As the founder of a social impact company, creating as much impact as possible is naturally the main goal. However, when working 50-60 hour weeks it can become a challenge to make the time and develop a strategy to maximise impact at every level of the company.
The first step is to think about the company ethos and overview, carrying out a short internal survey of the company helps in identifying strengths and weaknesses from different perspectives. Trying to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses as a founder is not only difficult it is also limiting and gives a narrow company perspective.
Consider asking the following questions to the team:
- What is the company looking to achieve?
- What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What is being wasted in the company?
- What impact is the company currently creating? How?
- What are the mission, vision, values?
- What are the company goals?
Making the smallest possible change for the greatest possible effect.
In order to scale impact and create resilience against time constraints the key is in making the smallest possible change for the greatest possible effect. There are three main ways to do this:
- Empowering Employees
Your employees are your secret to success and creating impact, they are spokespeople of the company and are key in creating a company vision of impact. Building up a team that is strongly aligned with the company’s impact vision and ensuring that impact is built into the company’s culture ensures that positive impact underlies each of the company’s activities. Involving employees in company decision making and encouraging new ideas of creating impact not gives you a wide range of ideas but empowers and encourages employees to take up these ideas.
- Mission, Vision, Values
The mission, vision and values of the company should be focused around creating positive impact. By putting in place impact specific goals for both the company and team gives clear steps for the company to work towards.
During a survey of impact companies, all founders/CEOs asked believed that collaboration is important in creating impact. In addition to creating impact, by setting up collaborations companies can create resilience and expand opportunities.
Maximising Impact and Opportunities
The best way to scale impact with limited time and resources is through analysing the company’s innovation and sustainability systems already in place. Using a set of principles companies can consider how additional impact opportunities and spaces for innovation.
Principles to consider:
- Observe and Interact – Observation of company and employees – what’s working, not working, who needs support, who is lacking motivation. Observe tension in company and interact
- Catch and Store Energy – Be resource efficient. Are you making best use of your current energy levels and opportunity?
- Obtain a Yield – Expanding the concept of yields. Yields are more than just profit, also include: confidence, practical skills, purpose, knowledge, job satisfaction, growth, time saved. Active creation of surplus – what can be made, what skills do we have, what time do we have to spare?
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – Being open to feedback both internally and externally. How can you monitor progress?
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – Consideration of human energy as a renewable resource, value and use human input. As a company and team how can you cut down my consumption of non-renewable resources?
- Produce No Waste – Preventing time and energy from being wasted. Using waste as a resource either internally within the company or through external collaborations.
- Design from Patterns to Details – Optimising the system as a whole in order to reduce inputs and increase outputs. Recognise the potential of the company including the team. Look at patterns of success from other systems.
- Integrate Rather than Segregate – Ensuring the company is inclusive, everyone’s aptitudes and abilities can be identified and utilized. Make connections locally and collaborate with others.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – Don’t try and do everything at once, start with realistic expectations and make change manageable. Quick growth means higher risk of tripping up. Know when to let the work spread out via others rather than scale up in size. Be locally attuned & responsive.
- Use and Value Diversity – Acknowledging others strengths and weaknesses. Promote diversity, participation, collaboration and reciprocity, strengthen company culture and networks and work with a spirit of high trust.
- Use the Edges and Value the Margin – Expanding the edges of your comfort zone. Bringing in internal events and aim to encourage active work, self management and independence. How can you reach out to people on the edges of the company?
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – Learning to deal with change and learning skills that enable us to adapt to situations. Consider other income sources.
- Be Regenerative – Aim to for the company and employees to work with and within the cycles of the living world. Encourage; sharing, repairing, climate change awareness. Regenerate natural systems
- Embrace the 21st century goal – Aim to meet the needs of all people within the means of the planet. Seek to align your organisation’s purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance with this goal.
- Create a Spiral of Abundance – Encourage a spiral of achievement and communication rather than apathy and argument.
In order to promote resilience in a company it is important to consider multiple functionality. This means: how can the company get the most out of each function and how can each function be supported by multiple elements.
For example: A car company can adopt multiple functionality by offering mobility as a service and maintenance and repair shops in addition to selling vehicles. Each of these business opportunities can be supported by selling up collaborations with vehicle recycling companies, second hand dealers and collection services that provide the company with a constant stream of vehicle parts and resources.
Closing the Loop
Closing the loop is a brilliant way in which companies can maximise impact whilst building resilience through collaboration. Industrial symbiosis according to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation is ‘An industrial symbiosis constitutes a local partnership where, partners provide, share and reuse resources to create shared value. The purpose of industrial symbiosis is to create loops of technical or biological materials while minimising the leakage and waste in the loops – demonstrating some key parts of a circular economy, at a local scale.’ Creating a business ecosystem like this reduces the costs of resources, enables waste to be used as a resource for another company and inspires innovation and impact.