High-performing organizations display a pattern of characteristics that our partner Argidius has called SCALE. The five considerations are:
SELECT the right enterprise
CHARGING enterprises improves performance
ADDRESS PROBLEMS: we learn best by problem solving
LEARN by evaluating enterprise performance
Lead by EXAMPLE: Improve your own organization to better serve enterprise needs
The goal of SCALE is to help organizations maximize impact and helps small businesses grow and create jobs. Here’s how Bpeace deploys SCALE to do just that.
Why we build diverse portfolios of small and medium businesses Fast Runners
The Harvard Business Review says diverse teams are smarter. At Bpeace we say a diverse portfolio of Fast Runners PERFORM better.
And to us, performance means more jobs preserved and created, more economic opportunities for women, and more revenue circulating in communities. In short, diverse selection means better performance.
We front-load a lot of time in selecting Fast Runners. Sure, we’re looking for small business owners with high potential, but we are also filtering for a diversity of industries to help us hedge risk; and leadership characteristics that we have seen respond well to our approach.
- We start with a diverse selection committee comprised of Sklillanthropist volunteers with consulting credentials from McKinsey, PwC and from service and manufacturing sectors. For Central America selection, we give the selection committee local/cultural context by including our local Salvadoran or Guatemalan staff.
- We have rigorous selection filters that are tied with different weights in our scoring tool. For example, since our end goal is that at least 50% of our portfolio is comprised of businesses that are women-owned or led, they get a bit of a bump in the scoring.
- We evaluate both hard and soft data. Obviously we look at historical financial and employment numbers, but we also interview and tour facilities of semi-finalists. (During Covid, done remotely of course.) For example: We score the business owner higher who knows her employees by name, and those who allow her team to speak during the interview. And what are they doing around climate, and advancement of women.
- We make tough choices. We require a diversity of industries. For example: 25% food processing, 25% pharma/health, 25% manufacturing, 25% services. This strategy served us well during Covid, with the growth of pharma/health sector positively offsetting the softness in the other sectors.
The outcome of this strategic diversity in selection always leads to better performance of the Bpeace portfolio. For example: 100% of our Fast Runner businesses survived Covid, and 98% of jobs were preserved.
How we shifted to charging Fast Runners fees for our services
Free or fee. We shifted from free to fee in 2017, and we never looked back. Performance and productivity increased for our Fast Runners and unexpectedly, our staff as well.
Here are the steps we took.
- Understanding our competitive edge. We conducted interviews with former Fast Runners to better understand their perception of how they benefited from our collaboration with them. The overwhelming response was ACCESS to our network of Skillanthropist experts who are normally out of their financial or geographical reach.
- We made a VALUE business case. The consulting value each Fast Runner receives from between three to six Skillanthropist volunteers over a 10-month program period is at least $30,000 vs. the nominal fee they paid – between $500 to $1500.
- Buy-in from former Fast Runners.We tested tier-based fees among former Fast Runners and they became eager ambassadors. The tiers are based on annual revenue.
- Armed our local staff with messages and materials.They analyzed the competitive landscape of what other organizations were charging or not charging. We involved staff in the development of recruitment materials that would help them pitch potential Fast Runners. The fee structure is always front and center, so there is no fee surprise once the candidates are notified they are selected.
The outcome is better performing Fast Runners in terms of job creation and revenue, driven in part by a big shift in mindset. Fast Runners told us they feel more like clients than beneficiaries and they see collaborating with Bpeace as an investment in their own growth, rather than a side project they are invited to.
Free to fee also made our staff happier—less chasing Fast Runners around to make appointments or respond to requests for data.
Less chasing for data, brings me to my final point:
How a culture of clear values increases our learning and performance
Bpeace is not entitled to respect and trust from Fast Runners. We earn it. And we do that through a culture of continuous learning and adjustment.
- Learning starts with our values. Each entrepreneur has a story and life outside of work. Humans start businesses and we need to make human connections. Bpeace has 9 defined values that include:
We use the mantra deposits and withdrawals. We can’t always withdraw….we need to make deposits and sharing impact data, historical, current and benchmarking is our way of making deposits.
- Another one of our values is demand-driven.
Back in 2017, we did a joint evaluation with Argidius. We asked Fast Runners for their views about every aspect of our program. As a result, we learned how we could increase participation and therefore performance. We already discussed the free to fee shift, we also adjusted the timing and intensity of our program delivery to better address entrepreneurs’ needs.
- We decreased program length from 18 months to 10 and the intensity with one growth project instead of two. This led to Fast Runners seeing a less onerous commitment of time and resources. The result is that we rarely have any Fast Runners quit our programs, and we have 100% compliance for our data requests.
- We are now more agile in analyzing, adjusting and advancing our programs in real time. We deploy frequent and very short feedback loops after most Fast Runner interactions with Skillanthropists. In response to Fast Runners requests to upskill more than just their leadership teams, we incorporated simultaneous translation to make our services more accessible to non-English speaking employees.
In summary, let me make a brief point to further prove all of this works for Bpeace
In 2021, a new phenomenon occurred. Former Fast Runners started applying to enter a second Bpeace program.
We all know that repeat clients are the best testament of success, so rather than simply being gratified, we enacted a new policy to allow repeat Fast Runners.
So now we are leveraging our previous selection efforts and doubling down on our own investment in businesses we already know make a difference.
Read the full Argidius SCALE report HERE.