The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Enterprise!

According to Liam Black, the previous chief executive of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, there are seven deadly sins of social enterprise that need to be avoided in order to achieve real impact.

1. The belief that speaking at conferences, blogging and tweeting are entrepreneurial activities.

Liam suggests that although these activities, which arguably I am doing now, are important they do not make a dent in the social problem you are trying to solve.  ACTION is what is important and we agree – see how you can get started in social enterprise here.

2. Insufficient ruthlessness about purpose

In Black’s own words, “If I hear another word about empowerment, sustainability, paradigms, crowd-sourcing, or user-led activities I’m going to punch someone.” Abandon jargon is his cry and keep to the purpose of what you are trying to achieve.

3. Unwillingness or inability to prove impact

You need to prove your worth, demonstrate what you are doing actually serves its purpose. This has been high on the iSE agenda in recent months and something we cannot stress enough! Not only will doing this let you measure the impact you are making it will also support your business in the commissioning process as you will be able to demonstrate your social enterprises ‘added value’.

4. Not nailing the business basics

As a manager or CEO it important to remember business basics, Liam quotes a time when he did an interview about how he was going to change the world through social enterprise and received a letter on his desk the next morning from Stan, the trade union convener at one of his factories saying, “Liam, I read in the paper that you want to transform Liverpool. You can’t even get my wages right – good luck with Liverpool.”

A good example of remembering the important basics of running a business – paying your staff! iSE frequently hold FREE training courses run by HMRC on becoming an employer and being a Company Director. These courses are designed to make sure you get the basics right! (keep an eye open on our training page for future sessions)

Abandon jargon and stick to what you are trying to achieve!

5. Ego

Black fears that for too many social entrepreneurs it is all about ego and creating a personal brand. According to Black there are 3 styles of leadership that are common (even to him) and need to be avoided at all costs:

1. The Messiah – ‘do it because you believe in me.’ He argues the problem with this is that you end up with devoted unquestioning followers who are not good for business.

2. The Superhero – the leader who can do it all on their own. Not good, as as soon as they fall the business crumbles.

3. Stalin – ‘do it or else.’ Little needs to be said as to why this is a bad model!

Being a leader is a difficult task and it is important you have the support of a good board to help you. Finding a supportive board who understand your business is a difficult task but can ultimately make a huge difference to the success of your business. iSE have delivered training courses to support organisations to work with their board more effectively, for more information about how we could support your organisation call us on 0121 771 1411.

6. Not enough time spent understanding the customer

Black believes that, ‘confidence in service quality is inversely proportional to distance from the customer.’ As a manager or CEO, as you become further removed from your customer so your confidence in your service delivery increases, because you need it to be great. His advice is stay close to the customer and when branding and marketing your product always think about who you are targeting.

ISE are holding a training course to support organisations to market their products and services more effectively.  Find out more about this course.

7. The sector mindset social enterprise VS. private sector

Social enterprise = good people with big hearts, changing the world and helping the poor.

Private sector = profit sucking people who destroy the earth for their own greed.

Black argues this attitude hinders progress and that having a network that encompasses not-for profits, corporate, public sector, government then you will have more success in saving the world and solving social problems.

As part of TLI (transforming local infrastructure) iSE have been working to develop the networks of social enterprises and community organisations. We have recently established a new women in enterprise network as well as a Digbeth, Highgate and Cheapside local social enterprise network. Working with others WILL improve your business; see what opportunities you may be able to attend this month.

Click here to see the full article for Liam Black’s seven deadly sins.