What if the passion and enthusiasm of entrepreneurs could be harnessed to address societal issues, such as climate change, homelessness and unemployment? A rising wave of "social entrepreneurs" is starting to do just that by designing their for-profit businesses around making positive contributions to the communities that they serve.
Earlier this year the RBC Social Finance initiative set out to explore the characteristics of social entrepreneurs to better understand what makes them successful and assess their ability to balance the pursuit of financial and non-financial goals.
We often think that social businesses have to sacrifice profit and growth for the greater good. But our research found that many social entrepreneurs are building high growth businesses that deliver social and environmental returns. In fact, 30 per cent of social businesses fall into high growth categories compared to 26 per cent of traditional businesses.
Here are five things a successful social entrepreneur knows:
1. Don't ignore the fundamentals. Social businesses have proven that they can be successful financially while chasing social and environmental goals. By following best-practices in marketing, human resources, operations and finance, you will be well positioned to achieve your objectives.
2. Use your passion to fuel success. Passion is the common denominator among successful entrepreneurs. And, for this group, passion is often more intense because they are pursing deep-rooted personal goals. This passion should drive your position in the market and improve your chance of success.
3. Get creative to conquer obstacles. With everything from strategy to financing, social entrepreneurs have to be creative. You must innovate to overcome financial hurdles and apply creative marketing to target those niche customers with your social products and services.
4. Leverage your double or triple bottom line. Social entrepreneurs are always thinking in terms of social, environmental and financial results. Promote your social or environmental goals to recruit and retain the best people to work for you, attract customers and generate attention in the marketplace.
5. Build a team of trusted advisors. Successful social entrepreneurs see external advisors as important to their business. Look to your bank or financial institution to be value-added advisors, and expect that they go beyond financial products and services to guide and support you on your journey.
Social businesses will continue to grow and flourish in Canada as we look for new ways to solve the most pressing social and environmental challenges.