Six Months In — And Here are the Six Big Things We Have Learned as a Social Startup
The Good Business Lab is a social startup that was incubated in March 2017. We carry out rigorous economic research to find a common ground between firm welfare and worker welfare. In the first week of 2018, we look back on the last six months of 2017 and six big things we’ve learned.
Tap Into Social Media
How does an organization stand out in the vast ocean of likes, retweets, and hashtags? Work backwards. Understand the various platforms available to you and prioritize what fits in best with the nature of the content you want to put out. Start slow and steady, maybe testing the waters with one or two platforms — we started out with Twitter and Instagram. Most importantly, tailor your content — something might generate a lot of engagement on Instagram, but may just flatline on Facebook. Find ways to present your work in a way that adds value to your follower’s feed. Experiment with art, graphics, videos, and other content formats which may be unconventional in the space you’re in. What no one else seems to be doing might just turn out to be exactly what you need to create a niche social media game.
Hire and Retain, The Flexible Way
When you’re a small team like us, each and every person speaks for your company. Needless to say, your initial hiring decisions are the most important ones. It’s always good to go beyond just building a team of employees who follow certain rules set down by the company to building a happy workplace. Our employees can work from wherever, whenever. They also have no formal system of paid leave — they can take a leave as they wish, as long as they work it out with their team. The flip side, then, is that we don’t follow the usual system of public holidays. This helps people take holidays when they most want and need, which not only keeps them happy but also gives them ownership of their work and, by extension, the organization. While hiring needs have been pressing sometimes, we have discovered it has paid off to wait for high-potential hires who fit in.
Build Local Networks
Make it a point to establish good relations with organizations and people who help you when you’re a fledgling organization — people who are ready to take a chance on you when you are just starting out. Building that rapport takes effort, and sustaining it takes time and attention, but the rewards are many. Grow your list of dependable and credible organizations and people who will make your work easier. For instance, our work involves coordination in rural areas as well as in urban factories with locals and staff. We have strived to build sustainable relationships and communication channels with such people, which eases many bottlenecks that our work might face without their support and expertise.
Then Build Industry Networks
Through our work we try to bring together insights from academic literature and real-life applications. In this setup it becomes crucial to be represented at various thought-leadership platforms and get the word out, specially to the big brands we seek to collaborate with. In the last six months, we were represented on a panel by the Indian Ministry of Rural Development on skilling, Niti Aayog’s exclusive Champions of Change initiative for young entrepreneurs, and the India and Sustainability Standards (ISS 2017) conference organized by the Centre for Responsible Business. You might be doing incredible work, but your primary industry stakeholders need to hear about it — the impact you have had in your few months of operation, and your vision for the future.
Find Your Voice
Finding your voice is essential. Most startups are often confused whether to play it safe or to wade into uncharted waters when it comes to their public image. Worse, some don’t realize the importance of a consistent voice in the public domain. You need to be certain about the image you want to project about your organization’s work ethic, organizational culture, and raison d’etre, and at the same time, retain the flexibility to evolve that image when needed. One of our first publications was a data driven article on a platform called IndiaSpend. While our industry network helped us find a connection with this digital platform, it was the common goal of pushing out data-rich, high-quality content that got us together. What’s crucial is that you find your voice, and then see which platform brings it out in the best way.
Ultimately, Trudge Onward
You will make lots of plans. Some of them will work, and some of them won’t. The goal is to keep moving forward — because after you’ve built a social media strategy, local and global networks, and found your voice the only thing left to do is to execute. In our case we strive to partner with clothing brands in the garment industry who share our vision of finding a common ground between worker welfare and business success. These partnerships take time (and several pitch presentations), but once we find a partner who shares our values we strive hard to make it work.
At GBL, we are excited to build a bigger team and tackle even bigger projects this year. Along the way, we hope that sharing what we’ve learned so far can help other organizations grow, as well. Wishing everyone a happy and productive new year!