Bruce Waltuck of Freethinc for a Change Builds Business Processes with Insight and Accountability

April 29, 2021 | Adam Morris | 44:07 | 0 Comments



Bruce Waltuck shared the work he’s doing with Freethinc… for a Change. He holds three decades of experience from real-life settings and academia, which he spent improving business processes, teaching business courses, and being active in the U.S. Department of Labor. Bruce discussed methods social entrepreneurs can use to build an efficient and inclusive process for a social venture.

Time spent in the federal sector was a monumental piece of Bruce’s later efforts in managing business processes. While working alongside notable names from the federal sector, Bruce emphasized that his role made home focus more on “helping other people get better results together.” He explains why he was able to carry out the innovative approaches he accomplished, despite working in a sector that usually places strict limits around what is implemented. Bruce was able to transfer these principles into entrepreneurship where working in a strong team towards an aim is part of a daily practice. He gave questions that help people to figure out the impact and measure the effectiveness of the approaches to creating impact.

Bruce Waltuck mentioned one particular qualitative method of research called ethnography, best thought of as “narrative inquiry”.  In this method, the focus is to get people’s stories. Collecting feedback from people telling their personal perspective provides insight you may not come across otherwise. Bruce went further to discuss defining impact, showing impact, and the complexity of merging and considering perceptions outside of our own narratives. Being able to see out and include other narratives becomes a powerful tool in developing new ways to experiment with creating an impact. 

Gathering perspectives is one layer, and then comes the layer of being able to translate what you learn into metrics. Finding which metrics work within a certain setting and approach will likely take more group effort. There’s also a personal effort of making sure we each release our own bias to have a real dialogue with others. Bruce said one way to go about doing this is to see if we can “learn to suspend our judgment in the moment of listening and of observing.

Understanding the ways we can connect perspectives leads to better identifying the infrastructure of the social venture we start. Bruce spoke about valuing the process of measuring an initiative’s feasibility, which comes alongside gathering insight from different perspectives. He presented a way for business to write a business plan that helps outline the developments required in forming an initiative.

Bruce expressed that entrepreneurship is more so related to a collective rather than the social efforts being done solo. He shared his thoughts on working as a collective, and revealed realizations he received from teaching his students. Bruce described his current aim is to “help people better understand what the real nature is of these social ventures that they’re intending to engage in, and what they can learn that will help them be more effective in organizing, leading, and operating and impacting.”

If you would like to learn more, you can visit his website freethinc.com.

Read Full Transcript

Adam: [00:00:00] Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris. Today, our guest on the podcast is Bruce Waltuck, founder of Freethinc For a Change. He's also a professor at Kean University where he teaches entrepreneurship and marketing communication.

He's got a unique master's degree in complexity, chaos, and creativity, and a long, fascinating career at the department of labor where he co-created the Department of Labor is award-winning process improvement system. Now through Bruce is able to help others entrepreneurs with his 30 years of experience as a leader in collaborative dialogue and business process improvement.

So let's jump right in. Bruce, welcome on the podcast.

Bruce: [00:00:45] Adam. Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Adam: [00:00:47] I'm excited. Can we start off, can you just tell us a little bit about Freethinc and the work that you do?

Bruce: [00:00:53] So, Freethinc really emerged from my experiences as, and it was a word I didn't even know at the time. I didn't know what it meant to be an intrepreneur. I had never heard that we talk about a lot about entrepreneurs, but I had the opportunity. I call it the opportunity of a lifetime, to create a major nationwide change initiative and business process improvement initiative in the US department of labor.

Not a place where one might ordinarily think that significant change and collaboration and self-organizing and self-managing would usually be possible. Uh, which is one reason I called it the chance of a lifetime. And that experience led me to really focus on helping other people get better results together.

Adam: [00:01:40] What did that look like?

Bruce: [00:01:42] We were very fortunate. What really made it possible were two things. One was, there was actually a presidential mandate at the time under president G H W Bush. For every federal agency to work on business process and quality improvement, it was something that had really been highly successful and visible in the private sector and federal agencies were mandated to do it.

