This article appeared in Issue 3#3 (March/April 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
Could your business be a cause of significance through originating problem-solving projects? Are there people in your team who are passionate, agile and innovative? This article explores the possibility of you and your business doing more in the world through the world of franchising all the while enhancing your brand.
We have been overwhelmed with doom and gloom stories from the media. I can only imagine what reading and re-reading the words ‘financial crises and ‘economic down turn’ are having on our psyche.
Keeping positive in negative environments
I was having lunch with a client recently and we got talking about ways to keep his team positive. We discussed how sometimes, exposing ourselves to situations that are far worse than our own, gives a different perspective. We went on to discuss how a new perspective is all we need to really appreciate and be grateful for what we already have.
In tough times, it can be difficult to still be ‘bothered’. Being in appreciation and feeling grateful helps keep us motivated and contributing rather than falling into a trap of indifference. It helps us keep sharing our thoughts ideas and energy with others and to ‘be bothered’.
“Exposing ourself and our team members to situations far worse than our own is one way to ‘be more bothered’.” – Tanya Lacy
Despite the changes in the economy over recent times, we in the ‘developed’ world have a standard of health and living that is a much higher than many people in underdeveloped places. We in comparative terms live a privileged life. While our showers may be getting shorter, at least we have showers. Our drinking water is safe, we do not face war everyday, we have access to medical attention if required and food is readily available.
Do you have any under-utilised creative people in your team? Are you looking for some ways to harness them and keep them stimulated in your business? Would you be willing to explore creating an initiative or pro-active program that not only benefits your brand but enhances problem solving skill in them?
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein
Imagine if you took the small under-utilised team and gave them criteria. You asked them to look at the world, to research a problem that they consider to be serious and deserving of resolution. You ask them to make a linkage between your business and the purpose of your business with this problem.
You set aside a day to work through and strategise how to best add value to this problem. You find solutions. You explore how the solution you come up with could be replicated so others could benefit. You brainstorm on funding models, ways to market, and ways to get the project off the ground and so on. The deeper the problem and the closer your team gets to addressing the root cause, not only the more satisfying to you as the solutions team, but the better the end result and the bigger the impact.
“Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.” – Scott Peck
Inspiring Change Makers
I recently met up with Ashoka in New York. Ashoka is an organisation that specialises in funding entrepreneurs who have high impact social solutions. They get funding from corporations, and then manage and seed fund the innovative concepts that problem solve in the world to fruition. I have since been working closely with Ashoka sharing ideas on small or mini franchises (micro-franchising) that problem solve in east-Africa. The ideas that are out there are incredible.
Kiva.org is an organisation that over the internet provides interest free loans to micro-businesses by matching investors or lenders to entrepreneurs.
In my blog I list a piece from Time Magazine written by Bill Gates. He discusses what he calls ‘Creative Capitalism’ and gives eight examples of organisations that innovate and solve problems at the same time; this is an alternative to business for business sake.
In the developed world context there are quite a few companies who are sending members of their teams into schools to mentor students.
This is one example of sharing know-how for the benefit of others.
It helps the mentor and it also helps the student.
Don’t mess with success (core business)
What I propose is not so much about interfering with the core business or core business model that works, so much as tapping into discretionary time and energy of under-utilised team members and developing ‘new’ and ‘adjunct’ projects that engage and enrol the business and get innovative around ideas, which complement the business. Innovation has the impression of being expensive. Don’t underestimate the power of a few passionate people in a room together focussed on solving problems they are committed to resolving.
Repeatability and systemisation
Quite simply, in the game of franchising, we are all about systems and following systems that solve problems. We understand intrinsically that if a system is created well and followed, it can be replicated and repeated; creating a self reliance model that is almost perpetual. Self breeding if you like and of course self sustaining.
This is precisely the skill and resource that underdeveloped locations in the world require to become completely self sufficient. This is a huge opportunity.
Innovation in Action
In the problem-solving process, new and valuable skills are learned. Some of these skills are tangible and some are intangible.
A specific example of this could be; if you are a franchise to do with schooling or knowledge that you could partner with a social entrepreneur who is working in this area (in an underdeveloped location).
I know of one such social entrepreneur personally, based in Australia, with local partners on the ground in the village, who for 12 years has been working on a project in Papua New Guinea.
He is doing development work from his own resources without any grants or assistance and enrolling others who are like minded to get involved with know-how sharing.
Can you imagine the benefit not only to that particular village in PNG but if the skill, know-how being shared is also linked to the style of franchise you are in, it could be a great corporate social responsibility project for your particular business to initiate.
Choose your impact on the world
I see a very snug fit between franchising and this suggestion because my experience with people in franchising is that they are passionate and get things done. There is an entrepreneurial spirit in people involved in franchising and a particular ‘can do’ energy that is very exciting.
Why wait for ‘one day’?
You may recall the ‘every 3 seconds’ campaign (clicking fingers) that Make Poverty History conducted, creating awareness that a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world every 3 seconds.
Sitting around meeting rooms debating can very much frustrate the problem-solving process. It is understandable that a high degree of emotional deliberation and discussion is necessary when large manoeuvres of aid distribution etc are on the table.
However, the smaller bite size project approach with well oiled teams within a franchising context offers a very high impact and fast cut through alternative.
Energy and agility of franchising
Cold hearts, hot heads and long talk-fests rarely solve problems. As such, the idea of small nimble and agile teams addressing specific problems in the world where it counts and working tightly as a team in pure service is something very exciting to me.
This type of project has the capacity to serve others in more ways than you can even anticipate until you get involved. The ripple effect is immense. It is leadership and innovation in action for the purpose of serving our fellow man.
I recently interviewed a Social Entrepreneur and have this up on my blog. This interview discusses well projects in Ethiopia. One well in the ground provides water for a village of over 500 people. This is being replicated all over northern Ethiopia. The impact is incredible. It attracts teachers, forces the need for business skills and improves health and living conditions. Amazing.
The projects that your franchise undertakes could be large or small, local, national or international. Whatever size and style of project you get involved in be sure to:
- Link the project to something related to your business sector.
- Ask your people what they would choose to get involved in.
- Understand key outcomes for your business in adopting a corporate social responsibility project.
- Be clear on the benefits to the individuals in your business who are getting involved.
- Ensure that the people involved are 100% engaged and that it has a succession plan so that it can be continued even when the initiators get bored with it.
If increased teamwork, tighter synergy, deeper understanding of team dynamics, increased communication, efficiency in performing core tasks, increased passion for the brand are of interest to your business this could be worth taking to the next step. Keep us posted of your progress.
“No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire
Tanya Lacy is a founding Director of The Coaches Consortium, a franchised business system delivering the powerful Intercept coaching program. With over a decade of delivering the Intercept Experience to companies, Tanya shares valuable insight, having worked with business leaders. www.tanyalacy.blogspot.com
For further information on the Intercept program visit www.thecoachesconsortium.com for franchise enquiries for coaches and business operators.