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Putting your team together

Getting a social enterprise off the ground is a team endeavour. While individual founders may come up with innovative ideas, it takes a range of knowledge and skills—rarely possessed by a single person—to transform that vision into reality.

People who set up social enterprises sometimes fall victim to the “Founder Syndrome”: they are so attached to their vision that they fail to adapt and delegate, ultimately overextending themselves beyond their capacity to run the organisation successfully.

To avoid this pitfall, social enterprise founders should start thinking at an early stage about bringing co-founders and team members on board. While this may mean giving up some control over the enterprise, it also enables the social entrepreneur to draw on a wider range of connections, resources, and perspectives that ultimately strengthen the organisation.

The right skills

The exact positions and titles of the leadership team may vary based on the venture model, but Andy Horsnell of the management consultancy Aperio recommends that a social enterprise team include players with the following competencies:

  • Recent experience in a small business startup
  • Extensive knowledge of the customer base
  • Technical expertise

The last of these three competencies is especially important if your social enterprise idea relies on a digital platform. If you do not have a technical background yourself, recruiting a co-founder with this expertise is an absolute necessity but also a great challenge. To facilitate this hiring process, Christopher Steiner of FundersClub advises non-technical founders to acquire some technical expertise themselves, or have a trusted adviser with a technical background assist them in the hiring process.

The right fit

In addition to having the right mix of technical, business, and managerial skills, social enterprises team members also need to work well together. Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship found in a survey of social enterprises that three types of ‘fit’ are essential to consider when hiring the core team:

Social mission fit: Is the team member committed to the broader vision of the social enterprise?

Cultural fit: How well will the team member adapt to the work culture of the organisation?

Founder fit: How does the team member complement the founder’s skill set? Will their personalities enable effective collaboration?

In the comments below, reflect on a team you have been a part of in the past. What made this team particularly effective (or, perhaps, ineffective) at accomplishing its goals?

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Social Enterprise: Turning Ideas into Action

Middlesex University Business School

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