And for a variety of reasons, I was pretty much literally the only person out of 10,000 field employees who even knew what this was. That's a long story maybe for another day. But in 1989 I sat with then secretary of labor, Elizabeth Dole, a very well-known public figure. Her husband later was a presidential candidate.

So I was told with the person I was asked to work with Jim Armshaw. Things one never hears from a chief executive, which are take your time. I don't want this rushed. You have, here's a budget and an office and a staff. And I don't want my usual people. I don't want my team of usual managers involved in this.

I want more innovation. I want more openness. And we were very fortunate to connect with some folks. Notably, a fellow named Ed Cohen, Rosenthal who had written a book called Mutual Gains. We also knew this needed to be a partnership between management and the principal employee union. And that was unique as well.

There were only a very few, you could count on one hand, examples of that in the US federal sector at that particular time. And so we spent six months developing an initiative that was based on self-organized self-managing teams. We created a very short list of core values and operating principles.

We provided them with a very simple framework for brainstorming and addressing the issues and challenges that they wanted to think about and work on. And within six months, we had over 220 teams around the country that had taken this to heart and we're meeting on a regular basis. Less than three years later, we won a, one of the, this is the second-highest level of national recognition award.

It was called the quality improvement prototype award for having saved thousands of hours of people's time and millions of dollars of funds, by these improvements. And we were very grateful for that. I was certainly very grateful for that opportunity. Well, a lot of it had to do with finding ways to think differently, really. So much of what any business organization does. And the department of labor is primarily the six principal agencies that account for it was about 85% of its staff. Are largely law enforcement agencies, occupational safety and health, wage, and hour mine, safety and health, and some other things.

The Bureau of labor statistics who is economist collect wage and salary and price and other economic data and federal contract compliance. And so on. And in each case, you're dealing with an organization that is structured and governed and bound by rules laws regulations, as well as its own history of practice and culture.

Just as with any private sector organization, there are things that they set out to do. There are policies. There's this is the way we do X, Y, and Z, and have always done it. And so this was really an opportunity, perhaps the first opportunity ever for people to openly sit together. And say, what really is our objective here?

What might be some ways that we could explore and experiment together without the fear of failure we're going to learn. If it doesn't work as much as we learn if it does. And we're going to try and keep and solidify and amplify, what's working, do more of the good stuff and less of the stuff that isn't getting us the result we want.

And. Later many years later, now as I deal more with entrepreneurs and particularly social entrepreneurship, those same lessons are the core. Th the idea of people convening to make sense of their experiences together, consider options and opportunities together, and try and explore possibility together, and then reflect and assess and keep going.

That's at the heart of entrepreneurship, too.

Adam: [00:06:05] Got it. So it sounds like it. There is a lot to creating this space where people can actually work in collaboration very effectively. Are there certain boundaries when people come together of how you set that tone?

Bruce: [00:06:20] Great question. So one of the things that we were very fortunate to find at that time, the global standard for teams and collaboration was a book called the Team Handbook. I think it's still in print and went through several additions and two of the three principal authors, Peter Scholtes and Brian Joiner who were from Madison, Wisconsin.

I got to meet and know through some coincidence and became friends with them. They were very helpful and supportive, and this was literally the book that was the Bible of team books around the world. It was in like 50 languages around the world and everyone knew it and used it. And then we were very fortunate and made that book available and had it distributed nationwide in the department of labor. So that every one of the 900 field offices had a copy of that book and people could read it, access it, learn from it and apply some of the very simple core concepts about being together in these kinds of settings.

And at the same time again, we had this very short, simple list of operating principles about how to listen and not immediately judge the opinions and ideas of others to hear all ideas equally and then to consider through respectful dialogue, what might be done and then simple ways to all right, how are we going to assess the impact just as with entrepreneurial stuff, just as with social entrepreneurship that we'll talk about.

