How social entrepreneurs can survive tough times

In the latest in his occasional series of letters to a young social entrepreneur, Liam Black (whose job title is chief encouragement officer) offers advice to social entrepreneurs on how to get through when times are tough.

Dear Jude

It's tough out there isn't it? Brexit? Austerity? Hard to hear a really clear signal in the noise but whatever's going on this is proving to be our toughest sales push for ages.

And it's not just me. Everywhere I look – the businesses in the Ignite and IVUK portfolios, social entrepreneurs I meet at events, those who get in touch for advice and introductions, clients and mates across the corporate world – it's the same story. Hard yards to reach those sales targets – especially in B2B. 

If successful selling is about the ability to transfer enthusiasm, I have to admit Jude, there are times when I just have to fake it. 

Plug in regularly to what gives you energy and passion

It feels relentless. That feeling when you've had a string of no's and the thought gnaws away at you that maybe this is it and the game's up ("Jesus, it's nearly the end of November already? How'd that happen?"). 

Jude, plug in regularly to what gives you energy and passion. For me this means playing with my granddaughter, being as available and helpful as I can be to the entrepreneurs and changemakers in my networks and making sure I get out for a run at least twice a week.

It's when times are toughest when you must double down on looking after your body and spirit. And look after the energy and morale of your team and those who look to you for leadership and motivation. If you're feeling the pressure, they surely are too. 

Really understand why people are not buying from you. Is it just price or is there something else going on? There is always golden data to be picked up from those who can't or won't buy. Make sure you make time to ask them. 

Try and discern (and it's not easy I know) what are temporary blips specific to each client. Key personnel may have moved or left or budgeting cycles may have slipped back. There may be deeper market shifts which will require changes in your strategy and business model. 

Hang in there, kiddo. And remember, there are times when you just have to suck it up and keep on keeping on. 

As one of my head chefs used to shout to the team when the going was tough in the hot crowded kitchen: "head down, arse up, keep chopping!" 

Peace, love and profit.

Photo credit: Emma Simpson/Unsplash