Sharing by Mr Ronald Low, Chairperson & Founding Member, Istoria Co-operative Singapore Ltd
Socialpreneurship is a challenging journey to embark on. It is made harder by the very structure that the co-operative needs to have ie 5 ordinary members in the Committee of Management. It used to be 10! Humans as we know are the hardest to work with, even in pairs. Whether its parent to child, girlfriend and boyfriend and between spouses, friction often occur for many reasons. Personally, I feel that the ego of an individual is often a major cause of this conflicts. Different stakeholders often have different viewpoints on a particular issue and it’s very tough to resolve since it involves compromising oneself. When it cannot be resolved, it often leads to personal attacks.
Thus at the early stage of any start-up, the human resources need to be aligned and when it is not, decisive actions have to be taken before the toxicity spreads like a cancer. This is in addition to the need to grow the revenue of the business and balance it with the social mission, as co-operatives are regulated social enterprises. They are often misunderstood as charities, which they are not. To do good, the co-operative needs to do well as they cannot be dependent on donations.
It is now the start of the 3rd year in 2021 and having only assumed the leadership of the collective in mid of 2020, there are many important lessons that I have picked up along the way and thus decided to put it down in writing, for the purpose of sharing. …juz a couple of points 🙂
Evolution is so necessary in today’s disruptive environment. We are not talking about the products / services that we sell but also how we sell them. Businesses need to develop something that had never been done before to be successful and often a minor adjustment in the strategy and improvement in the product is all that is needed. Take photography courses as an example. It can’t get more real than this, since the collective is in this business segment. Face to face courses were popular years ago and there was serious money to be made. But with the advent of YouTube, you can learn the basics of photography in the comfort of your home and spend zero dollars. So how?
There must be value add to potential clients and consumers to motivate them to buy. Are there intrinsic benefits and reasons to consume, that a seller has failed to identify? Consumers are humans and we constantly evolve, in terms of needs and wants. Sellers have to be sensitive to that.
2. Pilot & Iterations
When you are first starting out, you will have many ideas that you want to try out. You have your internal discussions on SWOTS, market positioning and strategies etc. However, most of it remain as it is, theory.
It is important to test out a few ideas as a collective and this acts as a hedge, in the event that 1 or more of the ideas actually fail. Basic rule, brainstorm a quick way to put together the most basic form of a product(s) to send to potential customers. You need to do this as the business environment is constantly changing. When you roll out the product, it is real time information on how successful the product might be in the market versus the various assumptions that you put on paper. With the market info provided, it allows to fine tune your product offering so that demand is actualised. Remember this, no matter how good the quality of your product is and the market doesn’t demand it, it is an useless product. Period.
3. Think for the present and be flexible
The old school method was to have a 3-5 years business plans or strategy. That was good for a time long gone. The world is not revolving any more, it is spinning out of synch with so much disruptions.
It is advisable to have plans as they are road-maps. But focus on the short terms and immediate future. I usually plan for 3-6 months and a year, depending on the situation. No point crafting long term plans as it will lose its relevance as the environment changes and we need to be flexible and adapt.
For the last 2 years, I had to change the business focus due to changes in the competitors’ offering, disruption in human resources etc. Once you catch a wave, ride it and look for the next wave. Be nimble.
4. Work Sufficient and Play More
We often hear of stories of entrepreneurs working 24/7 because they are so passionate about their business or are simply hungry for success. I personally do not agree to that as it leads to burnout. Without rest and play, the heart, mind and soul will not last the journey till you find success.
Never sacrifice family, social life, health and fun! This can help clear your mind so you’ll make better decisions or arrive at realizations that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
#collaborate #cooperate #teamwork #positivevibes #harmonybreedsprosperity