Social entrepreneurship doesn't just happen.
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It takes careful planning and a commitment to use your business to make a difference in the world . . . And it all begins with putting your idea on paper.
Despite the hype, more than a few small business owners think vision and mission statements are a waste of time – and in many cases, they're right. When a business owner approaches the creation of vision and mission documents as a perfunctory task, the documents lose their value and the time it took to create them would have been better spent elsewhere.
But unlike typical small business owners, social entrepreneurs don't have the option of neglecting their vision, mission, and core values statements. The inclusion of socially-minded goals and values in the business make clarification and documentation an absolute must. Without these elements your objectives can easily become convoluted and conflicted, much to the chagrin of your employees, investors, and other stakeholders.
The process social entrepreneurs use to create vision, mission, and core value documents is similar to the process used in any other small business. However, there are a few key differences you should keep in mind as you embark on your journey to do good through your business.
Vision statements describe outcomes. For example, a tire shop might create a vision statement describing their goal to become the largest tire retailer in the northeast. But social entrepreneurs take the "desired outcome" concept a step further by including articulating the noble cause that brings meaning to their work, and describing the social benefits they hope to achieve through their company. So if the tire shop was owned by a social entrepreneur, the vision statement could say, "To become the largest tire retailer in the northeast by promoting environmentally-friendly products and practices."
Mission statements describe what your business does and who you do it for. In effect, your mission statement will describe how your company will go about realizing the vision you described in your vision statement. As a social entrepreneur, this means you will also need to discuss how your business will achieve its social purpose. But here's the catch: Mission statements need to be brief to be effective. Anything more than a sentence or two will lose its punch, so you can't set out to detail everything your company does. Instead, you should focus your mission on the activity or activities that are most important in making your vision a reality. Subsequently, the socially-conscious tire dealership's mission statement could be, "To provide safe, affordable, and environmentally sound tire products to today's informed consumers."
Core values are the heart and soul of social entrepreneurism. They describe the things the business owner – and the business itself – hold sacred. In a socially-minded company, this shouldn't be hard to create since values are key components of your overall business philosophy. But when creating your core values statement, you need to remember that at the end of the day you are operating a business. If your core values focus exclusively on your social commitments and neglect coverage of your business values, you've failed and it's time to go back to the drawing board.