I stumbled across the concept of social enterprise when trying to find a more fulfilling way to live my life. After almost 25 years of commercial, competitive sales and marketing I’d had enough of winning market share this year, only for it to be won back by my rivals the next.
It all seemed rather pointless and even when I had my own marketing agency; the projects we were hired to deliver paid the bills, but left the world pretty much untouched. OK, so more people were taking holidays on yellow coaches, rather than on blue ones. But did it really matter? I was just another middle aged guy who could sell and write marketing copy.
And then I spotted how some people were running businesses that where it was as important to make a difference as it was to make a profit. They called themselves social entrepreneurs and put people first. They had passion and a determination to lead positive social change, rather than just talk about.
I spent the next few years freelancing; using my sales and marketing skills to make a difference. I won a reputation for doing what appeared impossible. I made a few mistakes, made a living and changed quite a few lives along the way. I even wrote a book to help others learn from those early experiences.
But I kept learning and on reflection, would write that book very differently today. There’s just too much bullshit talked about social enterprise. There are simply too many people who make it seem complicated, often because they have courses to sell or funders to satisfy.
In 2013 I put my reputation on the line and started a social venture myself. It sets out to create opportunity for young people failed by the education system. We challenge convention and do things very differently to the commercial players in our marketplace.
I realised that social enterprise is just a phrase, not a science. What matters, is having a stack of helpful tips, set out in an easy to read format, free of jargon and saying it like it is.
That book is being written right now. That’s why you’re reading this, so that you can think, hmm, that sounds interesting and pledge your support. You don’t need to ditch the day job, at least not yet. This book is packed with things you can do right now, as well as all you need to know if you decide one day take the plunge and throw your all into changing the world.
Learn from my experience and by-pass the pitfalls. Life can be better sooner than you think because from tomorrow, you can start to be the change you want to see.
Everybody wants to be more successful. But not everybody describes success using the same words. I describe myself as a social entrepreneur because for me, making the world a better place is as important as making a living. You probably agree, or you'd not have picked up this book.
But you might also say that's OK for me because I've earned enough over the years to no longer need to put earning at the top of my ‘to do’ list. That's true, but if I look back over my life, helping others has given me more satisfaction than being nasty because I want to make money.
Maslow, in his well-known hierarchy of needs, pointed out that if you are desperate for food and shelter, you're not likely you give much thought to the needs of others. But once you’ve got the basics covered, you certainly will become aware of the impact of your actions.
So even if you've not yet started a social enterprise, you will already have, but may not have noticed, many of the attributes of a social entrepreneur. No commercial transaction is sustainable unless all participants benefit in some way. The simple fact is, that the more you do business in a way that benefits others, the more business you will do, and the more you will benefit too.
Like autism, social entrepreneurship sits on a spectrum. It’s not a case or you are or you’re not. It’s a case of where you find yourself on the social entrepreneurship spectrum.
Barry Allard worked in the housing department at Norwich City Council. He started a project that helped homeless people gain independence. After six years, with the Council’s approval, he spun the venture out as a community interest company called LEAP which he now leads. www.norwichleap.co.uk
So having said all that, here's your first checklist. It's to help you build your confidence for the giant leap you feel compelled to take. It need not be very big, not for now anyway. It needn’t be a leap into the unknown, but more a step into your future. But first, you need faith, so, here goes.
OK, I admit it. I've been distracted by paid assignments and haven't been as pushy as perhaps I might. But then there's a honest fact that pushing people into any purchase is simply not my style. So I'd like you to lend me a hand.
This book really needs to be written. The looming general election is going to cost more than £100m. What social impact will it have? What else could that money have…
When faced with a challenge, too many folk simply ignore it and allow time to slip away. But that solves nothing, other than to make the challenge appear even bigger. It can happen to the best of us and I'm no exception.
But now that December is almost here, it's time to push this book from it's current resting place, just off the starting blocks, to the finish.Recent political events, together…
I've recently been talking with organisations about pre-ordering bulk copies of this, my new book. It's shifted the pressure from hustling, to making a value based sales pitch. This sits far more comfortably with my personal values.
The fence is starting to creak, as more and more find themselves sitting on it. Instinct and common sense suggests that a box of books, together with me for a day,…
So the campaign is now 34 days old and my book is 6% of the way to success. 'That's not much', I hear you say, but of course it is August and I, as have many potential pledgers, have had a holiday. Now it's time to get down to some serious work!
You see crowdfunding is just like social enterprise. Nothing happens unless you are proactive, positive and I hate to admit, persistent. Just as those…
You know the difference between us and so many is that we seize opportunity. It's why you've pledged to buy my book (for which I thank you again) and why you'll no doubt share the link and encourage others to pledge too.
The simple fact is that most people see injustice and need, say tut tut, and then carry on with what they were doing. For others, like me and perhaps you, it's impossible to simply…
I thought it might help you to see the full chapter list. It'll give you a flavour for where I'm going with the book. It will also help you ask challenging questions!. So after an introduction, there are 17 chapters, each containing three checklists of ten tips. So if my arithmetic is correct, that's 510 tips in total. (Put another way, if you pledge £20 it works out at less than 4p per tip!
Of all the books I've written, this is the most exciting. For one thing the guys at Unbound are really professional and enthusiastic, which of course helps, but best of all, it's my ability to talk with you, my readers, as I work on the book.
You'll see that you can ask me a question and see the answer appear in the book. That for me is the most powerful thing about this journey. Of course I'll…
These people are helping to fund Be The Change: Social Enterprise Made Simple.