Top Tips for Social Entrepreneurs: Learn from Your Peers to Win Work

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This is the third post in our Top Tips series on winning work from buyers and commissioners. (Never fear though; Top Tips will be back with lots more advice on other aspects of the business of social enterprise.) We’ve already talked about thinking logically and thinking creatively to win work.

Now, we’d like to share some words of wisdom from social entrepreneurs that have experience of winning contracts and commissions. The top lines here seem to be pace yourself, and ensure the deals you’re entering into are as good a fit for you as they are for the buyer- but we’ll let the social entrepreneurs speak for themselves: 

1. “We use members of our board and close advisers to broker meetings and secure introductions to raise our profile and open doors.”

2. “We bring our service users to interviews with commissioners, no-one tells the story and impact of our service better than the service users themselves.”

3. “We nearly entered a contract that would have stretched us too far and risked jeopardising our reputation- don’t make the same mistake.”

4. “Have the confidence to walk away if the deal on the table isn’t right for you.”

5. “We learnt the hard way not to charge in blind to negotiations and instead we have built our track record first.”

6. “Ensure that you build in impact measurement too every bid you submit.”

7. “In my experience, commissioners are typically bad at articulating what they really want, as their thinking will develop over time, so keep asking questions, attend briefing meetings and be prepared to be flexible.”

8. “Establish your costs and the margins for delivering at scale.”

9. “As hard as it is, try to diversify and multiply your relationships with commissioners, so that you don’t find that all your eggs are in one basket.”

10. “We use personal case studies and draw links to the local setting that the commissioner or buyer is from, ensuring that our impact is directly relevant to them”.

I hope that you find all of our Top Tips for winning work useful and informative. We’re keen to hear your thoughts and tips that you have gained through your own experience in the comments below, or with us on Twitter tweeting at the @YFVentures account.

Many thanks to the current cohort of Young Foundation Accelerator participants for sharing their experiences of winning work. If you’d like to know more about this programme, take a look at the Accelerator project page.


This blog entry was part of our second Ventures Network Newletter.


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