How to develop a social impact focus for your business
Before we begin, there's a small qualifier you need to consider. This article is a 101.
If you're thinking of starting a social enterprise, if you're thinking of creating a social impact strategy for your business and you haven't really done anything yet, then this is for you. We're going back to the basics. The beginning of the race. This is where you start running.
I sometimes tell my clients that running a social impact business is like doing everything twice. Working twice as hard, working twice as long.
I don't mean to scare anyone, but I do mean to bring your attention to the classic business model of most social enterprises.
When you're running a business that makes a profit AND saves lives, you have two angles to consider at all times. You have two types of people to appeal to; your ideal customer, and your ideal service user.
Your ideal customer is the one that buys your products or services, and your ideal service user is the one that benefits from your social impact. If you don't have a profile of your ideal customer or your ideal service user yet, you can use this workbook to help you create a robust profile that will make your job a lot easier.
In my experience, the only way to succeed as a social impact focused business is to understand that you have to balance your work so that you're effectively appealing to all of your stakeholders in ways that suit them.
Just like the words you say to a customer, aren't the words you would say to an investor, what you say to a service user, is not what you would say to a customer.
I hope we're now on the same page. This is a completely separate strand to your commercial business and you should think about it as such.
In another blog post, I talked a wrote a little about the problems Toms' shoes has faced as a social enterprise.
Despite their teething problems, Toms' remains one of the key social enterprise examples of the 21st century.
The first lesson behind Toms' success is that there are a lot of people in the world that want to be part of the change, but they want the opportunity delivered to them in a new way.
The second lesson, is that most people want to be good, most people want other people to know they’re good, and for the most part, most people don’t want to take too much time away from their Youtube and chill schedule.
That’s not a bad thing. As a social enterprise, its your job to bring those people on the journey. To give them what they want AND get what you need.
Some people have time, knowledge and skills, some people have money, and some people have all of the above. Everyone has their place in the puzzle to create an incredible future for Africa.
This blog post is for the people that recognise that their place is building the businesses that customers can buy into, via compassion for the same social issues you care about.
Businesses that actually solve the root problem, instead of making it more palatable, AND make a profit while doing it.
That’s the sort of social enterprise we support at Do it Now Now.
Social entrepreneurs get to make a play for the saved lives and make money by asking people to buy into compassion, stories and the promise of real, positive impact that will result in lasting change in the community you've pledged to help.
Its one of the most balanced win-win situations you’re ever going to come across in your business life.
I’m talking about the relationship between you (the social entrepreneur) and your customer (the economically capable individual who cares about the problem and isn’t able to actively participate in the solution).
But before you start fostering the kind of relationship with your customer that will help you build a successful business that solves a problem that you deeply care about, you need to come to terms with your impact.
Once you've worked on those things, you'll know the answer to questions like,
- Who would you like to help?
- Why are you passionate about helping these people?
- What do you want to do for them?
- How would you go about doing that thing?
- In what ways have your personal experiences shaped your view of these people?
- In what ways have your personal experiences shaped the way you view your proposed solution?
- The stakes are high, the game is tough. What is the vision you're headed towards that's going to keep you going no matter what?
Those are the key questions that you need to ask yourself.
The answers you give are going to be the centre of your social impact journey.
Since, you've already got the background stuff done, let's get into creating an impact strategy. That's the next step.
That's all folks.
Thanks for reading,
PS. This is one of my favourite topics - social entrepreneurship. I talk about how entrepreneurs can change the world A LOT on my daily podcast on Anchor.fm