I recently had the pleasure of being part of a panel for Generation W, a wonderful event held in Jacksonville, FL, where women were inspired to impact change for themselves, their communities and the world. My panel focused on social entrepreneurship, a topic I know well since launching GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning, a company that is built upon the principle of doing well while doing good.
It isn't always easy to find success as a social entrepreneur. After all, most of us are driven by our passion for the cause and can sometimes lose sight of the idea that we really do need to build a business -- the more successful our business becomes, the more positive change we can create. But, how do you do that? How do you keep your mission in place while still building a successful business?
Here are four things I have learned as a social entrepreneur:
Build a Team Focused on Your Mission
For any small business, building a team should start with one main philosophy: quality over quantity. This is especially true for social entrepreneurs. In addition to finding people with the right skill sets to grow your business, you should also find people who not only understand your company's mission, but are willing to live your company mission. At GreenHouse Eco Cleaning, we only hire employees and executives who have values that align with our standards and mission -- people who want to do more than just have a job, they want to create a positive and healthy change in the world.
Invest in Authentic Relationships
As a social entrepreneur you probably don't shy away from asking others to connect with your cause, but do you ever ask how you may be able to help others? When you enter into any type of professional relationship with a colleague, investor or even an employee, consider what you have to offer them -- what can you do to help them achieve their goals? Invest in those relationships that are mutually beneficial, true win/win partnerships, to ensure everyone is in it for the common good. You have no room for self-serving relationships as you build your company.
Create a Culture of Risk Taking
While entrepreneurs are risk takers by nature, in order to truly create change, you must develop a culture of risk taking within your organization. Risk taking isn't about always being bold and gutsy, it is about leadership -- it is about planning, experimenting and, as one expert called it, it is "betting on the big ideas rather than taking chances of all sizes." Empower and engage your employees to be innovative thinkers and doers, communicating clearly how you will support their smart risk taking abilities, even if those ideas fall short of coming into fruition
Never Stop Learning
The world changes quickly and continuing to learn more about our business and our overall cause, will help us stay ahead of the competition and help us create even more effective change. Invest in education for yourself and your employees, spend time with people who are the recipients of your company's good works and truly learn from your mistakes. Knowledge is power.
As a social entrepreneur you are a change-maker. You are a role model that shows others how ideas can be turned into actions and how those actions -- no matter how small -- can make this world a better place for everyone. It really is about doing well while doing good and I hope more of us get into that kind of business.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.