In the Chooks facebook group from time to time issues get some traction and there is a lot of debate, questions asked and ideas shared. Most recently one of those topics was around governance and best models for businesses - all kinds of businesses - but especially those kind that might be considered for purpose and profit or not-for-profit. A whole range of configurations were discussed and in the end "best fit" for purpose and also best configuration of resources - capital and human - were the key variables. Many thanks to the hospitality of Pip Robertson at Coomunga House for hosting us and for Carolyn Jeffrey founder of Women in Business Network for first opening up the conversation on line. A wide range of questions were generated in the conversation and then we sought to answer them from our combined knowledge and experience. The women around the table came from publishing, marketing, community development and communications.
You may have some of the same questions so here is a list of them:
Time and Money
How do I get more volunteers?
How do I make more revenue?
What do I need to stop doing?
Is the effort really worth it?
Does anyone actually like compliance?
How might replication be a scale-up model?
Are franchises a possibility to scale up?
How can I retain the "vibe" and be corporate and sustainable at the same time?
How can I maximise the opportunity that presents itself?
How can I build a social business to be viable so I am earning some income?
Can I be auspiced by another entity to be eligible for grants requiring DGR status?
What kind of policies do I need to have in place if I become a not-for-profit?
How can I ask for help? and Who can I ask for help on governance matters?
How do I mobilise the "what's in it for me" factor?
How do I know what is the best structure for my business now, will be the best further along?
How can I use others eg mentors and tap into their expertise? And where do I find them?
Where do I go for financial assistance - and is this related to my governance status?
How can I build sustainability into the business model?
What insurances do I need to protect myself and my business and my brand?
Do I need board members who have a vested interest and/or aligned with the purpose?
How can the idea be sustained after I am no longer involved?
Are committees the best way to go?
Building members, customers
How do I build a network where people are trying to sell to each other all the time?
How do you motivate 'local's to get involved?
How can I mobilise more people to join in?
As you can see it was a wide ranging conversation! Some of the answers were very personalised and went to the heart of meaning and values for the women participating. The answers included exploring:
- not for profit models such as companies, associations and co-operatives
- for profit models such as companies, partnerships, sole traders and co-operatives with distributing dividends, and,
- one not enshrined in legislation, but are being used as standards to assess purpose businesses was B Corps.
Business models were discussed in the context of how capital and cash flow is raised and included:
- sales of products and services
- equity crowdfunding
- generating income without profit investing back into a charity and using holding companies/ trusts or foundations
- philanthropic contributions
Kat Dunn, CEO of Grameen Australia kindly pre-recorded a video for us so she could join in and share her considerable experience in the field on the pros and cons of social business as a governance structure. Kat started her career as a lawyer at Clayton Utz, was on the senior leadership team and Diversity Council at Perpetual Limited and most recently served as COO of tech media company, Ideapod. She is the creator of F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum, and publicly advocates the need to overcome our national fear of failure in order to innovate. She is on the expert panel of new media disruptor Cockatoo Co. Lab, which showcases innovation and entrepreneurship from rural Australia. Kat is passionate about empowering humans rich or poor to grow their potential. Her contribution was enjoyed with a slice of homemade quiche and pink lemonade!
This blog hasn't offered any specific answers but it is clear these questions are pertinent and on-going. Another conversation date is going to be set for the city so stay tuned if you want to join in. If you have questions you would like answered please write a comment below and we will share them next time.