IMPES

1. Principle One

Understand what success looks like for entrepreneurs

IMPES

1. Principle One

Understand what success looks like for entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur comes from a different background, works within a different context and business environment, and faces various opportunities and barriers. In order to thoroughly understand what success looks like for your work, first understand your entrepreneurs’ needs, context, and what success looks like to them. 

For example, success for one entrepreneur may mean generating enough income to provide health insurance for their family. For another, it could be securing the vital connections needed to fundraise. If you recognise what success looks like for your community, you can ensure you are measuring those outcomes and therefore better understand your program’s impact. It also means you can develop your programs so that they better meet the entrepreneurs’ desired goals.

Every entrepreneur comes from a different background, works within a different context and business environment, and faces various opportunities and barriers. In order to thoroughly understand what success looks like for your work, first understand your entrepreneurs’ needs, context, and what success looks like to them. 

For example, success for one entrepreneur may mean generating enough income to provide health insurance for their family. For another, it could be securing the vital connections needed to fundraise. If you recognise what success looks like for your community, you can ensure you are measuring those outcomes and therefore better understand your program’s impact. It also means you can develop your programs so that they better meet the entrepreneurs’ desired goals.

Home 5 The IMPES Principles 5 Principle One: Understand what success looks like for entrepreneurs
1.1 Understand the context, culture, business environment, needs, and challenges for the entrepreneurs you work with

Do your research and localise your team and programming to ensure that you understand the environment you are working in, the needs of entrepreneurs, and the business and ESO ecosystem around them. Culture, ethnicity, religion, local government regulations, history, and changing environments all play a role in shaping the needs of entrepreneurs, the support services you provide for them, and how they should be measured. 

 

A key step in understanding the needs and challenges of entrepreneurs is to engage them in the process from the beginning. Do not make assumptions about what entrepreneurs consider ‘success’ without speaking to and engaging with them first. It is important to speak to many entrepreneurs to reveal patterns in their needs and challenges. 

 

You may consider ‘success’ as business growth, with indicators such as revenue growth and job creation. An entrepreneur may be profit-driven or they may be impact-driven. They may also want to feel more confident in managing their business day to day or they may be struggling to make financial decisions about their business. Unless you engage entrepreneurs directly from the start, you will not understand where they are coming from and where they want to go. The entrepreneurs are your key client. Their success is your success.

1.2 Consider success indicators for diverse entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur, and every enterprise, is different. ‘Success’ may vary for an entrepreneur depending on their gender, ability or disability, geographical location, digital skills, education levels, whether they are considered to be low, medium, or high income earners, etc. Do not assume that all entrepreneurs look the same or want the same business success. 

 

Portraying diverse entrepreneurs as role models can also help demonstrate how ‘success’ is defined for different people and encourage entrepreneurs to see themselves in those role models and consider what their own success might look like.

1.3 Balance different stakeholder needs

Conduct research and needs assessments to understand the needs of the entrepreneurs you are supporting, alongside balancing the requests and needs of other stakeholders such as funders and local government. All stakeholders need to be considered when identifying how to measure success. However, the needs of the entrepreneurs should be prioritised in the solutions and support structures you provide to them.

1.4 Develop metrics which are flexible and adaptable to changing environments

You may adapt your indicators for success according to whether you are delivering the same or similar programs in rural or urban settings, or because of external threats such as political instability, natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic. If the environment changes, ESO metrics may also change and adapt with them. For example, during COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown periods, businesses may switch to ‘survival’ mode rather than focus on scale. ESOs may consider different metrics as the intended program outcomes, such as employee retention, entrepreneur wellbeing, or business recovery and rebuilding.

1.5 Measure What Matters

Data collection can be a resource-intensive process for both ESOs and entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs have limited time, and multiple rounds of long data collection surveys and interviews can lead to frustration, an unwillingness to participate, or incorrect data (for example, entrepreneurs may tell you what they think you want to know). 

In their “Lean Data” approach, Acumen recommends “measure what matters” by “listening to what’s important to the people you serve”. To identify the data that needs to be collected, consider: 

  • a) What data is most important to the entrepreneurs’ success?
  • b) What data directly contributes towards the measurement of our intended outcomes and Theory of Change? 
  • c) What data will you learn from and can be utilised towards taking action? 

These can be hard to determine right away, so make sure to take the time to go back and reflect on the data and results after every program or at least once a year. Consider things like:

  • Did we use this data? 
  • Did it help us assess the impact outcomes or our Theory of Change?
  • Did anything unexpected happen, for example, did the data not correspond to anecdotal results?

This can help to refine and evolve the approach and measure what matters. 

Tools & Resources

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The principles in practice

When learning from entrepreneurs, there are different approaches to better understand their context and the outcomes that are important to them…

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Without understanding what success looks like for your community (and how to approach them about it), a few things can happen:

  • The program could have a positive impact on a participant but the data does not reveal this so you do not know about it.
  • The program does not create the outcomes the entrepreneur truly needs or wants. The data reveals positive outcomes, but they are not the ones that should be focused on, so you scale up a program that is not serving the community as best as it could.

The greatest value from Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning is Learning. The information that is collected and measured against initial success indicators should inform you whether your programs are achieving your own desired outcomes as well as the success the entrepreneurs want to see. If not, use these learnings to adapt your programs accordingly, making them more relevant to your intended target market (the entrepreneurs). 

Be open and listen to ongoing feedback from entrepreneurs about what they learned and gained from the programs and what they think should change. 

Approaches to understanding success indicators for entrepreneurs

When learning from entrepreneurs, there are different approaches to better understand their context and the outcomes that are important to them: 

  • Take a participatory approach to conducting needs assessments before designing your program’s outcomes and success indicators.
  • Conduct interviews and focus group discussions to engage entrepreneurs. Creating a safe and inclusive environment, particularly for diverse entrepreneurs, will help to build trust and gain deeper insights. 
  • Ensure you are collecting data from diverse entrepreneurs (remember, not all entrepreneurs look the same!). Consider women, people with disabilities, people from diverse backgrounds, etc. 
  • Conduct research to understand the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. What products and services are currently available to support entrepreneurs? Are they accessing that support? Why/why not? What are the gaps and the potential opportunities? 
  • Interview a select number of entrepreneurs in your program in order to more thoroughly understand what your data collection (such as data collected through surveys) is telling you. Rather than asking the entrepreneur specific questions related to the indicators you have set, ask them open-ended questions about what the most significant change was for them as a result of their participation in the program. 
  • When drafting a problem tree and Theory of Change, show them to entrepreneurs and other experts or stakeholders to help validate or adapt them.

Case Study - Impact Hub Phnom Penh

At Impact Hub Phnom Penh, one of the core indicators used to measure our success is an NPS (Net Promoter Score). We use this across all of our programs, and the question is simple; “would you recommend this program to a friend?”. This gives us an indication of whether the expectations of the entrepreneur were met, as well as a quality check on the services we provide. As it is a well-understood, globally benchmarked indicator, it removes a layer of subjectivity on what is considered “good”, “bad” or “excellent”.

Most importantly, it puts the entrepreneur’s feedback at the center; if they think the program was good enough to recommend to other entrepreneurs, then we know we’re doing something right.

THE PRINCIPLES

A set of living, open source Guiding Principles for ESO Impact Measurement, led by a Community of Practice, and developed with input from key stakeholders.

Explore by Principle, or start with

1: Understand what success looks like for entrepreneurs

2: Measure the Health of your ESO

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3: Measure immediate, intermediate and long-term outcomes

4. Understand and align with the goals of key stakeholders

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5. Invest in Monitoring, Evaluation, & Learning (MEL)

6: Practise data collection methods that are accessible for diverse entrepreneurs

7: Validate what you measure

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