How will we know how we are doing, not everything is the simple outputs of how many, how much, how fast, the better, faster, cheaper mantra. Some of that stuff is easy to count. That's true in any venture government, private sector, for-profit non-profit but when we ask the question of how well are we doing, what is our impact here?

And that's true in government, especially in regulatory compliance, which we were mainly doing. What really is the impact of investigating businesses and finding violators, you're helping individuals certainly. But if the goal is to influence people to voluntarily comply with a law, think about stop signs and traffic lights and speed limits is an obvious example, we all see every day. Is the goal really to give the tickets to people or is the goal really to get people to understand and to voluntarily comply. And if it's the latter and I think it is. How can we assess our efforts to influence behaviors? That's a much harder metric to assess.

Adam: [00:08:49] It seems like that act of measuring or coming up with how you're going to measure that impact is at the core of being able to say, am I doing a good job or not?

Bruce: [00:08:58] I think about impact and effectiveness. And again, to put that, not only in the context of what I did those many years ago, but to bring it forward to today, as I teach and think about and work with and mentor entrepreneurs, both commercial and social, and particularly in the social sector. And again, it's not just about the profit and loss statement of a commercial venture, but when we talk about social impact, how are we helping the people in that place who have that social need or problem?

And there are many ways, much more in line with the qualitative methods of research and particularly the methods of what is called narrative inquiry or ethnography, getting people's stories. Tell us about what happened and how it worked for you and what you thought of it and what else might you want.

And then you can get a much better picture of really the impact that your efforts are having in terms of influencing thinking belief and action.

Adam: [00:09:58] Can we stay on this for just a little bit? I know, Just from my local community, that quite often, the impact that we feel is very subjective, right? We're connecting with individuals in our community and providing a service or involving them in some way. And that's very hard to put down on paper.

Whereas sometimes the numerical metrics are very easy, but they don't really capture the soul of what you're doing. I'm curious, what's a good way for these social entrepreneurs to approach measuring their impact?

Bruce: [00:10:29] Great question. And it's certainly something that it's really one of the last few things that I teach in my classes. And I think it's one of the most important. If you're going to start a social venture and your intention is to have that social impact to help those people in that place, with that problem and need well, how do you know how you're doing?

It's important not only for the social entrepreneur. But it's obviously important to the intended beneficiaries, the recipients of your service. And it's really important too, for those who you might go to and seek funding from. Are they going to continue to donate or give you grants and loans, if you cannot go back and show them how you are doing and what you did with their money over time?

And so this is, there is a small, but growing body of research and literature, that's applying these other methods, both of these qualitative or narrative inquiry methods, getting people's stories and also understanding that these are highly variable and complex kinds of dynamics. We, human beings are just that way.

Exactly. As you said yourself, a minute or two ago, that different people will see the situation in different ways. And it doesn't necessarily mean that you might be right and I might be wrong or the other way around, we can both be right. I forget the source, but there's a quote that says one definition of the complexity of something is how many coherent narratives can be told about it.

In other words, how many points of view make sense, even if they are different. And so it's really only by gathering those kinds of stories and information and then getting people to say these are the important things in my story. That's called self signification. That's a mouthful. That just means it's your story, you decide what it means. Not having me, the researcher sitting in my office saying, Oh, that's what they meant. As many researchers do, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lots of folks get famous doing that and do tens of thousands of research points that way. Brenae Brown among them. For example, if that's the methodology that she has used for years, and it's an accepted methodology, but there are other ways.

And so when a social entrepreneurial, when we want to know what is our social impact, really? Yes, there are going to be some things we can count the number of homeless people that we've taken into our shelters. Or the number of children that we've fed on a given day who didn't have enough to eat those things are the easy things to count. I was reading a study to my students recently about this, about a homeless shelter, where it turned out that when you ask the people that you got off the streets and into the shelters, how are you feeling about being here?

One thing that the social entrepreneurs in that place had not foreseen or thought of or considered was that the homeless folks out on the street at night, they gathered together and they form their own network and community. There's the same group that comes to the same place each night after whatever they do during the day.

