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8 Ways to Ensure Your Social Enterprise Can Make Ends Meet

8 Ways to Ensure Your Social Enterprise Can Make Ends Meet

When starting a Social Enterprise, you will have to juggle many competing priorities. One that should always be at the top of the agenda is ensuring that at the very least, you are creating enough income from the enterprise to cover the costs of running it…or making both ends meet.

Here are eight things to consider to keep your social enterprise on track:

1. Ensure you have an entrepreneurial mindset.

As the person leading your social enterprise, you’ll want to ensure that you adopt the traits of the most successful entrepreneurs from all walks of the business world; these characteristics include:

  • Being fearless
  • Being prepared to take risks
  • Being action-orientated
  • Not being phased by temporary failures
  • Being persistent, optimistic and resourceful

Your mindset will impact everything that you do, and it will largely determine the success that you’re able to create for your social enterprise. This includes being able to attract the necessary income to your venture.

2. Know your social enterprise’s story.

Stories create an easy way for people to buy into both you and your social enterprise. What is the story behind why you got into this business? For many social entrepreneurs, this often happens when they discover an ugly truth about society – something they find so shocking, disturbing, or unacceptable that they have to do something about it.

For example, Andy Bradley, who grew up watching his parents lovingly run a home care facility, set up Frameworks 4 Change after later working in the National Health Service and discovering that not all nurses were as compassionate as his mother had been. With an ambition to change the culture of nursing entirely, he set about devising a training course teaching a series of habits nurses can adopt to make sure they are always compassionate, regardless of how busy they are.

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Sharing your story allows those who are interested in your social enterprise to connect with you and your mission, which is a crucial ingredient in keeping your enterprise going strong.

3. Don’t prioritize your social aim over business viability.

In his Feb 2014 article, Dan Zasatwany stated that the principle of “income must come before impact” was not necessarily being implemented amongst the majority of social entrepreneurs, citing that there was “a lack of widespread understanding in the sector about what it means to be an ‘enterprise.’”

One of the main things to understand about a social enterprise is that, first and foremost, it’s a business. Although it may exist to fulfill a social aim, it will only be able to do that in proportion to the profits that it generates.

Having a passion to make a difference is not enough to make a social enterprise successful. In order make ends meet, you must first ensure that, particularly in the early days, your focus is on creating a viable, standalone business model that can survive long enough to make your social aim a reality.

4. Do the business basics and create a business plan.

Remember, first and foremost your social enterprise is a business. As such, you need to ensure that you’ve carried out the same steps that someone setting up a traditional business would do. Although you don’t want to suffer analysis paralysis and spend too much time in the planning phase, some basic groundwork is necessary to ensure that you are going into a venture that has a realistic chance of creating a profit. Some key areas to include in your business plan are:

  • Research: What’s already happening in the industry that you want to go into? What will be unique about what you are going to do or how you’re going to do it? Who is actually spending money on the products or services that you are going to be selling?
  • Financial Forecast: Based on your research, how much will you charge for your products and services, and how much can you reasonably expect to sell over a specific time frame? Be comfortable with the idea that you are trying to create a profit. Don’t let your passion for your social aim see you practically giving things away, including your time.
  • The Break Even Point: If you intend to make your living with this social enterprise, how much do you need to sell in order to cover both your business costs and your basic living expenses? Knowing your daily, weekly and monthly break-even point will give you a great focus in the early days of your social enterprise, and is a crucial part in making sure you can pay the bills on time. This article provides some useful tips on how to calculate your break even point.

5. Know and understand your target audience.

Being clear on your niche audience – that specific group of people who are going to be paying for your products and services – allows you to market to them more effectively, and to ensure that you’re meeting their needs. This, in turn, will allow you to make a bigger impact on your social aim.

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Be aware, of course, that with a social enterprise, often the people who are going to be paying for your products and services are not the same people who are going to be using your products and services. Your message needs to be effective with the people who provide the cash to make your enterprise possible.

Marketing, branding and innovation expert Rafe Offer emphasizes that you need to understand your customer by really getting to know what it’s like to be them, and he suggests role-playing with them in their environment to achieve this. He also encourages a marketing approach that is focused on making them feel good.

Getting this area of your social enterprise right will mean repeat business from customers that can become raving fans, which ultimately will be an important part of creating the income that will not only make ends meet, but will create more social impact for your business.

6. Have a scalable system for success.

Following the collapse of his own social enterprise, Matthew Cain identified that one of the features of successful start-ups was that they had a replicable system that was first tested and proven on a small scale. Once a successful system of trading has been established, it’s then scaled up to increase turnover and profits. Cain found that waiting to launch an enterprise with big numbers was one of the top five reasons that social enterprises fail to make both ends meet. You can read about the other four reasons here.

Scaling up – also referred to as ‘social franchising’ – is a model that is becoming popular amongst social businesses that borrows from the experience of the commercial franchising sector. A social enterprise that has done this successfully is Care and Share Associates (CASA)who have duplicated their system of employee-owned social care homes and services to several sites around the UK.

Social reform organization The Shaftesbury Partnership compiled a useful report on social franchising in 2011 that you can access here.

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7. Measure your impact.

As part of what he calls his BIB (Business Impact Brand) method for starting a social enterprise, Marquis Cabrera talks about the importance of being able to measure the impact that you intend to, or have already made.

For example, he cites that Sword and Plough, a social enterprise that re-purposes military surplus waste into fashionable bags and accessories, has a social mission to “empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen shared military-civil understanding.” At the time of his article, Sword and Plough reported that so far they had

  • recycled 15,000 lbs of military waste
  • created $400,000 of sales through the sale of 2600 products (with 10% of profits going back to veteran initiatives)
  • created 36 jobs for military veterans.

How could you state the impact of your social enterprise today? Measuring your impact will not only make it clearer for other people to connect and contribute to what you are doing, but will force you to look at the numbers in your social enterprise. Tracking your numbers is vital for making sure you are not spending more than you are creating in income.

8. Don’t go it alone.

Being an entrepreneur in any business can be a lonely affair, particularly if you are working from home. However, as a social entrepreneur, you may find this to be even more true as the pressing weight of fulfilling your social mission is added to the feelings of isolation that many traditional entrepreneurs experience.

Therefore, it’s important that you focus on building up a network of people who buy into your social aim and share your vision. One of the ways to do this early on is to put together a Board of Governors to give you objective assistance in ensuring that your enterprise is achieving its social aim, fulfilling its mission statement and is on track to meet its financial goals and targets.

Other important relationships to cultivate are

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  • Mentors
  • Advisors
  • Champions
  • High profile contacts within your online and offline networks

Attending business networking groups can be a great place to create these relationships if they don’t exist already. Your Board of Governors will be an important part of keeping you on track financially.

Social entrepreneur, presenter and consultant Phil Tulba is a Trustee and Director of Adrenaline Alley, an award winning social enterprise. He offers these closing words of advice to social enterprises seeking to make ends meet in their venture:

“Always make sure you are as close as you can be to your customers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. Losing sight of where you have come from, your market and your mission could result in disaster, and it’s sometimes not an easy line to walk.”

Featured photo credit: Jarmoluk via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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