I’ve been working with small businesses for the past 15 years. I specialize in helping organizations run more efficiently. A high percentage of my clientele are smaller (less than 50 people) organizations in the “teenage” phase - they’ve successfully gotten their organization off the ground (childhood), and now they need to learn how to put in the right systems and structures to grow well. I also mentor many organizations in the “child” phase and have seen a lot of success with organizational growth during my practice.
I personally like to solve problems. That’s why I do what I do professionally - I see patterns in organizations, and I can usually provide recommendations and guidance to remove bottlenecks and increase efficiency and impact. In my experience, all organizations - for-profit, non-profit, and EA orgs, all have very similar core structures and models. I’d really like to be able to help solve the problem of EA organizations not having the right support they need to thrive.
In the for-profit space, most business development programs focus on businesses in the startup “child” phase. There are a lot of programs in place for incubation and mentorship at that stage. Once businesses get larger, however, their needs increase but the institutional systems to support them decrease. Instead, businesses often turn to hiring professional managers, operations experts, and talent development experts, and/or to working with professional consultants and training organizations.
In the nonprofit sector there is less support at all stages of development, but especially at later stages of growth. Many non-profit organizations are given plenty of financial support but no mentorship or management training at all. Management and ops teams are highly motivated for their cause but often very inexperienced, which means that they struggle a lot more, the burnout rate is higher, and the success and impact rates are far lower than they should be.
While this is true for non-profits in general (based on my experience and that of my colleagues), it anecdotally appears to be especially true for EA organizations. There also appears to be less of a culture of hiring professional managers and operations experts or working with professional consultants and coaches, especially if those professionals are not already embedded within the EA community. Instead, many EA organizations end up trying to mostly “go it alone” and figure things out on their own. This seems very suboptimal.
In terms of investment, it’s a choice between investing x amount of your own time and y number of mistakes versus spending money to “buy” that. If improving your time efficacy translates into greater impact, it makes a lot of sense to spend money upfront on getting the best organizational development support you can, thereby maximizing the time and effort you can devote to what you are actually best at.
[I love the chart that Dave Cortright developed in his post to show the impact of getting the right support. If we can support our young orgs by providing them with the tools they need to thrive, we will be exponentially increasing their impact and success ratios. Ben Kuhn has a great summary in his post as well.]
In my experience working with entrepreneurs, operations managers, and leaders over the years (both in for- and non-profits), people seem to do best when the following conditions are met:
- They have access to relevant education and knowledge
- They have a system for growth and accountability and others’ experience by working with mentors, experts, consultants, and coaches
- They have a strong community for support, collaboration, and guidance
To that end, over the past few months I’ve been working to develop several programs for EA organizations:
- Operations and management fellowship programs: These programs support organizational leaders and operations managers in developing their organization by providing education, community, and access to experts to build and grow a stronger organization. Our program is like a mini-MBA, providing you with the knowledge and experience you need to run your organization effectively. It combines the benefits of peer advisory groups and workshops, with half of the time spent on interactive content development and relevant topics, and the other half dedicated to accountability and peer support. We have two separate tracks for leaders and ops managers to ensure that each group is supported within its own community. We are starting our next cohorts in January and February, and we would love for you to be a part of our growth journey. To apply for the program or learn more, click here.
- Management consulting / coaching: I usually call it consulting because we advise people what to do. Some people might prefer to call it coaching because we're not taking on a specific project. Regardless of the name, it serves the same function - getting an external, expert perspective, and guidance, so that you’re constantly achieving more and working past obstacles. Working with a good consultant or coach isn’t cheap - but if you find the right one, it can highly impact the trajectory of your organization.
- Consolidated resources: [development in progress]: I've been working to create a consolidated source for all organizational support services so that orgs have one place to go to “connect all the dots” between EA org support providers. If I’m still having a hard time finding out who all the people are that can help EA orgs (and I’ve been trying to get all the pieces together for over half a year), how hard must it be for our young orgs and leaders? If you provide any business / org support services and would like to be in our network, please message me. My website will eventually have links to all pre-vetted resources. (This website is a model for something similar that I did for the small business community that I’d like to apply to the EA landscape.)
I would also love to see change happen in the following areas, although I don’t have any specific plans yet. I’m open to collaboration with others to see these happen:
- Working with grant-makers to make sure they include a budget for personnel support and development and external consultants
- Creating a better sense of community and support for those running small orgs
I believe that we can change the landscape of how we support organizations. I believe that providing organizations with the tools and support they need to thrive is essential for increasing their impact and success. By investing in expanding the resources available to our young organizations and their leaders, we can help them grow and achieve their goals while removing the chaos and stress in making that happen. I look forward to feedback and to making a real difference.
If you’d like to chat with me about how we can make this change happen in your organization, or to be a part of this change, please send me a message or book a time to chat here.
Special thanks to Anti Entropy and Jeffrey Poche for providing the initial support for developing these programs, although the programs themselves are now being offered through my business WorkStream Systems.