Living life as a Social Enterprise – it’s about people, the planet and profit.

It feels like this has been a long month; I’ll keep this post short.

It may be the ‘time of year’ but I feel like this month I’ve been asked more than usual to sit on panels and present at events. At these events, after sharing my story and experiences, I’m often asked one question in particular: HOW are you able to do ALL that you do? I smile and then give an answer. Each time, though the answer is biased by what kind of day I’ve had and who my audience is, I give a similar answer. An answer based on my approach to life enhanced by the hyper personality I’ve always had.

My approach? – I live life with a triple bottom line

Social Enterprises (and quite a few ‘normal’ companies) operate with the concept of a triple bottom line. This means that in addition to keeping an eye on their financial bottom line (i.e. how much money they make), they also keep an eye on their impact on the planet, and their impact on people. A concept that stretches  across different industries, this means operating ethically and can influence company policies and terms of engagement with a company’s suppliers and clients.

Earlier this year, I stumbled on the ‘Startup of You’ book which outlines the ‘best’ way to navigate a career in today’s world: by treating yourself like a startup and operating like one. Applying my consciousness of all three bottom lines, in my daily actions and interactions, I’d like to propose a slightly different framework: the ‘Social Enterprise of You’.

Visual Notes from Sacha Chua on ‘The Start-up of You’ by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha.

SocEnt of You: in Practice

What does this mean for me? I often refuse carrier bags when shopping, especially if my current bag has space, or I’m only buying a few items. When I started this habit, it would shock shop assistants that I didn’t need a carrier bag to take my bottle of water away. Now I feel more normal denying the plastic. I’ve also recently gone paperless and actively try to scan things (like interesting articles in magazines that require an iPad subscription) to my Dropbox, rather than having physical photocopies of things. I also flew in October without printing a single boarding pass (go Delta!). We recycle at home and I call out friends if they’re hosting me and I don’t notice a recycling bin. I wouldn’t say that I’m fully ‘green’, though. More a ‘slight shade of green’.

As for people, I try as much as possible to dedicate my skills and time to charitable causes and the development of others: I enjoy helping and ‘doing good’ and enjoy seeing the results of my help. I actively seek opportunities to get involved in small organisations that I think are doing good things in a good way. I mentor, teach, advise and support on themes I care about – like Women in STEM, why maths is fun and helping others appreciate the benefits of technology. This month alone, I’ve handed out prizes to socially disadvantaged bright kids, spoken on a panel to teens wanting to go into business, have hosted an event where we encouraged young professionals to take up roles as trustees and have sat in a half-day workshop on helping women in the UK into STEM.

Lastly, profit. I have a job, keep my debts small (no loans) and try as much as possible to build capacity for extra personal ‘revenue streams’. Be these from speaking, running events or selling my maths book online I’m always on the look out for ways to monetise what I have. I’m also not afraid to experiment with ideas and give them a try – Lean Startup style.

Why do I live like this?

It’s certainly not easy to keep my fingers in all of those pies. Some people have told me it’s not sustainable, and I’ve found myself in hospital on occasion at the height of activity. Internally, something motivates me. I don’t know if it’s a result of faith, a good upbringing or a strong moral compass, but I feel that it’s in my human nature to want to do good. It’s also my belief that anything is possible, and that I can do anything – something which I think we’re all born with, but somewhere along the line gets knocked out of us. Babies use raw ambition and persistence when learning to walk, and to talk.  There are several theories out there on the reasons why people do what they do, and the motivations for life achievements.

All I know, is that living like a Social Enterprise is doing wonders for me.

Peace

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