Monday, July 28, 2008

Social Entrepreneurship Leadership Myth #1

Social entrepreneurs typically put up with personal economic hardship to launch their dream enterprise. Some work for a while, save money and live off of that or they have small grants, or personal assets, or working spouses or the new trend of limited prize money etc. This breeds a habit of thrift and economy. So far so good. This factor is really important when applying for grants from foundations or public funds. It is a critical personal and organisational leadership skill for running an NGO or other non-profit where one uses limited financial resources - since no new financial resources are being created there is no room for any financial risk-taking. So in my experience social entrepreneurs come to believe in a "how can I save money?" versus "how can I make money?" mindset.

This is where leading a social enterprise is strategically different from leading a non-profit. Corporate or social investors want to know when the organisation will be financially self-sustaining. strategically, a social enterprise looks more like a for-profit venture. Strategic leaders will answer the following questions:
1- how much time to first enterprise revenue dollar
2 - How much time to break even
3 - how much time to first profit dollar (social enterprises typically reinvest revenue)

A business plan that includes a well thought out financial risk (e.g. trying out or investing in a new technology) may be acceptable even if sustainability takes longer. The reason for having the "how can I make money" mindset is that :
1. It makes a more convincing argument that eventually the enterprise will be sustainable. In this mindset, fiscal responsibility is a given as good operations management and positions the entrepreneur as being strategic.
2. Additionally, investors are well versed with for-profit business plan evaluation and thus more likely to commit.

So my recommendation to social entrepreneurs: do put as much energy into your revenue streams as to fiscal operational responsibility when it comes to developing your leadership style.

No comments: