Proposal: The New Enterprise Coaching Foundation

In Wednesday’s post I suggested that my next career may now lie in coaching (a) displaced and disenchanted baby boomers and entrepreneurial young people in high school and university on finding meaningful work and creating Natural Enterprises, (b) teens in a very progressive school (one where study is self-directed, not taught at a lectern, and where you learn by doing and by discovery, not by being told what to do) in critical life skills and/or (c) groups and organizations about how to use complex, adaptive processes to deal with intractable problems. I do want to pursue this in the way I’ve outlined in my book — finding the right partners, and then collectively with them researching, designing, and establishing a Natural Enterprise that integrates the coaching I would do with complementary, needed work that is meaningful to my partners.

But I also said I would put together a proposal for an entrepreneurial coaching service (service (a) above) that could be presented to enlightened governments that can appreciate that this service is urgently needed, and would help governments do their job better. This is an outline of such a proposal, that builds on the business case for my Caring Enterprise Coach business I produced two years ago. Before I convert the bullets to a text proposal, I’d appreciate your thoughts: Who, in what departments of what levels of government in what countries do you think might be most amenable to funding/buying the services of the NECF? How big would a ‘chapter’ of NECF need to be to provide well-rounded services to diverse entrepreneurial start-ups, and how large an area would it serve (my view: the more local and community-based, the better)? How would we credentialize those offering NECF services? What’s missing from the list of needs, benefits, offerings, and business model (ways of recouping costs)? If this is such a good idea, why isn’t someone already doing it (and I don’t mean chambers of commerce and accounting and legal and consulting firms — entrepreneurs need real business advice, not advice on administration and paperwork)? Who (BALLE?) would be logical partners for NECF?

OK, here’s the proposal:

The Need: Why A New Enterprise Coaching Federation is Needed

  • A staggering number of baby boomers are being outsourced, offshored, downsized, replaced by cheaper younger workers, early-retired, or are abandoning jobs that offer only exhausting, thankless, personally meaningless work for socially and environmentally irresponsible corporations. Most of these people are ill-equipped to find or create second careers, and most of them will fail to do so, give up, retire permanently, and may have to rely on government assistance for the shortfall in their income.
  • A large number of new entrants to the workforce, from high school and university, are unable to find non-menial employment, and are staying longer in school in the often illusory hope that more education will improve their employment prospects, or are taking two or three jobs unconnected to their skills just to make ends meet.
  • Underemployment in our society is epidemic: More than half of the workforce describe themselves as significantly underemployed. Their only hope to find meaningful work that allows them to do what they do best is through creating their own enterprises.
  • There is virtually no effective training for entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses, and much of the training that is available is unaffordable. MBA and other academic courses train people how to be middle-managers in large corporations, not how to start their own enterprise. Most notably absent is training on how to start enterprises that will create significant local employment, larger and more sophisticated enterprises than sole proprietorships and ‘mom and pop’ businesses.
  • Entrepreneurial training in classrooms doesn’t work: Entrepreneurs need one-on-one, hands-on, customized, just-in-time coaching, from experienced entrepreneurs not academics, to successfully launch and operate a sustainable and effective business.
  • The failure rate of entrepreneurial businesses is horrific (only 10% last over five years), and these failures carry with them huge social and economic costs.
  • Large corporations, thanks to the economics of offshoring and outsourcing, now destroy more jobs than they create — virtually all net new employment creation in North America is in entrepreneurial businesses.
  • Large corporations also destroy local employment and local economies by displacing local enterprises that hire and buy right in the community. Local enterprises need help competing against large corporations in what is an unfair and unequal playing field.
  • Large corporations also are not sustainable. They rely heavily on government subsidies and incentives, usually abandon communities when cheaper labour or faster-growing markets are found elsewhere, and offload the social and environmental costs that they produce to the communities that they exploit and then abandon. Entrepreneurs, by contrast, depend on local communities and must be responsive and responsible to them to be sustainable.

