Starting a business is never easy, having the resilience to keep going and find solutions to your business challenges is even harder. I think as a social entrepreneur the deeply held purpose of why you set up the business in the first place enables you to find resilience in the most difficult of situations and motivation to carry on.
Which is exactly why and how I’m thinking bigger and bolder in 2019 – I want to make more of an impact. Impact in helping the social sector grow and develop, challenging the status quo of traditional business AND in supporting more women around the world live free from harm and prosper.
My second year in business started in November 2018 and it was only then I started to review my first year of running Share Impact: my achievements and failures, the surprises (good & bad) and those crazy ideas I’d wanted to deliver but hadn’t quite ‘got round to yet’.
I’d had a plan for my first year in business but as with life, business doesn’t always go to plan. And now with a baby on the way I was starting to worry how year two would pan out. What would I do if I didn’t earn enough money each month to help me through my maternity leave? Was I entitled to maternity pay? Was I being irresponsible starting a family without a secured income? All questions I asked myself which allowed the doubt to creep in.
I have to admit, in late summer and early autumn fear got the better of me and I nearly gave up. It felt easier and more responsible to look at getting job that would provide guaranteed income and some maternity pay.
But, I’m so glad I persevered (and didn’t go and get another job).
I dug deep to the teaching I’d learnt and shared with others about staying positive. I focused on looking out for signs that things would improve. Rather than focusing on all the things that might go wrong, why not focus on all the things that could go right?
It was around this time, in November, I also joined a business academy at my local university which included two days training and up to 6 hours coaching. It gave me time to just focus in on the business – what was my vision and was I working towards it? What had worked well so far? And what hadn’t? What else could I be doing to generate income and add value and impact in the areas I was passionate about? Was I thinking about my business as the CEO with a long-term strategy?
I realised pretty quickly that I’d planned the first year I quite a lot of detail but I’d been so focused on getting through it, I had no plans for year 2 or 3, never mind where I imagined the business might go in the next 5-10 years.
It was this that my business coach got me back on track with. He really helped me think bigger and bolder. Challenged me to think about where I really wanted my business to be longer term and what I needed to be doing in the short term to be working towards those goals.
Even as a business coach myself (for social entrepreneurs) I hadn’t realised how limited I was in thinking about where I could add value and what my business could be for. I had limited myself to only thinking about my business as me – what I could deliver on my own. I had forgotten to think what could I achieve with a team of others (employees or associates)? Why wasn’t I going for bigger contracts, looking to work with bigger clients, or going for some of those bigger initiatives I’d only dreamed of?
The only real answer was blinkers and self-doubt. Two things which were easily overcome.
Rather than niching down on what particular value I added (or could add) to organisations (my customers) I had niched down on a single approach to bringing in income which was limiting my income potential and my opportunities to grow my business and impact.
And I’d allowed myself to get entrenched in things that weren’t really working for me, or wouldn’t work for me long term.
Things had to change.
I began to explore and discover new markets, decided to pursue additional revenue streams, planned for 3 years ahead and recognised unique opportunities in the market that only I (or Share Impact) could deliver.
The three factors I identified which were holding my business back were:
a very limited focus on one particular customer segment (CEO’s and Founders of small, newly established social enterprises – which were not originally my focus for the business anyway);
using only one or two approaches to reach out and engage with new potential customers (predominantly through social media); and
thinking small in terms of the value proposition and the real expertise and value I could be offering to different audiences.
Recognising these three things helped me re-shape my business strategy and a decision to look at new markets and services we could offer, such as supporting:
Any organisation needing external expertise to undertake their evaluation or impact measurement
Social Enterprises who want to grow their business and communicate the impact they deliver better
Businesses who want to deliver more social / environmental impact through their supply chain and events
Businesses who want to map and understand what impact they’re already delivering or who need help to design & implement a new social / environmental impact programme, and
Funders and investors who want to help their recipients understand and measure impact with tailored training and coaching
I now have a plan about how I can reach out to each of these different audiences but still have a very focused offer which is only tweaked slightly for each individual audience.
I also recognised that this service was a key part of my impact story, along with my mission to support more women live free from harm and prosper. But wanted to ensure in year two and three I did have a strategy for having more impact on women through those I worked with, selected projects and investments I made.
So, in 2019 I’m
Growing my associate team to fill gaps in my own knowledge and build Share Impact’s capacity to deliver more
I’ll be working less throughout the year (as I take time off to spend with my husband and our baby) but delivering and earning more
Recognising Share Impact’s specific expertise and value and sharing this with a much wider audience to attract bigger contracts and customers
Deliver more of my desired impact by working in partnership, investing more and working with more social entrepreneurs
So, if you’re feeling in a bit of a rut, not sure where you’re heading anymore or struggling how to expand your income streams whilst staying focused on your core business. Know that there are options out there. Try these things to generate ideas:
Get a different perspective from someone outside your organisation usually
Don’t be afraid to explore new markets that you don’t 100% know or don’t feel confident working in
Think beyond just yourself and your existing team – what could you do with other skills and expertise and how could you generate revenue to employ them?
Be willing to go outside your comfort zone and try new things
Stay focused on your impact, vision and the unique value you offer to customers /clients
Think bigger and bolder in 2019!
Share Impact helps organisations measure and communicate their social or environmental impact so they can confidently communicate: why they exist, the difference they make and why others should care.
We provide research & evaluation services; training; consultancy, business mentoring and communication management with a focus on social impact measurement and reporting.
Want to find out more about how we could help your organisation? Book a free 30 minute call with Kat here.