• Joshua Holmes

Leadership: Resilience vs Flexibility

Photo: Joshua Holmes

Starting a business is notoriously difficult. While higher figures are often quoted, Forbes says that only 50% of businesses survive their first 5 years. And that’s for a traditional, transactional enterprise - often not one that makes a meaningful difference in the world or expresses the founder’s passions.

Photo: Peggy Marco

For the pioneers who try to create impact through social enterprise the figures are pretty bleak: only 8.7% of them survive half a decade. When you put your heart, soul and 50+ hours a week into trying to get one running, that’s quite disheartening. But why such a stark difference? The World Economic Forum highlights three core failings of social enterprises:

  • Lack of resources, skills and infrastructure to make such a venture sustainable

  • The context in which the enterprise is being launched

  • The board of directors lacking experience of having a conflict of interests

These are all relevant issues El Terreno, however I would like to turn your attention to a quote further down the page; “unlike other initiatives, social entrepreneurship is directly related to the personal qualities of the entrepreneur.”

After founding the volunteer and community programmes at El Terreno a year ago, we have encountered many challenges - and still do. One of the toughest problems we face is trying to balance all the competing demands, not all of which are relevant in a traditional business:

  • The volunteer's experience

  • The allocation of my time and resources

  • The relationship with the local community

  • Financial sustainability

  • Social and environmental impact

When you’re doing your best to create something that creates genuine impact in the world, moments when things aren’t working out or you receive criticism can feel like a punch to the gut. Many pieces of feedback may have good intentions and carry nuggets of insight; it may appear to those giving the feedback that their feedback can be easily implemented. Unfortunately, many haven’t walked in the shoes of a founder who juggles multiple responsibilities and conflicting priorities and their ability to fully grasp the big picture is limited.

But how does all of this relate to the personal qualities outlined by the World Economic Forum? In the remainder of this blog post, I want to share with you some of the internal leadership skills that I’m developing, which may also help speed up your success in your social innovation initiatives.

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If you're a social innovator and want to learn what it takes to start something like El Terreno, or if you would simply like to support the hard work that goes on behind starting a project such as this. Consider becoming a patron of the founder, Joshua Holmes.

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