ve got to psychologically prepare yourself for this journey”, said Dan.
(From the shape of this growth curve, I’d wondered at first whether this was the well-known Ichak Adizes ‘Corporate Lifecycle’ (free analysis here) - though the social enterprise growth curve is - understandably - confined to the left side of the corporate lifecycle.)
It’s about not quitting until you get to that tipping point - you’ve got to psychologically prepare yourself for this journey
The evening then moved into 4 break-out groups, led by experienced business professionals.
In her ‘Focus and survival’ session, serial entrepreneur Margaret Exley shared her fascinating research on the distinctive ‘footprint’ of high growth/high profit companies, compared to others (these included such characteristics as focus on a few initiatives, clearly articulated and well understood business models, and strong metrics and feedback loops).
She compared the ruthless focus of Proctor and Gamble to the generalised growth strategy of Unilever.
There is an issue in our education system: we’re so good at analysing... that sometimes it’s quite difficult to just do it - Margaret Exley
Margaret was also concerned that education isn’t nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset: “There is an issue in our education system: we’re so good at analysing... that sometimes it’s quite difficult to just do it”.
“Go as high as you can, people will talk to you, get data”, she urged.
Corporate finance expert Ian Griffiths’ session on ‘Packaging and Pricing Yourself’ suggested social entrepreneurs use their current clients as examples of repeat business (to show faith in their business). He also said that it is important to be articulate about the outcomes of your enterprise and to be bold about the difference you want to make.
Rick Bacon’s session on ‘ensuring capacity’ pointed out that recruitment is a negelcted part of social enterprise growth strategies. Most social entrepreneurs don’t come from HR so tend to go about it in an ad hoc and unproductive way - meaning that they they don’t fill key capability gaps properly, or in time to accelerate growth.
He also suggested construcing a customer journey to view the value proposition from the customer’s point of view, and design around that rather than from the top down.
* Visit the network online - Social Entrepreneurs Network group
*If you would like to get more involved with the Social Entrepreneurs Network and more specifically the next round of Social Enterprise Spotlight, contact Sarah Tucker, Fellowship Networks Manager and the contact at the RSA for the network.
* Event report (on RSA Fellowship online community): ‘Outcomes from quarterly event - Survive before you Thrive’.
* Social Enterprise Network breakfasts (last Friday of the month, 9am, Gerard Bar)
(RSA Senior Networks Manager - Online & International)
* Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/matthewmezey
Jane Langely FRSA
Jane Langely FRSA launched 'Blue Patch' in 2014. It is a selective ethical marketplace for sustainable, local and heritage products including furniture, clothing, gifts, beauty and services such as ethical banks and sustainable printers. This March, it is coming to the Whitworth museum in Manchester!