Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

If we start sharing the lessons then business can be successful

A long, long time ago, I wrote a book called Community Enterprise, Business Planning for the Social Economy. (It comes to mind now because I was at the Ulster Bank Business Achievers final last week in Belfast and talked to some great social enterprises.)

It was a bit of a doddle as there is very little difference between a social economy business plan and a "normal" business plan.

The only difference (in my view) is the definition of social gain or a redefinition of profit beyond money. The business model might be different, but it is all about a means to an end. And measuring the impact (which is another can of worms).

It gave me a good opportunity to look into what, I think, was the beginning of social entrepreneurship.

In those days, it was more about community development, committees, woolly socks and sandals.

However, if you researched trends across the USA and particularly Northern Europe, it was already clear that stakeholder engagement, triple bottom line, sustainable design and corporate social responsibility were starting to mesh and merge.

If you take those trends to their conclusion, "social" entrepreneurship will become synonymous with "normal" entrepreneurship.

The economic rational is compelling. "Social" companies have higher profits, better share prices, better employees and are more robust in crisis situations.

If you read books such as Marketing 3.0; Generation Einstein; Poke the Box; The End of Business as Usual; The Mesh and Brand Washed; you will start to realise that culture, values, passion, meaning, community, engagement and story telling are key success factors for every business.

So "normal" business and "social" business have a lot in common and I would expect it to merge into one in the not too distant future.

So why would we not start sharing the lessons between us? Which is why we are launching a not-for-profit part of Smallbusinesscan. All the principles apply, connect, share, learn, ask, answer and get on with it.

To help each other grow and become better businesses. "Social", "normal" or "not-for-profit".

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