Saying it cannot be done…

I was given a book mark yesterday by one of my colleagues. It carried the following inscription.

Those who say it cannot be done…

Should not interrupt the person doing it.  

(Ancient Chinese Proverb)

There’s no telling how the wisdom of China came to be on the bookmark, or yet still how to test the veracity of its origins in the short time since I read it.

However, I had been thinking about it through a couple of politically bumpy client meetings yesterday. Having a vision, having scoped alternative courses of action and begun the journey to realising your project, then there should come a time when the nay-sayers or constructive critiques about the original concept should fall gently away…I would wish to argue.

If your project has a sound ethical and inclusive focus, then you should remain true to your vision, realising that new enterprises, of whatever type, are difficult to begin, difficult to make happen and difficult to manage when they go live.

You need that period of buoyancy and enthusiasm in the start-up phase, untrammelled by the gloomy onlooker, to enable you to realise your successful outcomes.

My bookmark reflection led me to two conclusions today.

As an accidental serial entrepreneur in my own tiny corner of existence,  I recognise that occasionally projects do fold in on themselves no matter how good your heart or muscular your approach.

I also chided myself for not saying any of the above during the meeting.

(I think there’s another blog entry in that last line too!)

Tim Smith

Partner at SmithMartin

Startup Britain – a useful web resource?

The machinery of social business developmentThe ‘Startup Britain’ web site has the support of the Prime Minister – but is it, as some commentators have cynically described a government backed web link-farm – offering already available resources to a jaded audience?

If you have been working in the Third Sector for some time, the notion of volunteering, enterprise generation at a community level and the support of young people and the economically disenfranchised will not have the same bright patina as the media and government might suggest. You will have been doing all of it for some time.

However, any portal which brings together diverse information and advice, as well as providing access to enterprise offers, will by its very nature offer knowledge to startups and new enterprises, whether social or not, which might remain undiscovered if not aggregated in the way that the Startup Britain site does, we would argue.

There is a lengthy article debating the negative aspects of Startup Britain on the PostDesk site.

Yes, the site does contain offers from commercial sources which are available elsewhere. Just as the Startup Britain web site is itself not by government, but a private sector organisation driven by a group of existing entrepreneurs.

However, starting a community or social enterprise, or even supporting the emergence of any small local business is a complex and resource intensive process. When you are completely enveloped in your own organisation it is easy to assume knowledge, to assume that ‘everyone must know this’.

They do not and the positive contribution that an aggregator site like Startup Britain can deliver is large, we think. The site does allow you to sign up for so-called offers, and yes they are available elsewhere, but there is also a wealth of information and advice on business planning, insurance, finance, funding and getting your basic business idea right in the first place.

The point being that you can review all of it in one place and leaven it all through the ethical and philosophical filter of our sector. Whether your business idea is for mainstream commerce or the community sector, you still need to grapple with the beasts of cash flow, risk, operational delivery, marketing and business planning.

We think Startup Britain is a creditable source of inspiration and ideas, for entrepreneurs in any sector. Some of the sources from the site we liked were Smarta – broad advice and resources for businesses of all types, the Brightideastrust – very innovational support for inner city young entrepreneurs and Springwise – a terrific source of business ideas to get your creativity going.

In the social business sector how you make your money is vital, but when made it’s what you do with it for your community of interest that really counts. Start a social enterprise today…and see the real change you can make. That’s the big idea for the big society.

Speak social enterprise – Speak Human

speakHumanCoverPicGetting your social enterprise or community business to the first £100,000 of turnover is the hardest part of your journey.

Systems, structures, policies, products, people and partners all have to be engaged, transformed by your idea and the goods or service delivered.

It’s easy to be side tracked by new initiatives, fantastic ideas from supporters who can offer no practical help or even be delayed in your development by the nay sayers.

We like the approach of Eric Karjaluoto in his book Speak Human.

Written from a small business development perspective Speak Human has definite philosophical and entrepreneurial approaches that can help you develop your community business too.

Be yourself, be true in your engagements with others and recognise that sometimes you have to do less in order to define your message and clear identity.

Recognise that your ICT service is not best modeled on IBM, or that your catering business is not The River Cafe. Be distinctive, be true to your original ideas and be practical above all else.

Speaking Human is a great primer for any social enterprise we think.

You can read a sample chapter on Eric’s US site here.