To zero in on the testing you need, you have to balance two perspectives. On the one hand, you want to be aware of and prepare for all key risks/thresholds as you move from where you are now to what you want your social venture to be when it is in its ‘steady state’ (i.e. your model has proven to be a success and growth is predictable and steady. A typical barometer in this regard is what your venture will look like five years after it starts). This will also help make sure you are building towards your goals rather than building a bridge to nowhere (this is a significant risk for start-ups, as discussed below). On the other hand, a lot of your current assumptions will be wrong, so you don’t want to go into too much detail too far down the road.
No matter how strongly you believe them, many of your views and beliefs about your venture are best guesses. As you move forward it is important to: have an understanding of what you need to be true in order for your social enterprise to achieve the social and financial goals you have set and find out, in the cheapest, fastest, most effective way possible, whether they are true.
While blending a social mission with an entrepreneurial model can be powerful, it can be surprisingly tricky. However, by mapping how your social model impacts your market value and the degree to which your social model addresses your customer’s needs map (and how these two aspects interact) you have the opportunity to identify a number of possible pressure points to keep an eye on as you move forward with your social enterprise.
Effective learning is shrinking your feedback loops as much as possible: Everything you do that really matters should either confirm your thinking or teach you something new, and it should do so as cheaply, efficiently and quickly as possible. Effective learning is knowing what to test, how to test, and how to learn from the results of that test in a way that you use to improve your efforts and impact.
As a new venture or an existing venture that is looking to reach new customers, the first step to getting your customer groupings into a manageable bite-size pieces is finding the subgroup within your potential customers that share the traits of your ‘early adopter’ customer.
As you continue to flesh out your venture, you will need to begin assigning values and costs to the resources you have identified. The goal here is to move from understanding the costs and revenue of each unit of sale and/ or impact to how these things will look on a yearly basis when your venture reaches its stable state (This may or may equal your ultimate goal. It’s the state where most assumptions have been resolved and progress starts being steady. If you have no idea when that would be, imagine five years from now).