Increasing the odds of success for a social enterprise


When you are cash strapped and resource hungry, how do you beat the odds and increase your chances of becoming a successful social entrepreneur?

Here are seven guidelines to follow:


1) Start with a goal 

Start with a vision that is truly clear and simple to articulate. For instance, we want a region to become a ‘cataract-free zone’ or alternatively ‘safe drinking water for all’, basic needs that can easily be provided.

2) Know how much you are prepared to lose in the pursuit of your vision.

It is not about being a risk taker but more about defining your risk limits. Are you prepared to lose your home or your family? What are your limits?

3) Be prepared to be a contrarian and have the self-belief that what you are doing is the right thing.

Of course, there is a fine balance between self-belief and stubborn error. You need to be balanced between being open to suggestions and having a strong resolve. Only you and perhaps a mentor can sort this out. You will need to break rules (not the law) of business. Being creative and imaginative is more powerful than taking competition head on.


4) You need to appear bigger than you are as a business

One of the key attributes of entrepreneurship is the need for, and ability to, manage credibility. This is not to say that you should be deceptive but it is about your mentality – being and thinking like a big business that is starting up, rather than a timid little business that hopes one day to grow.

5) Give more than you take

People should always feel that in the balance of relationship they are getting more from you. In such circumstances, the goodwill extended to you will be enormous and the combined energy of each person giving to you will propel the organisation forward.

5) Action speaks much louder than words

As a social enterprise - and as with any business - just talking about what you plan to do and how you plan to make a difference will not cut it. Your audience and supporters need to see you put your words into action and follow through on your promises.

6) Get to know your markets, customers and industries

This sounds like such a common sense statement, yet entrepreneurs, firms and even larger businesses are very weak in this area.

As long as you make a strong link between socially responsible behaviours, good causes and behave in accordance with your espoused values, it is possible for customers to reward you with the profits you need to run a viable enterprise. 

Many thanks to Dr Shai Vyakarnam, Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, Cranfield School of Management, for this blog content.


Topics: not for profit

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