“We build the plane as we fly it” were Kathryn Hill’s words as she described what her own, and many other organizations experience as they strive to expand their operations and impact while maintaining service excellence with customers.
Over the course of an organization’s lifetime, it must expand operations in response to progressive increases in demand and a need for greater impact. While doing so, an organization has to maintain high levels of efficiency and service quality in order to be successful. This arduous process is known as Scaling and can be especially difficult for social enterprises, given their often limited resources and an ongoing need to balance financial and social goals.
After seeing the challenges that many social enterprises face when trying to scale their business, CSED decided to take action and help address the topic. Fueled by hot tea and coffee, Executive Directors from over 35 social enterprises gathered last week to discuss their various successes and failures regarding scaling. The CSED-led event was headlined by speakers from EcoEquitable, Y’s Owl Maclure, Heartwood House, and Family Services Ottawa, who all shared incredible insights on the growth of their own social enterprises and offered warm words of wisdom to social enterprises striving to scale their respective operations.
To spark the breakfast discussion, Anouk Bertner, Director of Business Operations and current interim Executive Director of EcoEquitable, spoke about the role that service excellence played in EcoEquitable’s success.
What Comes First, the Story or the Service?
According to Anouk, social enterprises often struggle with scaling because they are too focused on telling their story. For Anouk and EcoEquitable, growth was the product of two things: the development of a catalog to automate and streamline operations, and a shift towards focusing on service excellence rather than the story behind the social enterprise. Service excellence, as Anouk says, is the primary factor in attracting and retaining loyal customers.
To this passionate young leader, a social enterprise’s story, however compelling, should simply be an augmentation of its product/service excellence. In other words, the driving force should be the story, while the selling point should be service excellence.
After a great opening by Anouk and a short Q & A, the second installment of CSED’s Breakfast Series moved along to the panel discussion portion of the morning.
Character, Excellence, and Reputation
When it came to scaling, Hugh Nelson, Moe Moloughney, and Kathryn Hill, the three breakfast panelists from Y’s Owl Maclure, Heartwood House, and Family Services Ottawa, respectively, each had their own tale to tell. In turn, the three panelists spoke about how their organizations have grown and evolved to become thriving social enterprises in Ottawa. Inspired by their own unique background and values, these social changemakers put faith in themselves and their ideas in order to make a difference in their communities.
Whether your social enterprise is trying to put an end to food insecurity, providing solutions to those trying to overcome barriers to employment, or simply giving someone a friend to talk to in hard times, remember this important lesson from Moe Moloughney:
“Your Character is in your story, your excellence is in your service delivery, and your future is in your reputation”.
To learn more about the social enterprises in Ottawa, click here.