Hedi Fisher MBE has helped over 2000 businesses measure the impact they have had on society, driven by a vision of ensuring every company shifts their business model to focus on making a positive impact as well as profit.
Founder of Make an Impact CIC
To create a world where all businesses are social enterprises that make an impact on people and the planet
When did you realise that making an impact was important to you?
20 years ago I didn't really know what I wanted to do, and I decided to train to be a chartered accountant because I was good at Maths - now I know that you don't need to be good at maths to be an accountant! So that that was a completely illogical choice if I reflect back on it. My first job was at PWC in the corporation tax department, and effectively working with multinationals to help them save millions of pounds of tax by doing some great tax planning. However, it sort of struck a nerve in that they could really actually afford to pay their tax. It's the small ones that can't afford to pay their taxes. So at that point, that's when my values started kicking in. I started thinking that this doesn't really light me up in the way that I thought it would. In parallel to this I was helping to set up a local charity for young people.
So I was learning what was involved in a charity, how you set one up, how to go about it, and a few years later I decided I could blend the two of them together.
That's where the social enterprise accountancy firm came from. It was going to be an accountancy firm that specializes in working with charities and social enterprises. It meant that I could still use my skill set that I trained for, but use it with organizations that were doing something purposeful.
How does focusing on impact in business have a positive effect on the bottom line?
If you think about all of the corporates that act purposeful from a PR and marketing perspective - they do it because they know that it will impact their bottom line. They know that if they look like they're doing something good for people and the environment, then more people will buy from them. If you think from a more genuine level, it's actually something that's in the design and creation of the organisation that enables you to create a business with employees who believe in your purpose, and they're more likely to stay and be committed, meaning no recruitment cost of replacing employees (which in the UK is around £26K every time an employee leaves on average). You've also got products and services that are better aligned to your customers because they are focused on creating a positive impact for them, as opposed to. There are also loads of examples of investors who are becoming more conscious of where they are investing their money, and they're not just looking for financial returns, but also societal returns.
What advice would you give to a first time founder who deeply cares about making an impact, but is unsure where to start?
Make sure you have something you can sell. It's great that you want to make an impact but if you don't have any money, then you can't make an impact. Also, make sure you know who your customer is, and I don't mean create that very specific customer avatar, I mean the end user. Is it a person, agency organisation or public sector body that's kind of the middle man that will pay you?
What does the future of social entrepreneurship look like?
I do think on a more general level people do want to set up social enterprises, more now than ever before, and my vision for the future, and what I believe will happen, is that all businesses will become social enterprises. I used to say this needs to be achieved by 2020, or else businesses would start to see that they would fail, and thanks to COVID for some great systematic change, we’re starting to see businesses that are purely focused on profit really struggling through this period. I don't mean any awfulness to anyone that works for them, but that is not the business model of the future.
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