Better World Weekly (#29)  
April 2020 Review — Lessons & Conversations in Social
Impact & Purpose-Driven Business

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Happy Monday y’all, 

Welcome to this first edition of the Better World Weekly Reflection

At the end of each quarter, month, and week, I like to reflect on: 

  • What went well (positive results, things that felt good for me/the business, things that went well for life)
  • What could have been better
  • As a product of each of those, what will we do more of/less of? 

The object of these reflections and subsequent action plans is to do more of what feels good for me and the business, and less of what doesn’t. 

I spend quite a bit of time searching for the lessons within our experiences with Grow Ensemble. In fact, from time to time, Annie has described me as “obsessive” with these reflections. Given that she isn’t completely wrong, I wanted to share some of the fruits of that thought with y’all.

I hope that letting you into this reflection will spark observations and shared lessons within your own nonprofit, better for the world business, or personal life experience.

Enjoy the week and this edition of the Better World Weekly! 

-Cory

Grow Ensemble

Lessons & Reflections in Building a Purpose-Driven Business 

#1 — It Pays to Double Down on Your Strengths

I mentioned this on LinkedIn last week, but for the first time, our Grow Ensemble site saw over 10,000 visitors, 11,497 in the month of April to be exact. 😎

Of course, it’s not just the numbers that are important, it’s what they indicate more broadly. 

First, we are so proud and energized with the community we are building around the topics and interests of leaving the world a better place. 

Second, the growth of this community reflects the success of an important turning point for us as a business—a turning point that happened in late October of last year. 

We founded Grow Ensemble in November of 2018 and started The Social Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Development Blog in late October of 2019. 

It took us an entire year to start the Blog! 

The first year we were focused on our services for other businesses. For some reason, we just never thought it was a ‘good time’ to start our Blog. We either…

  1. Didn’t have the time.
  2. Didn’t have the team. 
  3. Didn’t have…something… 

We made a lot of excuses to delay starting our Blog even though this is something we are experts at doing…I mean that is what we do for our purpose-driven clients (with success we might add)! 

So what tipped us over to actually starting it? 

Getting extremely clear on what we were ‘world-class’ at, and then doubling down on doing as much of that as possible! 

If you are struggling for traction with your purpose-driven enterprise, take stock of what assets and strengths you have at your disposal. 

For me, I like to bring myself back to the questions of: 

  • What am I/are we really good at already? 
  • Of those strengths & skills, what could we see ourselves doing forever and ever and ever. 

For us…that’s creating content—the Blog, Podcasts, this Newsletter, and (in the future) videos. 

We love creating and publishing content in all forms. And that was our conclusion late 2019 that led us to our over 10,000 visitors this past month! 

What might that be for you? Get in touch and let me know!

#2 — Momentum: Everything Takes Longer (& Costs More) Than Expected…

A constant lesson for us here at Grow Ensemble… 

Every project, every task, every goal…almost always takes much longer and requires more effort to get up and running than anticipated. 

Whether that was starting our Blog in October and waiting until months later in February for those ‘true results’ of that traffic growth.

Or ramping up our production schedule to publish all of our content (podcasts, blog, etc.) and then finding the increase dramatically slowed down our site, which we now need to fix. 

It seems like all new initiatives and projects move at a snail’s pace when getting started.

They look like our traffic graph did:

The true payoff comes from having the patience and perseverance to see through the initial grind of all work and no reward. 

The lesson for us here at Grow Ensemble always comes back to: 

  1. Focusing on refining the process for how we are doing things… 
  2. Trust that by focusing on the process, the incremental improvements will eventually lead to the floodgates opening later on. 

This reminds me of Seth Godin’s concept of “the dip”: 

“The Dip is the long slow slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”

“Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go.”

And so, perhaps it’s that moment when we might pause and question, “Is this actually a good idea?” that might be a good time for us to identify whether we are in “the dip.” If we are, that’s when we just need to push harder, change the rules, and see it through.

If you haven’t read Seth’s book, The Dip, it’s a must-read for any of you who are working on a project right now that feels like a grind with little/no reward.

Conversations in Impact

Important Themes, Topics, and Conversations in the Better-World Space from the Last Month. 

💻 #1 — Changing the Way We Work & Live 

Everything in this COVID-19 world has been about making adjustments. We’ve made adjustments with how we work, how we go to the grocery store, how we are attending school… 

Of course, this hasn’t been without resistance, but it seems like the world is *mostly* settled into these changes (protestors excluded…😅). 

