The questions I would ask social entrepreneurs before I start working with them [Based on the BASET Project]
Following the publications on our blog in the BASET project’s site - www.baset.info, let me share as a mentor and management consultant, what questions I would ask social entrepreneurs at my first meeting with them. The proposed questions neither exhaust all possibilities, nor claim universality. Any one of us - mentors and consultants - could ask more or less the questions below, depending on their own experience and concrete case.
Nevertheless, I believe that at the very beginning of starting my work with my client – the social entrepreneur, I have to sketch a general picture of the business idea and to understand the profile of the owner of it.
Questions to ask social entrepreneurs
So, let me describe these questions with more details:
1. The first question concerns the motivation of the person. I would be very keen to have an idea what his/her motivation is and why he/she would like to start his/her own business in the areas of tackling social challenges and problems. I will ask the entrepreneur whether he/she knows what the expected impact is and whether he/she will rely on sustainable decisions. What the vision and mission are and how they are described? What does lead the entrepreneur to the realization of this idea?
2. Secondly, it is commonly accepted that the inherited mentality of people is an important factor of their decisions to become entrepreneurs and to help other people. I would ask them to share with me whether in their family they have entrepreneurs or people who have led other people and managed projects, and if they have received tips and good examples from them? Or maybe they have been instructed or influenced by other leaders or concrete examples in a national or global context?
3. Next question concerns important competences. Does the entrepreneur know the social issues he or she will have to deal with as an entrepreneur and could he/she share with me what knowledge and competences still lack about this area, as well as for the economy and management of the company or the organization, which the entrepreneur plans to start-up or scale-up? Does the entrepreneur know well what difficulties and challenges await him on the way?
4. The 4th question concerns what skills the entrepreneur would be able to rely on, so the social venture is successful? Does he or she know what skills they lack for being successful social entrepreneurs??
5. Next, I would like to know whether the entrepreneur has personal experience in working with social projects and/ or with doing classic business? I will ask the entrepreneur about his or her experience in a social enterprise or in a network that supports social causes? Any information I will receive about the previous experience of the social entrepreneurs can be very supportive for me as a mentor and consultant?
6. My 6th question will be about empathy. I will be very interested to know what is the reason that the entrepreneur would like to be involved in solving social challenges. Whether this is philanthropy, social responsibility, the belief that everything is in our hands and this is their philosophy of life, or the understanding that every business is social when it is innovative, and that the social business model is more efficient in comparison with the classic ones, or this is a better approach of searching for justice, or for solving global problems, or all these things? Also, I would be very interested to understand if the entrepreneur is ready to achieve the goal, despite the anticipated difficulties and losses and he/she is ready to work hard towards reducing the risks of failure to a minimum?
7. The 7th question concerns the leadership and is one of the most important for me. I would be very curious to understand what the entrepreneur thinks about him/herself as a leader who can engage other people in solving the tasks and achieving social impact? What qualities are needed and are useful to become a business leader as well? Does the difference between the two types of leadership is known?
8. Next question concerns the integrity. Whether the entrepreneur knows the moral and ethical norms of doing business in regard to users, investors, customers, beneficiaries, competitors, suppliers, consultants, etc.? Is the entrepreneur ready to give up of the ideas and goals for achieving financial and social impact, if this overrides the norms?
9. The 9th question is about what is the social intelligence of the entrepreneur I would be engaged to work for. Can the entrepreneur find stakeholders, supporters, partners and/ or a network of contacts that support their mission and intend to achieve specific social effects? How does he/she plan to include them in their initiative / project / enterprise to increase their chances of success?
10. And finally, the 10th and may be the most important question concerns the business model. Does my trainee or mentee have an initial idea of how he/she will create and sell something useful to the users, and how the target group will benefit? I would like to receive simple answers to the questions: who, why, what, how, to whom, and where? Can my mentee develop a more detailed operational business plan and do they know where they would seek some help?
This package of questions may look quite large but form my experience any professional mentor, coach, consultant, or trainer can succeed of collecting all those answers within 30 minutes. The professionals can also use ready questionnaires that are included in our SEDM model and are posted in the site as self-evaluation questionnaires https://www.baset.info/for-social-entrepreneurs.html .
After making this preliminary picture of the business idea and the profile of the social entrepreneur, we can proceed with creating an individual plan for working with him or her.
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