In this blog we would like to talk to you about your organisation’s mission and about consistency. As we see it, consistency and staying true to your mission go hand in hand. Both are very important for your social enterprise! As an organisation it is important to be consistent in order to flourish. Let’s try and untangle the term consistency. In our opinion consistency includes three major factors.
First, it's about your organisation being consistent in what is does and whether what it is doing is consistent with its purpose. You should always check that what you are actually doing is consistent with your memorandum and articles of association (or mem and arts for short). Especially when new opportunities turn up - ask yourself does it fit with your mem and arts, or not? If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself whether your mem and arts should be changed and if you are willing to do so? This part of consistency which is all about your purpose, and the actions you undertake to fulfil your purpose, are closely intertwined with staying true to your mission. Initially, be clear about what your purpose is and make sure that it is understood by everybody in the organisation, and that you all sign up to it. Always make sure that your purpose is appropriate for the organisation. Because what is appropriate for one organisation is not necessarily appropriate for another. Therefore, work out what it is that is appropriate for where you are and who you are. And then - stick with it! Don’t get distracted by the latest trend, the latest fashion, or what your funder wants. If it doesn’t fit you, if it doesn’t fit what your community needs, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Also, if it doesn’t fit the talents that you’ve got in your team, then don’t be drawn into something that’s new simply because a funder may want something innovative and creative. Do what you’re good at!
This brings us to the second pillar of consistency: delivering consistent quality. For example, if making coffee is your business, make sure that your coffee is consistently good. Applied to our business – which is giving business advice – one way that we provide consistency is that we always work in pairs. And that helps us to provide consistent quality through the four-eye-principle.
And finally, consistency is also about making sure that the rules according to which you live your life, reflect the sector you are in. It's not enough to be doing something good for your clients, you also need to be doing that for your staff, your colleagues and your board. That positive attitude should be running throughout your whole organisation.
There is much discussion and confusion around the definition of social enterprises amongst folk. Here's our interpretation and hopefully it will help your understanding. And if you are thinking about setting up a social enterprise you need to clearly understand what it is about. While lots of different definitions circulate on the web, we believe that the key to understanding social enterprises is that they are businesses like any other. The difference between social enterprises and other businesses is that social enterprises have a social purpose through which they want to create a social impact. They use their profit to do something good for others, such as young people in need of extra care, or for a cause, such as the environment. What we learned from years of experience in the third sector is that what separates successful social enterprises from the less successful ones is the awareness that they are a business like any other, and that they have to generate a sustainable income.
Basically a social enterprise can be anything: a train, a pharmaceutical company, a bank or whatever else. The important thing is that social enterprises must understand that they still need to operate like a normal business and deliver the value the customers want and expect from them. Make sure that whatever your product or service is, you do it well! Quality matters. It's not enough to be just a social enterprise. You have to deliver quality. For example a restaurant must create a great customer experience and serve good food. People go there for tasty food, good customer service and a nice atmosphere. Not only because it’s a social enterprise.
Interestingly – although social enterprises are about making a social impact – when having a look at enterprises through the lens of small communities, pretty much every business has a social impact. Because they generate jobs, involve locals, and make a difference in that community. Therefore, it is important to keep that in mind as a social enterprise. Depending on the size of the community, by competing with small private businesses it could have a negative effect on the community. Highlands and Islands Enterprise would call that "displacement". There is no point in creating a café that sells tea and coffee for 20 pence if what you are going to do is put a café down the road out of business and cost somebody their job. That's not what social enterprises are about.
Therefore, remember: A social enterprise is a business like any other but with a social purpose. You need to generate income. And what better way to do that than through delivering best quality for your customers. And be fair - don’t try to compete with existing businesses in small communities.
Already one year has gone by since we founded Impact Hub Inverness. Time goes by so fast when you’re enjoying your work and making new friends and connections all over the world! Just last month we celebrated our one year anniversary as an Impact Hub in our usual informal style and welcomed some of our 37 members to join us. We are very proud to have brought the Impact Hub brand to Inverness, and the wider Highlands and Islands, through the work we do and also being the first Impact Hub in Scotland! So many wonderful and interesting things have happened during the last year, and are happening right now. And we are sure that it will lead to greater things in the future too. We want to share all this with you and so what better way to do this than in a regular blog! We will explain more about what we do, give you some insights into the organisations we work with, properly introduce our members, and talk about the events we host. And if you’ve seen Polly and Brian’s Talking Hats videos on Facebook, well we are going to expand this into "Writing Hats" and delve deeper into discussions they have begun.
Therefore, we say a warm welcome to our blog. We hope you are going to enjoy it and we look forward to your comments.