Scaling Your Social Enterprise

Believe me…I’ve been there:  the ups and downs of social entrepreneurship, the sleepless nights, the too-little-money to live on and the passion to overcome.  We are, at least as I see it, at a joyful and powerful global inflection point where the power of the social entrepreneur is rising to the fore.  More and more social enterprises are, not only employing thousands and thousands of people, but doing so driven by the genuine desire to do good in the world.

I remember, all too well, five years into founding Girls on the Run…my son was six and my daughter was three.  My marriage was crumbling and my health was too.  I was trying to hold the ship together…much of the work being done single-handedly by me.

I went on a run, one summer morning.  It was sticky hot…brilliant red sunrise indicating the prospect of coming rain.  Just prior to beginning the run, I remember all to well, this feeling of surrender…a much needed “giving up” of the worry, anxiety and stress…a sense that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Finishing up my run and only several steps from my front yard, I heard it.  There have been only a handful of times the intuitive voice has spoken with such clarity…this being one of those.   “Trust in the process.  Be in the process and simply do the next right step.”

I recognized at that moment I needed to let much of it go…the day-to-day, the operations, the details and task-oriented activities and focus on what I do best…write, inspire, connect, innovate, create and motivate.

Within days, it was like magic.  The right people started showing up.  In reality, they had been there all along, but the difference was my mindset and my approach to their presence.  Instead of comparing myself or trying to somehow do the work as well as they could do it, I realized that the more I gave the work to them…let them do the work…the more time, energy, fuel and passion I had for the work I do best.

Giving wings to my gifts and talents, freed up others to give wings to theirs.  As the individuals within the Girls on the Run network began to grow, evolve and lean into their core talents, the organization grew rapidly, but now in an intelligent, consistent and structured way.  Girls on the Run, operates today on these same principals and is, without question,  a financially sustainable and quality-driven organization.  Our numbers, both in girls served and revenue grows by nearly 35% per year and while the growth isn’t necessarily something of incredible importance (not as much as the quality experience we deliver to the girls) it is a measure of just how great the work of our volunteers, staff and board members do, all across North America.

Whew…thinking about all I’ve learned…well, let’s just say I’ve learned a helluva lot along the way.

If you feel like you personally have a big idea and aren’t sure where to start, let’s talk.  If you have a big idea that has already gained some traction, but are trying to lift it to a higher level, let’s talk.  There’s lots you can avoid and lots you can do, to take it up a notch.  I know firsthand.

Informally, over a cup of coffee, or more formally with your board, your staff (both large and small), let’s share an experience that will allow you (and your team if appropriate) to trust in the process and take the next right steps, to launch, grow and powerfully share your message/product/social venture with the world.  I believe you really can change the world….

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