Richard Freeman reflects on the day he hung out at the beach with Good Business enthusiasts
Last week, between the Volks Electric Railway and the tanned language students enjoying beach volleyball, a handful of curious consultants and enablers spent the day together in a shack on Brighton Beach.
We didn’t have a clear mission other than to create some form of combined shared mission, to better understand if the sum is greater than its parts.
The truth is, a lot of us are competitors. When mapping out our individual provision, it’s clear how much facilitation we all offer, market research services, mentoring, routes to funding, training and positioning.
I was there. Carlos and Lawrence from The Happy Start Up School. Rebecca from UnLtd. Sara from The Platform was a co-convener, with her new colleague Ruth – founder of the rebel supermarket HiSBe. Kofi from UrbanMBA was there, Simon from Sussex Innovation Centre, Lisa from Community Works, Lorraine from The Green Growth Platform, Mark from Oxford University Innovation, Geoff from StartUp Croydon and Kristina from NatWest.
But, we started to think beyond or own ‘bit’. And this was the point.
Just getting together on a sunny day and asking questions, better understanding and being curious meant that we think more deeply about the need, and the people, we might be serving. We thought about Good Business – whatever that is.
Picture credit: The Platform
We all support social entrepreneurs in some way, or want to. But we didn’t try to define what a social entrepreneur is. Good Business is just business that is aware of what it can do beyond the bottom line. Isn’t it? We agreed that company legal structures are deeply unhelpful as a determiner of Goodness. And Good Business can not be conflated with simple charitability.
But by exploring our relative experiences and understanding, we can start to interrogate some of the bigger bits of the jigsaw that each of cannot do alone in our business support roles.
Some themes, some general, and in need of further thought:
- Social entrepreneurs will often avoid investment. Why? Are the investors actually there at all for businesses with a triple bottom line?
- Start-ups are well catered for, but why does support often become narrower when businesses want to scale. The funds for risk dry up.
- Should more businesses be allowed to fail? Can failure be shared better? We better understand failure, but is good money spent on bad ideas?
I’m interested in the quadruple helix (the relationship between private, public, community and research sectors) and where Good Business can be best accelerated and grown. But all business relies on narrow focus- often at the expense of looking up.
Good Business can be better than ordinary business. No? If ordinary business is focused on shareholder and customer value – Good Business needs also to focus on civic value, the value of place and the value of social change. Good Business can’t be anything like ordinary business, because it has to be driven by a bigger world view and skills that connect operational efficiency, commercial savvy with big, balls-out, disruptive challenges to the status quo.
Ordinary business needs to be Good Business.
Well, I believe in narratives. Stories that use constituent parts to forge new infrastructures. Not Old Power infrastructure – we all agreed, we’re not in this room to wait for the banks, the governments, or the councils. But new open sourced, interconnected structures that build on the knowledge and learning.
Good Business leaders just don’t have time to be starting from scratch every time there is a new idea. Good Business deserves to have a flexible infrastructure that picks it up, shakes it down, pushes it and keeps it relevant. Because if it succeeds we all do.
So meeting, selfies in the sun, sharing sandwiches, writing on lots of post-its – well it’s a start. There could be some Good power in a support ecosystem that’s bigger than any one agency.
Want to delve in?
Read our guest blog from MakerClub’s Declan Cassidy about the different shapes of Good Business.
Listen to our RoundTable debate on values in business.
Tell us about your world-changing ideas.