Kathleen McGinnis well acquainted with what it takes to runa sizeable organization. McGinn co-foundedBeerbistro, a successful downtown Toronto eatery she operatedfor a decade. At its peak, the business had 58 staff and $4.5 million in annual revenues.
But even with that entrepreneurial track record,McGinn’s new venture has required her to learn a lot of new things. McGinn is now thefounder and Executive Director of the EMPWR Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports advances in concussion recovery. “The nature of the businesses arevery different,” she says.
Here are three things McGinn says anyone running an organization—for-profit or not—needs to do to make their endeavour successful.
Managing competing interests
Entrepreneurs must serve many masters—shareholders, employees, vendors, partners and customers all have their own needs and interests that must be acknowledged and integrated into the running of the business.
But McGinn says that the process is even tougher in the not-for-profit world. “It’s a much more dynamic environment or space in terms of all the different people who have a stake in the issue of concussions in sports,” she says, pointing out that coaches, athletes, medical researchers and sponsors all view the problem in different ways.Beerbistro didn’t present quite the same multiplicity of viewpoints. “Food service was a little bit more focused, more unilateral, and there just wasn’t as much nuance,” McGinnsays.
In both cases, communication is the key to good stakeholder relations. “Be very specific about how you’re going to communicate to your audience,” McGinn counsels. “What are you actually trying to accomplish when you go out there and speak to people?”
Questions of identity
“Brand” isn’t just a buzzword thrown around by marketers who want to sell you their services. It’s a core part of how your potential customers (in the business world) or donors (in the not-for-profit world) see you.”Spend some time developing [your] brand identity,” McGinn says.”Have a really solid, clean, straightforward, [and]clear branding strategy that you’re able to communicate reallywell to what would potentially be your customer base or your audience.”
Stick to one thing
EMPWRfocuses on concussion recovery, a relatively under-resourced part ofthis growing medical field. Adopting a narrow mandate magnifies the foundation’s impact rather than limiting it, according to McGinn. The same principle applies to for-profit businesses.”You can’t be everything to everyone,” McGinn points out.”You have to really just put your stake in the ground.”
McGinn says it’s also important to exclude certain things from your organization’s identity. EMPWR, for example, focuses on recovery and not prevention.”Decide what you are, and then be very clear about what you’re also not.”
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