Scaling a social enterprise is about more than just an increase in numbers. UnLtd India shares our four major learnings from coaching social impact organisations that are scaling their operations and increasing their impact.
Scaling your social enterprise isn’t just about a straightforward increase in the number of sales made or beneficiaries reached.
As a founder, you will realise that you have to evolve and fortify your organization to withstand the growth phase. Based on our experience supporting Growth Challenge Fellows, we’re sharing some of our key insights for all organisations preparing to scale:
1. Focus on people – develop yourself, your team and your organizational culture.
- This is the stage when your leadership style and skills will become extremely important and get repeatedly called upon and tested. Take time to step back and assess your strengths and weaknesses. Reach out to a mentor to help you through this journey, which will likely span many months and involve significant self-reflection. Solicit feedback, seek out clarifying discussions and accept moral support as you navigate the changes that accompany personal and organisational growth.
- Take a fresh look at your organisational structure and understand how existing roles must evolve to fit the new needs of the company. To best facilitate these transitions for your core team, it is crucial that you have regular meetings where you prepare them for the changes ahead and start to develop them as a second line of leadership.
- Finally, just as processes are the visible framework within which you operate and deliver your business, organisational culture and values are the intangible framework within which your team makes decisions, interacts with customers and engages internally with each other. Culture is particularly relevant at this stage and will shift along with the changing organisational structure. It is essential that you have a clear understanding of the part you play as a founder in propagating and establishing this culture. Create spaces for the team to discuss it, define it and embed it in everyday work life. Make sure these values reflect across all your operations and especially in the people related processes like recruitment, training, performance reviews, etc.
2. Prioritize processes a.k.a the very bones of your organization.
Although your attention will constantly be pulled towards your growing core operations, force yourself to set aside time to build supporting processes like an HR policy, administrative guidelines, management information systems (MIS) and streamlined data collection. Putting these in place will not only allow your organization to function at a higher level, but also to ensure that your team has the support of structured systems while they adjust to their new responsibilities in scaling operations.
3. You will need money. Get your organisation ready for it.
What does it mean to be investor ready? When investors evaluate your proposal, they are not just looking at your entrepreneurial abilities and a tested product/service, but also for a clear vision, complementary team strengths, processes, documentation and growth projections with detailed assumptions. It is essential to get your house in order from a legal, financial accounting and processes perspective (seek professional help if necessary!) before approaching investors. This will put you in a good position to meet their assessment benchmark of an investable organization with the potential to deliver a successful exit.
4. Have the right advisors at the right time.
It is likely that until now, your board has consisted mainly of co-founders, family, friends and perhaps some core team members. Even if you have a diversified board or advisory council already in place, you may find that the current composition is not relevant for this new phase your organization is entering. Thus you risk being without key guidance during an uncertain transition time. Invest time in fleshing out and diversifying your board. Seek out new board members or advisors with appropriate experience and the right mindset for scale. Make sure they are willing to commit a minimum amount of time to the company, as timely access to advice is critical given the dynamic nature of challenges. A strong board will be able to guide your organization during its growth as well as help maintain accountability to the vision and mission. Additionally, these advisors and board members often have powerful networks that can be critical to bringing in the right kind of financial and human capital.
The UnLtd India Growth Challenge is a one year incubation program aimed at social entrepreneurs with a proven model on the cusp of scale and is currently scouting for for-profit organisations. Applications for the program are open until January 4, 2016. See here.