Six Keys to Creating a Successful Business with Purpose
Establishing any new business is hard work, but starting up a business with purpose – one you hope will create positive outcomes to communities – is even harder. The tension between profitability and social impact – achieving both social good and market success – makes creating a successful for-purpose business extra challenging.
Over the years, it’s been both exciting and inspiring to witness the growth of the conscious business, the diverse and innovative enterprises and the founders who pour their hearts and souls into their creations because they have an unwavering belief in their mission.
But why is it so hard to make it all happen? Why is doing good not enough? There is no one straight answer, but here are six points I have consistently observed.
One: Identify a point of difference to support a good idea
Many business owners believe the point of difference is in the product or service they create. While this might be true for innovative new ideas, the reality is most of what people do has been done before. Your point of difference could be the way it is done (the journey); the person behind the business (the story); or it could even be that you run a very different business from the product or service you’re selling.
Two: Have both a short-term and a long-term vision
While being focused on short-term wins is important, you also need to have a 10-15-year vision (unless, of course, your plan is to set up a business and sell it quickly). The aim of conscious business is to have real impact – and this takes time to achieve. Most people lose heart after the first three years. Yet, in my experience, the first five years is just learning about how to run a business, gaining wisdom from inevitable mistakes, defining what you actually can do and what you can’t. The following five years is about building your reputation and networks, and possibly looking at expansion or even redefining what you are doing and changing direction.
Three: Don’t underestimate the commitment needed to create a successful business
Building a successful business takes resilience, passion, persistence, determination, a thick skin for criticism, and more hours than you knew you ever had in a day. Many people who set up their own businesses cite lifestyle as a reason, believing they’ll have more time for themselves. However, the reality is that your business becomes your life and it’s very difficult to separate the two: starting a conscious business is not easy but what is even harder is maintaining it. If you’re not prepared, this can be a massive shock.
Four: Develop broad business knowledge and skills
Another reality of setting up a business is that until you can afford to employ people, you must be a generalist, not a specialist. This means your focus will be spread across many different areas, each of which you need to be familiar with: accounts, product development, marketing, design, public relations, and social media to mention a few. A key component of your pre-planning must be educating yourself about these subjects.
Five: Recognise the power of networks
It is so true: you cannot do it alone – and no one has ever done it alone no matter what they say! You will need to rely on people and other organisations to help you. This help comes in many different forms: collaborations, cross promotion, working on joint projects, engaging in other people’s networks, spending time meeting people and learning from what they have gained. Never underestimate the learning experiences of others, as every story and every experience is different.
Six: Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket
I remember when the internet started to gain momentum, traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses moved online in swarms, until suddenly every business had a web presence, and being online no longer provided that point of difference. The reality is that businesses, now more than ever, need to be flexible and use different platforms to engage with audiences – even though that audience may not be the one you thought you should be targeting. An online presence is a must, and digital platforms such as social media are also important. However, don’t forget that at times grassroots, face-to-face interaction are an excellent opportunity for businesses. No matter how broad your digital presence is, the face-to-face human connection is what is going to win you over. Most major decisions and major deals, are done face to face, so use events – no matter what their size – as your other opportunity to connect with your customer and build your network.
After a long history in banking, and having travelled in some of the poorest countries i South East Asia and witnessing first-hand the working conditions and the environmental and social impact of mass consumerism, Susanna Bevilacqua founded Moral Fairground in 2009 through a desire to help make the world a fair and more transparent place. The company’s mission is to “organise an online platform and events that will educate, inspire and encourage people to make choices that will have a positive impact on the world, the environment and the people we share it with.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a successful for-purpose business, check out the Ethical Enterprise Conference. The 2-day event (16 & 17 October 16) is jammed full of inspirational speakers who will help you look at the future of business from a different angle. Social Change Central has managed to secure 10 tickets at a massive 30% discount to attend this year’s Conference using the code: EEC17. Get your ticket before they run out!