And now that we’ve settled, I can’t, and it seems others can’t as well, help but think about what adjustments might stick, or which aspects of previous “normalcy” might be changed forever…

For instance, to what degree will working remotely, semi-remotely, or something in between become the ‘new normal’? 

While it’s extremely difficult to replace the culture-building that results from being face-to-face with a team every single day, I’m sure plenty of business owners have been looking at their monthly rent for their office space and wondering how much of that is truly essential

For instance, a CEO I know who runs a 150-person nonprofit, pays over $150,000 a year for their office space in Austin, Texas. 

What if, in the alternative, they found a smaller office space, perhaps one half the price, and fewer staff members were required to be ‘in-office’ the whole week. 

Could you find a way to use that $75,000/year to invest in culture-building, employee benefits, and other means to improve company well-being?… 🤔

Not to mention…might some leniency of the where’s and when’s of work be another benefit to your staff? 

The first digital marketing agency I worked at was 100% distributed. We had 25 staff members, with an additional 15-20 contractors, located all over the world. 

We served over 100 client accounts, and the business hit nearly $3,000,000 in revenue before I left. The business ran, it grew, and we served our clients all without a common timezone…let alone a central office! 

What ‘normal’ do you think we might not return to?

🏦 #2 — Payroll Protection Program & Small Banks 

The Payroll Protection Program was wrapped up in much of our experience at Grow Ensemble over April. 

There was hope that we’d be eligible for PPP funding, then disappointment after hearing the funding had run dry despite us having applied the day applications were open. 

Shame, as we saw both anecdotal evidence and reporting supporting that it was small banks that were able to get their clients their PPP funding with consistent success while we at Grow Ensemble are still with a ‘big bank’ and have had it on our to-do list to change for some time… 

No better kick in the pants to switch, right? 

It’s extremely important to take note of this moment and not let the momentum it created be wasted. 

And without intentional effort, there’s a serious potential it might be. 

After all was said and done, we did end up receiving PPP funding from our ‘big bank.’ I’m sure many business owners have pocketed their frustrations and chosen to move on, chalking the issue up to the crisis itself. 

But, there are few better times than this exact moment to hold onto that momentum and shift support to those in the business world who, despite being in a time of crisis, will lean in harder to support the people they serve.

🌍 #3 — Earth Month: How Will Climate Action ‘Rebound’ Post-COVID?

In light of the global pandemic, it’s odd to say, but it seems the ‘climate crisis’ has taken a back seat.

Attention has shifted to resolving the more immediate crisis at hand, but it’s surfaced interesting trends:

  • Emissions have been down, but as we’ve already seen states and countries open up…activity (driving, etc.) largely returns to normal (or as close as it can). 
  • With concerns for sterility, single-use plastics have grown in demand. Whether that’s for protective medical equipment or takeout orders from local restaurants. 
  • Those doing critical work in fighting the climate crisis still need to do their work! But of course, as every other organization or business has come to question…they too are questioning, how do we continue our work in this moment? 

We read extensively on this issue this last month and of course, we hope for the best for how the post-COVID world will look at the state of our climate emergency. 

What an odd Earth Month/Earth Day it was…Annie and I were supposed to be out in Los Angeles at the 1% for the Planet Global Summit where we planned to convene with a community of environmental advocates in both the business and nonprofit sectors.

Sadly, we’ll have to wait to do so next year! Fortunately, however, 1% for the Planet has continued their advocacy and leadership virtually in light of the crisis. 

I’m sure we’ll get to learn more about their efforts when I chat with 1% for the Planet CEO Kate Williams later this month on our Podcast!

Where do you think action and perception of the climate crisis will land as we move forward into the post-COVID world?

End Note

Thanks for reading this edition of the Better World Weekly. I hope you enjoyed it. If you think you might have a friend or colleague who’d enjoy these sorts of updates as well, I’d love it if you shared it with them. You can send them here to sign up.

If you come across anything compelling in the world of social entrepreneurship and social impact, please send it my way. Love to hear what you are reading and interested in. 

Lastly, if you are a purpose-driven business or organization who wants help building an audience & community around your brand and mission, let’s schedule a strategy call.

-Cory

Co-Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble

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