Demise of Carillion and the Social Value Act

It’s a sad day when any business goes into liquidation but the news that Carillion Plc is no longer viable means that a sizeable national workforce may need to look for new jobs and sub-contractors will be left worrying about how to manage cashflow over the coming months. During what is usually the most belt-tightened of all months of the year, many families will be reacting to the news, adapting to a period of uncertainty and making plans to overcome adversity.

Whilst not wanting to diminish focus on those affected nor lose sight of the lessons to be learned from the Carillion collapse, I’m interested in another conversation originating from the social enterprise community about the award of public-sector contracts. The conversation gained enough of an audience that Government introduced the Social Value Act (2013) and now following insolvency of the mutli-national facilities management Plc, the volume of the dialogue has been dialled-up. Simply put, social entrepreneurs, community activists and commentators are promoting the logic of third sector organisations – that are neither tied-up with the bureaucracy of pre-privatisation officials nor hamstrung by the profit aspirations of shareholders – being best placed to deliver some community contracts.

Part of being an entrepreneur – social or otherwise – is scanning the horizon to identify any patterns or potential disruptions to business. At a time when “bailout” is still politically sensitive and “nationalisation” feels to some voters to be a backward step, the fall-out from Carillion could result in an opportunity to build on the Social Value Act and harden the language from merely considering social enterprise suppliers to favouring those organisations that create greater business value through the triple bottom line.

So, for social entrepreneurs it’s time to think about the things that can be done to make themselves ready to bid for upcoming tenders. Simple things like making sure boilerplate documents that are requested in most competitions such as Equality and Diversity Policies and Environmental Commitments are updated and Public Liability/Insurance Certificates are at hand. Some tenders require brief biographies of key team members are included, others may want to see a Social Impact Evaluation.

If you’d like more information about making your organisation tender-ready, please contact the Enhance Social Enterprise team or register at http://devon.cc/ese

Blog post by Richard Snell, Heart of the South West Social Enterprise Programme Manager

 

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New Year’s Business Resolutions for Social Entrepreneurs

 

 

 

1. Concentrate on what you need to do, not what you like to do

When it comes to business support, many new entrepreneurs are magpies attracted by the shiny gems of learning rather than the brown load-bearing stones that form the foundations of a sustainable enterprise.

Glistening like Castafiore Emeralds, video marketing, social media and digital transformation workshops soon fill-up places and waiting-lists of delegates eager and motivated to learn. In part, it’s the entrepreneurial mind-set led by a big-idea mentality which tends to skip over the finer details of cash flow. Arguably, it’s compounded by an entrepreneur’s extension of their own self-concept; my business has slick branding, web presence and video marketing, therefore I am. And whilst this isn’t wrong – after all, we all need good marketing – the biggest cause of business failure is commonly acknowledged as cash flow.

2. Start Planning Forward

The Social Value Act begun the process of encouraging Public Sector providers to consider awarding contracts to Social Purpose organisations on the basis of best value rather than least expensive. Start working out how you can measure your enterprise’s social impact and meet other procurement requirements as the number of contracts appraised this way increases.

3. Set Yourself Apart

Competition is often cited as an obstacle to social enterprises achieving success. Try seeing your business through your customers eyes. Consider your offer and prices and how they compare with that of other providers. Sell your product not only to the decision maker but also to the one who is going to benefit from what you are selling. You bring a lot of value to what you do, allow your personality to shine through and show your commitment to people.

4. Apply for Awards

Achieving awards is another way in which you can set yourself apart from the competition. If your organisation does something well, start seeking recognition for it. Look at the awards you could apply for in the coming year and include the application process as part of your planned marketing and PR activity.

5. Grow Your Business

If you have survived start up and built a successful social enterprise it may be worth considering the next step and growing it beyond its current status. Growth will depend on the type of business you own, your available resources and how much money, time and sweat you are willing to invest all over again. Types of growth might include building your online presence, diversifying your product/service line and entering new markets.

Whether you are a new, existing or aspiring social entrepreneur, Enhance can provide free business support, please register at www.devon.cc/ese

Blog post by Richard Snell, Programme Manager and Susie Jones, Marketing Officer for Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise programme.

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Measuring Social Impact

Since marketing and social enterprise first crossed swords the positioning of social purpose in the marketing message has been a bone of contention. There are those that say that when competing in the marketplace, an enterprise’s goods and services should stand on their own merits no matter the business ideology. Other organisations use their social credentials as the foremost message within their mix, defining their purpose before their products. Certainly, traditional profit-driven businesses are softening-off the perception of their own commercial endeavours through showcasing their corporate social enterprise activities. Take Pampers, P&G’s nappy brand which has been in partnership with UNICEF for more than a decade; in making its support for families in the developing world a strong part of its marketing and communication message, it helps to deflect focus from the environmental impact of its products and enables parents to feel better about using disposable.

One challenge is the disconnect between messaging themes of quality and exclusivity and that of social good when marketing a luxury brand. It’s a tough balancing act but can be done when a business really understands their customers. One such success story is ethical water brand Belu who transformed their business by refocusing on the HoReCa (Hotels, Restaurants and Catering) sector away from the over-crowded bottled water market. By listening to their customers, they developed a product which is beautifully presented and would complement table settings rather than shout about social purpose credentials. Jamie Oliver’s 15 is another example of the successful blend of quality and social good; the restaurants remain popular as the brand understands that customers primarily visit because of the delicious food served in a convivial environment, not because of the kitchen apprentice programme which provides employment and training to those not necessarily able to access mainstream opportunities.

However, In both examples above the organisation’s social impact is clear and measured; Belu has donated more than £2.2m to WaterAid and Jamie has churned out more than 500 apprentices. So despite not being the main influencing factor in the purchaser’s decision making process, certainly it can be an influencing factor. If you’d like free support about how to measure your social impact, please register with Enhance at www.devon.cc/ese

Blog post by Richard Snell, Heart of the South West Social Enterprise Programme Manager

 

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Competition

Competition in the market has been reported as the biggest obstacle to social enterprises achieving success. Ahead of red tape, staff recruitment and Brexit, more than 60% of social entrepreneurs canvassed in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Market Trends 2017 survey felt that competition was the biggest challenge to achieving growth plans.

One way to overcome this challenge is to take a fresh look at your business and honestly evaluate your offer, the price-point, how you position yourself compared with other providers and what makes you different. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely place so it’s also an idea to involve your existing customers, previous customers, suppliers and stakeholders to achieve a balanced view. Learning where your strengths and weaknesses are can make establishing your competitive edge much simpler.

For more funded support on how to gain competitive edge for your social enterprise, take a look at the Enhance Social Enterprise web pages http://devon.cc/ese

Blog post by Richard Snell, Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise Programme Manager

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