The business of running a business focused on social justice (and other causes normally reserved for the non-profit world) produces an interesting shade of grey when it comes to decision making. A bottom-line model leaves decision making to just one question: Will this make us money (without regards to any positive community impact)? The social change model focuses purely on, Will this produce the type of change we are working for (despite what we have to spend to get there)? The Social Enterprise model seeks to combine these into a slightly more fractal equation: Will this produce change and also bring in enough revenue to continue producing change?
Benefits and issues abound no matter what the model. There is always a temptation to go into debt – either start-up loans or project expansion loans or this-would-sure-be-less-stressful-if loans. There is also always a temptation to base success off of original goals and perceptions of growth. This is where the Fluid part of the system comes into play. In a Social Enterprise business model, success must be balanced between impact, growth, finances and potential. The bottom line weighs in only partially and, because this is a business model, the social impact also only weighs in partially. The constantly fluctuating analysis of impact, growth, finances and potential are weighted against each other, like big men in a little boat. If one starts to out maneuver the others, you risk capsizing.
Most Social Enterprise owners jump into the biz because something is worth working towards. This makes it hard to say no to a great idea when the bottom line is also being measured and comes up short. I think that is why you need people representing the importance of both sides in on the decision making. Think through it, clearly define objectives and possibilities and then make the best decision possible, both parties leaving loyalties behind and accepting the route chosen.