The Value Proposition: Benefits of a NECF to Each Stakeholder Group

  • Baby boomers and youth entering the workforce will get the coaching they need to assess what kind of business to establish, to research the market thoroughly, and to develop the business skills (not just administrative information) they need to launch and operate their enterprise successfully.
  • Governments will be rewarded with lower business failure rates, healthier local economies, employment growth, and a workforce with critical entrepreneurial skills that will keep them self-sufficient and off welfare and unemployment roles for life. They will also no longer have to offer huge subsidies to large corporations to entice them to create (often temporary and uneconomic) employment and local development.
  • Retired and semi-retired workers can supplement their incomes, find meaningful work, and transfer the valuable skills and experience they have acquired over a lifetime, by providing their services through NECF.
  • Local communities will benefit from a more resilient, entrepreneurial, productive, self-sufficient and happy local workforce, where workers stay in the community, create local jobs, buy from local producers, and hence contribute to the economic prosperity of the community. Local self-sufficiency also means less wear and tear on roads, less automotive pollution, healthier and more dynamic communities with everything in walking-distance, and even lower levels of alienation and crime.

The Offerings: What NECF Will Do

  • Provide counseling and coaching to help prospective entrepreneurs identify appropriate businesses for them to create (suitable to their talents and interests, and which meet a genuine need in the community). This could also entail helping downsized workers deal with the ‘grief’ and terror of unemployment, and getting them past the learned helplessness that ‘I could never be an entrepreneur’.
  • Provide a ‘matching service’ to help prospective entrepreneurs find business partners whose skills and interests complement theirs, so that larger, more sophisticated entrepreneurial businesses (with an inherently higher likelihood of success) can be created.
  • Provide guidance in how to establish a new enterprise. This would go far beyond the superficial administrative, regulatory and paperwork guidance most accountants, lawyers, consultants, chambers of commerce and even government business and economic development offices currently provide — and staffing would necessarily be experienced entrepreneurs who can provide context-specific coaching for the specific type of business the entrepreneur wants to create.
  • Provide training in entrepreneurial sustainability. Where many small businesses are just tide-me-over until-the-next-job temporary jobs, or are created with the expectation of selling out for a profit as soon as possible, NECF is dedicated to creating work that lasts. That means smashing a lot of the pervasive myths about entrepreneurship, teaching entrepreneurs about how to do thorough primary and secondary market and other research before launching the business, and teaching entrepreneurs innovation skills and the innovation process so that they can adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Providing group networking and training events as appropriate, so that entrepreneurs can build their networks and so that where training does lend itself to group and collaborative activity it can be offered in this format.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer continuous networking among users of NECF services, both within the community and with other NECF chapters, so that not only do entrepreneurs learn from NECF’s experienced staff, they also learn from each other. These networks would be pure peer-to-peer networks, not accessible to the hangers-on and exploitative sellers that plague most existing business networks. The key would be free exchange of knowledge, information and experience, with no ‘selling’ allowed.

The Business Model: How NECF Would Cover Its Costs

  • NECF is designed to be a not-for-profit foundation. It would not have any shareholders or other stakeholders whose interest is making a profit from its activities. 
  • NECF would recruit (mostly retired or semi-retired) experienced entrepreneurs, not academics, consultants, accountants or lawyers. It would appeal both to the altruism of these entrepreneurs (giving back to the communities that supported them) and the normal zeal of successful businesspeople to talk about and share their success secrets. NECF staff would include both full-time and part-time people, organized in chapters each focused on a local community and knowledgeable about that local community. Staff would be paid a modest, flat rate for their services (perhaps $75/hour). Chapters would be self-organized, with no back-office or administrative overhead.
  • Users of NECF services would be ‘charged’ the same $75/hour rate, but all charges would be deferred and forgivable on a successful-efforts basis. In other words, users would pay NECF only when and if they could do so comfortably and acknowledged that they had received substantial value from the services. This discretionary mechanism of user-pay-for-perceived-value will also serve as a definitive measure of the value that NECF is providing.
  • In return for the aforementioned benefits, sponsoring governments will pay NECF the $75/hour for all services rendered, write off the interest (from the time the user receives the NECF services to the time they can afford to pay for them), and write off the costs that users can never afford to, or (for whatever reason) determine they did not get value from. These write-offs should be considered an extremely modest and focused investment in workforce education, employment creation and local economic development.
  • Group networking and training events would provide ‘profit’ to the extent the coach:entrepreneur ratio was greater than the usual 1:1, and these ‘profits’ would be either returned to sponsoring governments or used to fund other approved NECF activities.
  • It is to be expected that the peer-to-peer continuous networking activities that NECF facilitates will provide deep and long-lasting value and relationships for entrepreneurs. This will allow the charging of annual network dues, the proceeds of which could alsobe either returned to sponsoring governments or used to fund other approved NECF activities.
  • Finally, some entrepreneurs may be so grateful for the ‘hand-up’ they received from NECF that they may want to become sponsors in their own right. As a foundation, such sponsorships will be accepted with pride and acknowledged as indication of the value that the foundation provides. It is not inconceivable that some NECF chapters might become entirely self-funded by such private sponsorships and donations, to the pointthat no government sponsorship or funding is needed.

