Charter 21 is a collaborative project which aims to help build back our economy and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The project is rooted in demonstrating a social purpose beyond profitmaking and at its heart are what I called the six pillars of business philosophy, the imagining of tapping into the potential of people which in turn benefits everyone in society. My ‘imagine if’ are deeply rooted in what we do at XFE, and this is how they have been reimagined for Charter 21.
If we knew success was guaranteed, or almost guaranteed, everyone would follow the same blueprint. When I’ve started businesses I followed my instinct of working with others, collaborating, testing and exchanging ideas. The best option to success is not isolation but drawing on a network of your peers. Here you’ll meet likeminded people as well as finding friendly rivalries, advisers, investors and potential employees.
We can build back a better economy by filling the gaps which prevent people from starting their own businesses. We know through recent research that childcare responsibilities remain the most important barrier for many female entrepreneurs; many thousands of childcare spaces have been lost through the pandemic. Rather than competing priorities, change must be centred on fairness, quality, and reinforcing values so we can find comprehensive strategies. Later this summer 2021, I will be hosting a summit to prompt debate and find comprehensive, long-term solutions. The summit will take evidence from a range of experts including: Parliamentarians, Ofsted, nursery businesses, sector organisations, women entrepreneurs and significant figures from the financial services industry and will include contributions from different countries.
Improving investment is the most common challenge female entrepreneurs’ face, this, and the right type of mentoring and expertise needed to start and then scale a business. Businesses founded by women are often viewed differently by male-owned investors, which perhaps speaks to an element of unconscious bias. Female founders also don’t always have the same type of networks as men, which can make it harder to attract and nurture the talent needed in finance, marketing or other core business disciplines required to scale a business.
We must seize our opportunities and realise that there are small barriers and not borders to forging new trading relationships. Exporting for small business owners can seem worrying and it’s invariably a steep learning curve for any entrepreneur who decides to grow their business through international trade but it is key to economic recovery and the government has long encouraged small businesses to accelerate their growth through overseas sales. Small businesses can compete now much more easily on a national and international standing. One of the few advantages of the pandemic is that late adopters to tech have had to come online, and what this represents that there will be a greater appetite for embracing the tools and techniques for exporting, and therefore borders can be less of a barrier.
Technology is vital in plans for growth, helping businesses up their game and reach larger audiences and where the global supply chain was once only available to those who could afford to court suppliers from abroad, technology has opened the trading doors far and wide.
If happiness was measured in the same way we measure monetary success then what would it do for the quality of our lives? Improving society’s sense of wellbeing is one of the central challenges of our times. Happiness lies in the common good and it is easier to find in collective actions rather than individual ones. As a society we need to understand and promote collaboration. The best results come from teamwork and strategic partnerships and not always as the contribution of one individual. If we put our minds to making communities the best we can, we would save huge amounts of money across society. It would be a measure of our General Happiness Level, GHL as well as our GDP.
If giving back was rewarded we could create a major social enterprise fund for the large proportion of businesses that choose to give back to the community, donors would then have a greater say in what happens to the profits they help generate. Now, more than ever, people want to be seen as partners to the organisations they support. Overall, society is experiencing a great reconsideration of priorities, the lasting effects of which will not only be personal, but economic and there is a lot of creative and generous altruism out there. We collectively have the opportunity to reframe the place of business in society.