Identifying, analysing and selecting the most suitable and sustainable social business idea is all about asking the right questions, and being disciplined in reviewing the results to make the most prudent decisions. This is easier said than done, so how do you go about making the right decisions?
All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
Social enterprise ideas are a dime a dozen. Therefore the challenge is not in coming up with what looks like good ideas, but in following a strategic process to determine which one to pursue.
A double-edged sword
Social entrepreneurs are optimists, with a strong desire to solve social and environmental issues, as noted by Bill Drayton:“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or to teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionised the fishing industry.”
This can be a double edged sword as entrepreneurs may be tempted to rush in ‘where angels fear to tread’, because of their strong desire to address the perceived need.
Related: What makes a successful social business idea?
Use business analysis tools
We live in an incredible age, where you can acquire any tool to address the business challenge you are facing. These business analysis tools help us ask the right questions. By choosing the tool that speaks to the nature of your business and problem, you can critically assess those great business ideas.
Here are a few business analysis tools you can make use of in your business:
- SWOT – This technique allows you to review both the internal and external areas of your business. Internally, you have control over the Strengths and Weaknesses in the business, but externally you have little control over your Opportunities and Threats.
- Strengths: Identify our advantages and what areas you perform best in.
- Weaknesses: Find the areas you can improve on.
- Opportunities: Focus on opportunities you have and where you outshine the competition.
- Threats: Obstacles that you have little control over and noting what your competitors are doing well.
Related: SWOT analysis worksheet
- PEST – Political factors; Economic – both national and global impact; Sociological – the impact of society on your business and Technology – the impact of technological advancement on your business. You can also use STEEP and PESTLE techniques, which includes additional external factors of legal, environmental and ethical factors.
- MOST– This is a very useful tool to conduct an internal environmental analysis reviewing your Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics.
- De BONO – The De Bono technique promotes brainstorming to help you generate and analyse your ideas by using six colours, which depict moods and encourages specific thinking styles. These colours include white, green, yellow, black, red and blue. Black, for example, symbolises negative or devil’s advocate.
- CATWOE – This tool prompts you to think about your Business Aims – Customers; Actors (stakeholders); Transformation processes; World view; Owner and Environmental constraints.
- 5 WHYs – This tool helps you to explore the root cause of your business challenges, and to understand what is really happening at a particular moment in time.
- MoSCoW - This is a great tool to help a new business analyse its priority requirements. These include Must have; Should have; Could have and Won’t have. This exercise is very relevant in addressing social and financially restricted environments.
- SCRS – This tool helps enterprise to flow from its current state towards the solution by addressing their Strategy; Current State; Requirements and Solution.
- VPEC-T – This is a tool that will help social enterprises that have a myriad of stakeholders impacting the success of the operation. It analyses the Values; Policies; Events; Content and Trust.
Related: Multitasking really is killing your productivity
Good decisions are not always simple to make, but they are necessary for business success. Making a good decision requires you to sit still, and give it the importance that it demands.
The formula - Good decisions today, give you a better tomorrow
John C Maxwell, in his book, Make Today Count, refers to ‘goal setting’ and ‘goal getting’ as two sides of the same coin. He motivates it as follows:
- Good Decisions - Daily Discipline = A plan without a Payoff
- Daily Discipline - Good Decisions = Regimentation without Reward
- Good Decisions + Daily Discipline = A Masterpiece of Potential.
Winning a different race
Norman Vincent Peale, in The Power of Ethical Management, wrote a piece aimed at managers and leaders, however, I believe it is valuable to every social enterprise – “Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running a different race.”
In evaluating your different social enterprise business ideas, you are reminded that you have to follow strong business principles for sustainability; but your strong value-base must determine the type of race you are running to win.
A case study to consider
The #LeaveNoChildBehind initiative, of the South African National Council for the Blind, pitched its request for R 365 000 to implement the Braillers Breaking Barrier Solution to the Trialogue Donors’ Den 2016. This interactive session empowered the association with expert advice on how to hone its pitching and fundraising skills. Sadly, the association was unsuccessful at this platform, to fix the ‘broken pens’ to allow every blind child access to their own Perkins Brailler by 2017.