Well, that’s all I have so far. What do you think?

PS: We’re hosting the big annual neighbourhood party tomorrow, so Links for the Week will be on Sunday.

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12 Responses to Proposal: The New Enterprise Coaching Foundation

  1. Siona says:

    I love this idea. I think – or fervently hope! – that the time is ripe for a return to community businesses. I don’t need to reiterate the reasons; you’ve done more than enough enumerating them here. Two things: are you familiar with SCORE? They offer something similar to what you propose. Also, the wholistic approach you’re envisioning is, to my mind, a major strength, as is the idea of coaching for sustainability and connection rather than growth. (Or rather, growth in the sense of expansion for expansion’s sake . . . growing deep roots is another matter entirely.)

  2. Karen M says:

    Me, too! A great wholistic idea!In another comment, I think I suggested Chicago as the kind of “enlightened” government you were looking for…but while I was reading this, I thought of that group of cities (maybe some states?) who are joining together to do what they can to decrease global warming. (Can’t google a link now– utilities running.) Now that’s an enlightened group, and one focus could be enterprises that would further their goal.[Hi, Siona! –speaking of connections.]

  3. Karen M says:

    oops! that group of cities includes Chicago.

  4. Melinda says:

    What will it involve to become a client?

  5. Siona says:

    (Yikes. Sorry about that open tag . . .)

  6. Hi, Dave–I love your blog and read it frequently! In fact, your blog is on my blogroll.A variation of the organization you’ve mentioned already exists–at my company, Creative Sage

  7. Siona says:

    And one more thing. The cities (that Karen mentioned) banding together are, I believe, part of the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement: they comprise a list of Mayors who’ve gone ahead and signed the Kyoto Protocol that’s been ignored by our government. This makes me think that approaching Chambers of Commerce or City Halls or local government officials would be an excellent place to start. After all, these are officials with a vested interest in growing healthy businesses in their communities. Perhaps contacting a mayor or two and asking for their input would be a good next step.

  8. Karen M says:

    Thanks, Siona! That’s the group. If Dave knows someone who knows someone in government in any of the cities, that might be a good place to start. I was actually thinking, though, that the larger organization might be a good place to start, too. For some reason, I was thinking there were some cities in other countries involved, too, but I could be mistaken.

  9. dave davison says:

    The failure rate of entrepreneurial businesses is horrific (only 10% last over five years)I think you meant the success rate, Dave – or if you meant failure rate -the number would be 90%Take a look at the amazing success rate of the Mondragon Cooperative Project in Spain, and the community-based structure that sustains Mondragon projects.

  10. Dave Pollard says:

    Wow — thanks for the encouragement and the great links everyone. The big challenge here will be the business model, and specifically convincing governments not so much that this is a good idea, but that they should hire experienced entrepreneurs to offer the service rather than having existing civil servants do it. This is why, in any new venture, it’s important NOT to try to launch stuff alone, but instead let it emerge and be co-developed by the whole partnership, to bring the benefit of diverse ideas and experiences. I’m starting with organizations like BALLE and trying to organize a thought session involving them and interested government people together, where instead of trotting out ‘my’ business model I lay out the rest and then let them collectively design the business model, so it’s their idea and I don’t have to sell it. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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