And so the folks as they went to the shelter would say, I miss my friends, out there under the bridge in San Diego at night. I miss seeing my people. Well, when we talk about assessing social impact, what is the impact of that story on how the venture is doing and what else it might do and can do and will do, to try and address that part of the social need.

Adam: [00:14:01] So being able to ask those questions might open up new venues where you understand, Hey, there's a need that I'm didn't consider before that if we address this, it could really lift up the quality we're serving.

Bruce: [00:14:16] Yes. And so one of the critical things then becomes the ability of the social entrepreneurs or any entrepreneur really. To keep eyes, ears, and mind open and to keep looking and listening and thinking and reflecting, not just alone as many entrepreneurs do, they're often solo founders and leaders, but who else can, and should we, as the entrepreneurs are talking with to get these other perspectives, to get these other insights, to get these other stories, That will then give us those valuable, powerful insight and lead us to trying new and better ways.

Adam: [00:14:57] Now is there anything we can do as individuals to cut down on those biases that we naturally have that prevent us from listening or opening up.

Bruce: [00:15:06] Yeah. And it isn't even, I think only a bias in a way. We are who and what we are, and we're the sum, total and product of our own lived experiences. We are the sum total of where we lived and who we met and what we were taught and what we now think and believe and all of that.

So there's a set of norms and values and beliefs and intentions and actions that we all take. That's absolutely true. And so the way to go beyond that, as it were, is can we learn to suspend our judgment in the moment of listening and of observing. Two of the great sources that I refer my students to on these particular skills one is the wonderful Jane Jacobs who wrote a very famous book about American cities.

And she was such, I don't know that she was trained in this, but where she lived in New York at the time and what she saw, just the smallest kinds of details in neighborhoods and the little things, the differences that made a difference about the degree of satisfaction and happiness and success of communities and neighborhoods that kind of looking at observing was very powerful and we can learn as entrepreneurs and others too.

To learn to see in that way that Jane Jacobs taught us to look and see. Similarly, there was a composer who also did other work, Pauline Oliveros, and many people may not know that name. And she was a musical composer who wrote some very interesting experimental compositions, but you can find a great Ted talk of hers about what she called deep listening.

And so very similarly to the kind of looking and observing that Jane Jacobs taught. In cities and communities to make them better. Pauline Oliveros teaches us ways to just stop. And as she put it listened deeply. And when we are with others and when we are, as social entrepreneurs have to do scanning and assessing the social landscape, what is really going on with those people in that place?

What are the sources of influence and the constraints and the possibilities. Whether it's government, whether it's faith-based, whether it's other community groups, whether it's gangs and whatever the case may be, whatever the factors are. Can we learn to see them better and more and listen to them better and more and in so doing, hear what the stories are, find the ways and the things that are significant and then find ways to act on them.

Adam: [00:17:41] So once we've gone out and we've collected these stories and hopefully listening very well to what's being said, how can we turn that information into metrics that we can present or things that we can share with our stakeholders or other people?

Bruce: [00:17:59] The issue then of the metrics becomes really a function of what are the questions we're asking and what are the things that we are looking at and looking for. And then the other piece of it that I also teach to folks is as the group of people who are, yourself as the, perhaps the entrepreneur, the founder, your leadership team, your own organizational managers or whoever and other key stakeholders, when you all come together what then are the guiding principles and core values that you will filter ideas by?

Can we as a group or a team, just this came really from what we did at the department of labor years ago, very short list. And this really also comes from work I did with what's called win-win negotiation, the work of William Ury, the book Getting To Yes. How will we filter ideas and issues and options?

And can we say, all right, this is, these are the four or five, six, seven things, not much more. That any idea or issue that comes forward through our dialogue before we will consider it to act on that, how will we act? What are by, what will we hold ourselves responsible and accountable for? We'll act in ways that are legal or ethical, or we know that our constituencies will agree to it and verify it, or whatever the case may be for these shortlist of principles.

And then one of the other metrics you now have is through inquiry and survey, or typically did we act and do what we said we would do? And the ways we said we would do it. Are we holding ourselves accountable that this is what we intended is so a social or other entrepreneurs and are we acting and doing the way we said we would?

