On Difficult Conversations


One of the top reasons for for disatisfaction in the ranks of an organization, no matter the size or stage, is the tendency for management to avoid conflict and not to confront performance issues with  individual staff.  That dissatisfaction can metastasize into lowered performance for the entire organization, resignations and a ruptured culture.  Continue reading

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Managing Talent for Startups

talent_management_maturityStartups tend to leave Human Resources issues down the list of priorities.  After all, you have to survive and build your business.  However, as your start to hire staff that strategy will come back to haunt you when you inevitably encounter problems.  These can include poor recruitment and retention of employees that slow your growth behind which are a multitude of sins of omission and commission.

I have recently read a number of blog posts recently that identify ways to better manage talent in the early stages.

A number have appeared on venturelab.ca written by Pauline James, a Principle in Anchor HR.  For example, she has a two part-series entitled, “Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Startup”.  Of the four points she digs into in Part 1 on attracting employees, I found her ideas concerning how you can compete with large companies for talent to be useful and realistic.  There are people out there who don’t want to be a cog in the wheel of a larger company. There are things you can give employees, from benefits to culture, that can compete with larger companies.

Alongside her blogs is a complementary one with an international focus in The Next Billion. Written by Lauren Cochran and Grace Horwitz of Blue Haven Initiativeit challenges impact investors to invest in “human capital” in their client social enterprises in order to create sustainable organizations.  They make a strong point to find companies that already have a strong culture and thoughtful, intentional practices for managing their talent.

Talent management is definitely an issue not to be neglected at any stage.






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Target Hybrid Social Enterprise Business Models



Jyoti Sharma has written a thought-provoking blog in The Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled, “A Neoliberal Takeover of Social Entrepreneurship?“.  Although I take issue with the the focus on neoliberalism as a destructive force, I agree with the importance of hybrid business models for social enterprises.

I have difficulty with terms like “neoliberalism”.  It politicizes a conversation, using Continue reading

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Making Social Innovation Work


Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard of a hackathon, even if you’re not quite sure what it is. Hackathons have become increasingly popular events challenging developers, innovators and changemakers alike to use their creative thinking, expertise and coding skills to solve a global or community issue, or develop an app.

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The Chimera of Impact Investing

Much has been written about the growing size and influence of impact investing
for social enterprises.  I don’t disagree with the data or the pundits but is there too much marketing hype?  Will the good news ultimately blind the social finance movement to the fact that many important and demonstrably impactful social enterprises will not generate market returns?

Will the result be to limit access to capital that these social enterprises need?  Are we creating a chimera that will come back to bite us?  Will government and foundations feel that they can back away from grant-funding since the data “proves” that we can have our cake and eat it too since we’re generating returns and creating impact?

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Posted in Business Model, Competition, Funding, Impact Investing, social enterprise, Social Entrepreneur, Social Finance, social impact, Social Mission, Social Venture, ventureLAB | Leave a comment

Is Social Entrepreneurship a Distraction?

Social Enterprise Distraction

A leader in the social enterprise field, Pamela Hartigan, has written a compelling blog entitled, “Why Social Entrepreneurship has become a distraction: it’s mainstream capitalism that needs change”.  It is a clarion call.  See what you think.

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Posted in Challenge, Innovation, social enterprise, Social Entrepreneur, social impact, Social Venture | 1 Comment

Stakeholders Need Your Attention

Stakeholder Image

I have often worked with social entrepreneurs on the Business Model Canvas.  The two blocks we always start with are the Customer Segments and Value Proposition because they form the heart of your business model.   All other blocks exist to support delivering your value propositions to your customer segments.

For social ventures, however, the title, “Customer Segments”, is inadequate. It would be more accurate to call this block, “Stakeholder Segments”, because of the more numerous and varied segments being served by a social venture.

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Posted in Business Model, Funding, Resources, social enterprise, Social Entrepreneur, social entrepreneurs, Social Venture, Startup, Start-Up | Leave a comment

The Fog of Ignorance


On looming source of risk for an early-stage social entrepreneur is not knowing what you don’t know:the fog of ignorance.  If you’re entering a new industry your area of ignorance is huge; the problem is that you don’t know it until you’re tested in market.  One way you can shed some light in the fog is to build an advisory board.

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Posted in Complexity, failure, Resources, risk, social enterprise, Social Entrepreneur, Social Venture, Startup, Start-Up | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Business Model Trumps Product


I’ve just finished two days of mentoring eight ventures, most social-mission driven, as part of my work as a facilitator for the LaunchYU Accelerator at York University.  communityBUILD, the social enterprise initiative of ventureLAB and its three partners, has five social ventures as part of the cohort of 18 ventures in LaunchYU.

One consistent observation I’ve made while mentoring is that the business model is more important than the product/service solution for startups.  This is the reverse perspective from most entrepreneurs.  Here’s an example.

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Posted in Business Model, Innovation, social enterprise, Social Entrepreneur, social entrepreneurs, Social Venture, Startup, Start-Up, ventureLAB | Leave a comment

The Power of Community


Spring fog

Your isolation as an entrepreneur is a danger to your mental health and to the success of your venture.  This is especially so if you’re a lone entrepreneur without a team around you.  I’ve been there.  You stand, staring out into the foggy expanse of your startup with so many unknowns, riven by uncertainty, with no-one to talk to about your challenges.

Isolation is a danger to you because the stress of being solely responsible for your venture Continue reading

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