Telling Your Story
What We Learned
As with most economic development endeavors, at some point you need to step back and assess your progress in creating an entrepreneurial community. You need to ask yourself – what have we accomplished? What more do we need to do to achieve our goals? That’s where a measurement system comes into play. By measuring your outcomes, you’ll be able to do two very important things. One is to learn from and improve the work you’re doing in your community. Measuring your success will help you learn what’s working, and what’s not, and to make changes that will lead to more success over time.
The second thing you’ll be able to do is more effectively tell the story of your success. Key to building momentum for your work is being able to communicate to people in your community the progress you’ve made and the ways that your entrepreneurship efforts are leading to business creation and success. You can also invite people to join your efforts – building your team and your capacity over time.
So, what should you be tracking as part of a measurement system?
- Capacity Building Outcomes – Most of your efforts, at least in the early stages, will be about building capacity. You may start by building a leadership team and providing training for them to be more effective advocates for entrepreneurship, or you might create a program that fills a gap in your support infrastructure such as facilitating an entrepreneurs’ network or partnering with a regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to bring services to your community. An effective measurement system will document the ways your efforts lead to improved capacity to support entrepreneurs.
- Entrepreneur Success Outcomes – The whole rationale behind creating an entrepreneurial community is to grow your local economy by helping entrepreneurs be more successful, creating jobs and wealth for the community. It is important to remember that entrepreneurship development is a long-term process. Your efforts may not result in the creation of new jobs or even new businesses at the end of the first year or two.
What may result is that entrepreneurs are being connected to the resources they need to build their businesses. They may be getting assistance to identify new markets through efforts such as Economic Gardening. Perhaps they are being exposed to new business practices that save them money and improve their profitability through SBDCs.
It is important to capture these changes by talking with your entrepreneur customers. By tracking these measures, along with more traditional measures like jobs created and retained, you’ll be able to report on the difference that your entrepreneurship development efforts are making to entrepreneurs in your community.
- Economic Development Outcomes – Ultimately, you want your entrepreneurship development efforts to change the economic outcomes in your community or region. Over time, you’d like to see that growing local businesses leads to increased employment, increased income, population growth (or at least stability), more young people moving back home, increased assets that are reinvested in the community, improved (or at least maintained) infrastructure such as schools, the local library, and health care facilities. You’ll be able to track some of these gains just through experience – for example, increased enrollment over time in the local schools. Other measures will require that you track secondary data from the state that shows economic and demographic changes over time. Examples of some websites that provide these secondary data are included under Resources.
One important thing to remember as you measure your success – don’t underestimate the power of stories! It is important to balance data – the numbers you collect and report – with stories about the way your work has had a positive impact on entrepreneurs in your community. Hearing how support has contributed to the success of a real entrepreneur can be compelling – putting a face on your efforts and helping to celebrate the accomplishments of your entrepreneurs in the process.