And that data then becomes key and valuable. We may not always get the impact and outcome that we projected. Things may not go the way we thought they would certainly look at the last, year and a half, two years, whatever it isn't, what businesses and social and commercial ventures projected. If I looked at somebody's business plan from two years ago, it didn't have this, right.

But we still can say two years ago, we intended to start a particular venture and we were going to act in these ways. This is how we were going to interact with our beneficiaries, with our stakeholders, with our funders. Did we do that? So even if we don't get the impact and the outcome that we intended, are we on the right path?

In our thinking and our belief and our behavior, are we honoring those kinds of commitments? And then what else might we do to get the impact and the outcome?

Adam: [00:20:44] Got it. So if you can tie those stories back to here are the values that we are about, and here's what our objectives are. Then all of a sudden you see a difference of like here we did really well, and you might have a story that, that. Exemplifies that, and you might have a case where it's no, we didn't do that great here, we didn't get the outcome we wanted and we didn't quite match our value of acts. And that would give you some room for discussion of actually how to improve. So it's like you have a stake in the ground and you're comparing against that, that, that stake of who you want to be in the impact you want to make.

Bruce: [00:21:20] Yes. Exactly. So it's, in the stake, in the ground, in this case, being that this is what we have discussed and agreed would be our guiding principles. These are the core values and operating principles that we believe are important for us to live by, to act by, to think by in our venture.

And did we, or did we not? And to what extent.

Adam: [00:21:41] Gotcha. Now as people are developing ideas for their social enterprise or social ventures. What are some good things that they can do to plan for how they're going to launch that and get that off the ground.

Bruce: [00:21:54] Question. So there's certain steps that we see in the literature. That are guidelines and processes for aspiring social entrepreneurs to consider. One of the best ones that I know is a place to start just to help organize on the key functional areas is the social business model canvas.

That's just the simple one page kind of map diagram. About, what is our mission and purpose? What are we going to do? Who are our principal, beneficiaries and stakeholders, our market segments, what will our marketing channels be? What are the intended impact and outcomes, things that are central to any kind of social venture?

Both, some very simple, minimal statements about income and funding and expenditures. That's to me, the place to start in terms of beginning to organize one's thinking. The next step up from that is the social venture business plan. Now in regular commercial ventures, there's typically a, a business plan.

So too with social ventures. But if you look at the more recent literature, there's also been a, what I would call almost a counter movement or sidebar movement to what they call the lean startups. Which is people arguing that you don't have to spend all the time and effort necessary to research and develop the full business plan. Myself personally, I disagree.

And I'll say why. Particularly for social managers. But I think for commercial as well, but here's my thinking at least. The things that are an aspiring social entrepreneur needs to know and to do. You have an idea. I recognize that there is a problem here that government and other service providers there, the problem is not being addressed or the people in the place with the need and the problem.

I have an idea that may help them, whatever that is. Now you've got to do, as they call it that ecosystem or social landscape assessment. What can you learn about the people and the place and these many complex interacting factors, again, especially so for aspiring social entrepreneurs, where there are so many interpenetrating interacting factors, forces, influences, it's not quite as simple as should I open my cafe on this corner and where's the competition.

And, can I open a coffee shop with Starbucks two blocks away or not? This is different. And so we know that there are government impacts and there are other social organizational impacts and there may be others trying to address the problem in the same place. There may be restrictions of law and all kinds of other factors impacting that social landscape.

So the first thing then is to do that assessment. That's before you even write the plan. You do the feasibility study. If I really did this in the way that I think I can and should, and would things that all go into the plan itself, can this work, can I get this off the ground? Can we get this started?

Can we sustain this venture over time? And in this case, comparable thinking and research to the commercial venture and the social venture in my view.

Adam: [00:25:16] So what you're saying is when you start off. First you're really going out and just surveying what you can do and what the other restrictions are and what the other organizations are that are addressing the need that you're doing. But then what you mentioned was doing this feasibility of what this organization that you're trying to build actually looks like when it's operating how you envision.

