Social entrepreneurs know what it’s like to be motivated by purpose. The potential to make a difference is enticing and exciting for nonprofit and social enterprise founders – it’s what fuels us. And although we have passion, sometimes our passion can inhibit our ability to ask for help.
Just because you have passion doesn’t mean you have all the answers.
While proposed solutions to social problems may be well-intentioned, making an impact is often multi-faceted with a variety of barriers, solutions and ideas. By asking for help and learning from others, social entrepreneurs can increase their probability of building a product or creating a company that has the potential to truly impact the lives of others.
Here’s how to position yourself for greater success as a social entrepreneur:
1. Surround yourself with mentors.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and so have thousands of others) – get a mentor. Even if you don’t work in a large organization; even if you don’t know what you might need help with yet; even if you don’t know who to ask, you still need a mentor. And if the lack of access to mentors is a problem, reach out to other business owners or people you admire and ask around to get connected. It’s important to fill your inexperience – or supplement it – with the perspective and advice of others.
2. Join a network of industry leaders.
Whether the network is an existing, prestigious network or an informally created one, find a group of likeminded entrepreneurs or industry experts that you can plug into virtually or through regular meetings. If you’re tackling homelessness, tech, human trafficking or other issues that are pressing society, you’ll benefit from learning from others and sharing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work in tackling social problems. Plus, entrepreneurship can be lonely – by plugging into a professional network, you’re also likely to form friendships over similar interests in entrepreneurship.
3. Staff your organization and board of directors wisely.
As a leader, you might feel the need to be the most powerful or knowledgeable person in your organization. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you have passion and vision for your company and are committed to growing as a leader, you’ve got what you need. Now, be honest in your assessment of your skills and staff your company and board with people who will bring a wealth of knowledge to benefit your business. This will keep you humble and growing while your business reaps the benefits of experience and knowledge that you may not have yet.
4. Acknowledge your inexperience.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is admit that you don’t know it all. While it may seem like others would doubt your expertise or abilities, it’s often the opposite. People admire humble leaders and appreciate transparency. By admitting your inexperience, you are more likely to attract and retain mentors, board members and employees that will work alongside you to grow your business. Plus, no one ever knows it all. Admitting this early will help you create a foundation for lifelong humility in your leadership, which will naturally benefit your organization by the ability to learn from others and pivot in your strategy when advised or necessary.
Said best by John C. Maxwell, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” Be the kind of leader that is humble and willing to ask for help. Do your homework and learn as much as you can. By being positioned internally to grow, learn and ask, you will be surrounded by people willing to help or willing to invest in you as a leader.
Your vision and your execution of it will ebb and flow overtime. Be the kind of leader to handle the pivots and challenges in stride, through mentors, networking, humility and a great team willing to help and supplement your weaknesses.