...an excerpt from Chapter 4 of The Duality of Social Enterprise E-Book by Gingras Global
The Bait of the New Grape
Social Entrepreneurs are the easiest group of people to distract. I am one of them.
Early on in my career as an entrepreneur more than 25 years ago I learned about the bait.
If the bait is something that distracts us, then social entrepreneurs are the easiest fishing targets.
Entrepreneurs, in general, tend to be risk takers and able to juggle multiple things at one time. We have the ability to find a positive vision and strategy to solve almost anything.
Consider now the socially minded individual who personally finds themselves responsible for addressing nearly every need presented to them. Now, combine these two extremes and you have a potential vine running out of control that can grow wildly all while declaring the rationale “Well, I am growing grapes already I can just tweak this recipe a little and have a new grape and a new product with the same field and tools….”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? We sell it to ourselves just like that. We do it in 2 seconds flat. We are pros, and we are creative. We are a social enterprise!
Slow down buck-a-roo and stop to re-evaluate your capacity and market. Is this new grape appealing to your current customer? What will this little tweaking of a recipe require in the form of financial resources? What will it need in a set of skills? More importantly, what area will you pull the resources from AND what is the result of pulling that support for this new grape?!!
So, often I find the heart of the social entrepreneur willing to do whatever it can to help another while everyone cheers from the sidelines “Go! Go! Go! We love you! Go!”
Transporting the Pregnant Mothers
There was a great little business I was observing in the Detroit area. A social entrepreneur was putting together a plan to help non-insured mothers-to-be with prenatal care and delivery. All was going well until she opened up her clinic and realized that none of the mothers-to-be had transportation to her location. Her location was not even on a bus route for public transportation. So, what does our superhero do next? She, of course, uses her resources to go and get them now giving her a new service (grape) to manage on her vine. It turns out she needs a different kind of liability insurance and resources to make this happen. And, oh, by the way, she began to use some of the initial investment that was given to her for a phase two of equipment in her location.
About six months into her second grape stage she realized that many of her mothers-to-be were malnourished. Well, our superhero needs to solve this too so she begins to grow vegetables out back in her location. She had space, right? She had seeds from her garden at home and the knowledge. It seems logical to add the third grape, right? It would help her to have all of these services, right?
Unfortunately, the lesson was not learned immediately. Fast forward as our superhero ended up with wild animal problems eating all of her planted vegetation out on her back patio. The animals began to scare away her mothers-to-be. She was not charging for the services she was providing because her mothers-to-be could not afford even the small fees.
Just like that, our superhero is down. She used up all of the initial funding on her new grapes. She was out of resources. The original funding investor did not appreciate her good intention-ed deviation. Trust is broken. Another grapevine is wilting in the sun.
Navigate with Ease:
I think you get the point of the story. No matter how good of an idea you have to ‘compliment’ your services nothing is worth the overall failure of your social enterprise.
The bait we can take a new product or service is not characteristic of the dual nature of the social enterprise. It does, however, make unrecognized issues of duality worse.
Think of the advice many married parents will give to another couple who believe bringing a child into a dysfunctional marriage will help the marriage. Most would advise fixing the marriage first before adding children.
One can apply the same principles to social enterprise. If we know that a duality unrecognized can create problems AND, we are aware that social entrepreneurs can be easily baited then we can stop and consider. We can find the best path to accomplish our desired goals.
If you feel you have a legitimate add-on that fits properly then take the proper strategic steps:
1. Do an analysis on the nature of the problem. Is anyone else providing this service? What is the cost? What is the complete list of ALL of the costs? What is the tax or legal ramification of the add-on? Do your research without emotions. Remain calm. Take your time. If your business cannot function without the add-on, then you better stop everything you are doing immediately and seek counsel! It happens. Even the best research and plans can have hiccups. Do you need a hard stop/evaluation or do you need to pivot? Halt the leak and address the situation.
Before you begin, start a journal. Make columns with labels for minutes and tasks. You will record every item in minutes. These are the minutes you are going to spend away from your current commitment to your current business. These are the minutes you will spend distracting yourself from your original mission. Check.
2. Assess your capacity. What do you already have available to you that is NOT used for another purpose? Let me say that again “What do you already have as an available resource that is NOT USED for another purpose?” For example, if I am a butcher and need a meat grinder for 10 hours a day to get my new grape up operational. I ask myself “do I have a meat grinder” I will answer ‘Yes’ to myself. Instead, if I ask the question “Do I have a meat grinder I can use for 10 hours each day” the answer may be “No, I have a meat grinder that can be utilized for 3 hours as it is already in use for another purpose.” See the difference? It is small, but this is the way we fool ourselves.
What resources do you need? Consider items such as equipment, skills, money, marketing, communication, operations management, etc., etc., etc.
If you have them available, then move to Step 3.
If you do not have them available, and you feel it is necessary or makes for an excellent opportunity then make a business case for it and present it to your staff, your governance body, and begin to ask for the resources to implement your new grape.
3. Communicate with your employees, governance body, your current financial supporters (lenders, donors, investors, etc.). Be sure not to run wild in the West. Remember there are others around you that would enjoy the respect of your communication. Healthy relationships are one of the hallmarks of a well-run social enterprise.
Upon obtaining agreement and consensus go ahead and move forward with your new grape.
If you do not achieve agreement and consensus on your new grape idea then do not move forward!!!!! Do not move forward. I promise you this is how others get hurt with your desired new idea. If there is one word I can give a passionate social entrepreneur it is this: give respect and consideration to those around you. You may cast a vision like a prized fly-fisherman on the Colorado River, but everyone else is stuck cleaning your fish.
Right now is a good time to figure out how many minutes you have spent in steps 1-3 as it is ALWAYS more than you think. Know that the amount will need to be multiplied by at least 100 as a rule of thumb during the implementation phase. Consider the minutes spent so far. Could they have been better spent growing your current vine and set of grapes?
4. Go! Implement It! You have the capacity, full agreement, and research. Move with vigor and joy is growing your new grape. Done.