And really qualifying that .

Bruce: [00:25:43] Yes. And so those are the first two things that an aspiring entrepreneur, and in this case, social entrepreneur, you really need to do. What's going on in that place. What can I learn and understand that will help me better organize better design my social venture, my processes of work and activity to to get the greatest effectiveness, do what we intend to do and the greatest efficiency get the best outcome for the least amount of time, money, labor, effort and so on.

And. Yes, we begin with what's going on in that place. And there are many factors almost always, especially with and much more so in the social venture when we're assessing that landscape of the potential venture. And then the feasibility thing. All right, we try to be realistic with ourselves.

If we can get these sources of funding and hire these people and open this place and do these things in this way. Is this really something that can work. So now to your specific question about business planning, so the different components and key sections of a social venture or commercial business plan, I believe that the activity and the exercise and the work of the social entrepreneur or commercial entrepreneur, Writing and crafting the full plan.

And it's not like it's a hundred page treatise or dissertation, these run about 10 or 12 pages typically. But I believe that the work is really important because each of these core steps that it takes to organize and start a venture commercial or social. They're key components of that plan.

And it's only a page or two on each of the topics. But you have to think and write in a way that is both concise and clear. And especially in the first couple pages, what's called the executive summary, which tends to be the very first piece of your plan that your prospective funders and stakeholders and others relevant people are going to see. You're writing that as much for the outsider as for your own people, but the exercise and the work of doing it.

And the rest of the plan really helps you to become more clear and I believe arguably increases the potential you have for success. If you're addressing and thinking about. What is my mission? What type of venture are we going to be purely philanthropic? Are we going to be a hybrid venture? Will we be selling our products and services at the competitive market rate?

Or will we be able to offer a discount for our products and services? Because we're taking in some donations and other funding sources. Again, you asked before about marketing, the marketing channels, the marketing segments, the marketing message and ways that you'll do it are all things that are in that plan.

Who's my management team going to be? Who else do I need? What do they need to know how to do. What knowledge, skills and experience do I need to recruit and hire? And what do I need to know as the entrepreneur to assure that the people I recruit that I'm asking the right questions to get the best possible people to give us the best chance of success.

All of that I believe is critical and key. Similarly, with financial projections, an area that a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, at least in my experience, seem to struggle with. How can I really know. What my necessary income and flows will be over time the first month, the first quarter, the first year, same with expenses so that I can have sufficient cash reserves to meet those bumps in the road as it were when something happens.

And now we've got a bill I have to pay, Oh, I didn't anticipate the repair to that, or the breakdown of this or the need for the other. We know from all kinds of data, that one of the most common problems in causes of early entrepreneurial collapse and failure of ventures is insufficient cash reserves, for example.

So that, again becomes part of if you do the work of the planning and the thinking and the research and the learning. I believe that again, it all enhances the entrepreneurs chances and odds of being successful and sustainable.

Adam: [00:30:14] How does having multiple bottom lines that you have in a social venture come into play in the social venture plan.

Bruce: [00:30:23] So that's a great question. So again, we're looking at different things. In many cases, depending on the nature of the venture, you're looking at financial monetary rates of return. You're looking. Simultaneously at the social impact. You've got these multiple things that you're trying to achieve.

And again, being successful in one way is almost certainly going to be related to and may impact your success in the others. And so these again, make it harder to manage on a day-to-day basis. What can we know and understand about the comparatively simpler things of cashflow, revenues and expenses and all of that, am I, again, that notion of effectiveness compared to efficiency?

And can we learn as over time? Can we learn how to be simultaneously more efficient and effective? And all of that relates to how we, as the entrepreneur, the leader are looking, listening, learning those triple L's that get us to. The better outcomes and enable us again to explore new options, new ways to organize, to do and to assess.

Adam: [00:31:41] Got it now for your students that are going through your entrepreneurship classes. What are some of the things that they struggle with the most when learning about this?

