Leonie Jarret, from our partner organisation, School for Social Entrepreneurs, is our guest blogger with some key questions to consider before thinking of scaling for social impact ahead of our first London RSA Engage event on Monday 1st February.
Why are you scaling?
First things first! You must work out why you want to scale your enterprise and you must be clear about these reasons from the start. The most important question of all is whether growing your enterprise will increase your social impact. On occasion we have seen social enterprises grow, increase their profits, but not their impact. Whilst profit certainly facilitates social impact, social entrepreneurs cannot lose sight of the fact that their impact is what they are working so hard for. With this in mind, think about whether you can find ways to increase your impact at your current size. If you can do this, it may be a better option than scaling at this current juncture.
Don’t scale failure
If you are still firmly set on scaling, make sure that you do not replicate what hasn’t worked. Spend time looking into your organisation and understand what has made it work so far and why it has worked in its current form. For example, has your enterprise been successful because you have built up a loyal local customer base and a strong local reputation? Will you be able to replicate this in other locations?
Business vs Values
When growing, friction can occur between business and values. Scaling may come at a compromise with only those inside an organisation can really decide what is best for them when the two rub up against each other. Have you worked out what aspects of what you do are non-negotiable, and which you’re willing to flex as you grow? We have seen numerous social entrepreneurs turn down investment that would have led to an infringement against their values. Values are the core of what you do and are what set your business apart, as such you may have be firm and stick to your principles, even in the face of investment.
Which way to grow
When it comes to scaling, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There are numerous ways you could grow. It could be by growing your enterprise bigger, partnering with other organisations, influencing others through lobbying or campaigning, or replicating and building a franchise or affiliate network? Picture where your enterprise would be in two or five years and look into the best method that would work to fit your organisational aims.
Fundamentally, have you got strong enough foundations to scale? Do people on the inside of your enterprise have the skills and experience to grow your enterprise into a successful bigger business, with a greater social impact? Look to your board and see what expertise they bring. You may need people that have been there and done it; people with commercial and marketing experience and financial management skills. But, importantly, consult your board to see if they ready and willing to scale. Do they share your vision for the enterprise and agree on how you will achieve it?
Scaling is complex and is certainly not easy. There is support out there for social enterprises to help you through this transition. For example, our Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Scale up Programme that gives you the skills needed to grow, as well as a grant to help fund it. Also take a look at our resources section that has handy tips and advice on how to make your enterprise sustainable before you look to scale.
To hear more from Leonie join us on Monday 1st February for our Scaling for Impact RSA Engage event.