Bruce: [00:31:54] Oh, besides meeting assignment deadlines and I've been, and that's not a joke. I really should not make light of this. This has been a semester, like no other. And the challenges for many students have been really significant. And I promise you not in ways that we can, or even should think about making light out, but in terms of the real work of their own writing, their own social venture plans.

And doing that work. I would say that the financial projections tends to be the most challenging part, even if they've taken some accounting courses and other business management courses and many, if not, most of them have, when I talked to them about the needs of the social venture. And some of the ventures are they're hybrid they're for-profit ventures at market rates in which a percentage of the proceeds will be used to do social good.

We're going to buy school supplies and things for kids who don't have them in need, then we're going to use the money to feed homeless people or hungry people, whatever the case may be all the way to purely philanthropic ventures and everything in between. But the thinking and the details of all right, we're going to need this and this.

Oh, my insurance. I know one, one student submitted a plan where they said that their monthly insurance on a on a significant venture, this was a venture that was going to use a certain sports training activity to get kids off the streets in a troubled neighborhood and afterschool program that would engage and attract and appeal to these young teens to keep them out of trouble out of gang influence, drug influence, and so on. A really great idea.

And the student has had significant experience in this and in their plan, they said that their insurance costs would only be $75 a month. Even as they showed a picture of a kid on a skateboard in midair with the skateboard, about five feet under them going down a flight of steps . And when they did their presentation, I said, I think insurance is going to cost more than $75 a month.

Adam: [00:33:57] So what can people do to get better financial projections, especially if they haven't run a business before and have that kind of general sense of different things what they might cost.

Bruce: [00:34:07] Great question. And one that one of my students asked me just a few days ago. Where do I turn to get this knowledge and expertise? And the short answer to that is. What research, who can you ask and where can you look? We start out today, we've got this thing called the worldwide web. Most people have heard of it.

Some have not. And can we find sources of people. Are there other, for example, whether it's things like score the Service Corps of Retired Executives, people who volunteer their time with their knowledge and experience and wisdom to help and mentor. People like aspiring entrepreneurs. Can we turn to our small network of small business development centers, which we certainly have in New Jersey.

I work in and teach at Kean University. We have an SBDC right on the campus. And I know and work with the guy who runs that. The state has a very active economic development authority. Again, there are resources that people can turn to. This becomes more challenging, particularly for folks, for who may not be native English speakers, but are still trying to do this.

And in many of our communities, a lot of the startups and small ventures, particularly on the commercial side, tend to involve people from other countries. We see that a lot, and they're not as likely to engage in a local Chamber of Commerce or to know about Score and some of those other things. And yet, again, go to the web, who can I turn?

Who can I ask for guidance about financial projections of this kind of new business. And, most people today have a smartphone. Doesn't matter what your native languages, ask Google, ask Siri asks, literally ask your phone which is tapping into that web thing, where can I get this knowledge and expertise?

And that in a way is a hard thing for a lot of entrepreneurs to recognize. You're not going to know everything that you need to know to be successful. And so the skill and the insight and the capacity to seek out that knowledge, and even to the point of hiring and engaging, you may need to hire a financial expert or recruiting expert and bring people into the picture either temporarily or permanently to help you obtain that knowledge and practice that you may not have.

Adam: [00:36:26] I love that. So really just understanding that there are a lot of community resources that are available to you, whether that's through the Chamber of Commerce or through community development organizations that you can reach out to or universities where there are students who are working on projects and there might be some collaboration there.

But that there are people around you naturally, who've been through this in one way or another, that can give you better estimates and better information.

Bruce: [00:36:54] Yes, absolutely.

It's really part of an exploring and learning journey for us as entrepreneurs.

Adam: [00:36:59] And taking that pressure off that you need to know everything in order to start be successful, or at least you have to figure everything out on your own when you don't.

Bruce: [00:37:08] Yeah. And it's almost contradictory in a sense to the entrepreneurial mindset where we think about entrepreneurs as being, I'm the solo person. I have all I need to do this. And that's often true when we think particularly about. There's a term that you see in the literature bricolage, or being a, an entrepreneurial bricollure.

And you may or may not, and your audience may not know the term, but what it refers to is people who use what they have and what they find. And not necessarily in the ways in which it was originally designed or intended. And there's another term that's very common and now well established in community development and entrepreneurial circles and it's called Asset Based Community Development, ABCD. And what does that mean? It means what help isn't coming. We're not going to get help from the government or this group or that group or the Gates foundation or anybody else. What can we, who are right here right now do to address this issue with who we have and what we have right here.

Right now, we will use the assets and the people that we have to improve our situation and address these challenges. And so we think about entrepreneurs as being that kind of spirit and mindset that we have enough and we are enough. And well, sometimes we're not. And we don't, and they'll be a capacity to admit and to understand and to agree that we don't.

And now we need to look outside of ourselves. We may not always have, we may need and benefit from that additional expertise. That's part of the picture too. It's not either, or it's more both. And.

Adam: [00:38:51] So have any of the students in your class come up with really innovative ideas that they've gotten off the ground.

Bruce: [00:38:57] I don't know how many have gotten off the ground. I know that there are a few that have been really, to me, very powerful concepts. There's one I have this semester from a student who has traveled extensively in central and South America. I believe that's the part of the world that their family came from originally.

And it has to do with manufacturing, a certain type of product that we need in many kinds of it has uses in certain manufacturing and in homes and other places from a naturally sourced item and their intention is to do this. In underdeveloped third world nations and communities both to create jobs and income, but also to then that the product itself that would be built and created will be a product of significant value, particularly at this current time in the world.

This is one that struck me and it's not to single this one out and not mention all the 15 others or whatever, but that's just one example, where I think that there's significant opportunity and potential. And I think that this is a student who does have some motivation to say, let me see if I can really do something with that.

Adam: [00:40:03] I love it.

Bruce: [00:40:03] And there are others.

Adam: [00:40:04] Now that's great. When you have a whole class working together with different ideas and everybody can be exposed to the class as a whole, what people are coming up with.

Bruce: [00:40:13] Yeah, we had oral presentations last week on the pitch decks, the, kind of thing. And I've got another, I think, 13 or 14 presenting tonight.

Adam: [00:40:21] Oh exciting. That's super cool. That's gotta be very refreshing. Seeing that term after term is what people are able to come up with to bring in new ideas.

Bruce: [00:40:30] Absolutely. And you see their creativity and even those who it's been interesting to me that even some folks who, when you just engage with them in the classroom virtually or in person. Don't seem terribly outgoing or they may not seem like they would be the best storytellers of their own stories when they are telling their own stories.

I have found that even some of the ones that I thought were weaker have done a really good, solid job telling the story of their intended venture. That's been really great to hear that.

Adam: [00:41:03] I love that. Looking forward with Freethinc what do people need to know in order to get involved and how would they best use the services of Freethinc?

Bruce: [00:41:12] Well, I have a website, and it's freethinc.com it's think with it C not a K the one with the K that site was taken. So that's how it got spelled the way that it is. It's not to imply that it's only on the incorporated side in that way. And folks can find me on LinkedIn and a lot of people have, I've been really fortunate to connect with particularly social entrepreneurial folks around the world, in the last couple of years. I'm also an organizer of our group in union, New Jersey. It's a part of a nationwide network called 1 million cups. Some of your listeners will almost certainly be familiar with it sponsored by the Kauffman foundation out of Kansas city. And we provide a forum for entrepreneurs early stage to tell the story of their startup, ask a question for which they would need guidance and assistance, and then engage in a Q and A and dialogue with our community to support and help them.

So there's a number of things that I do and continue to do particularly as it comes my emphasis increasingly is on the social entrepreneurial side where my 20 year history of studying, learning, applying, and teaching, particularly insights and methods from a field known as complex adaptive systems science, which is what we, human beings are.

We're not the simple creatures that we in logical Queens creatures we think we are or claim to be. And so as I say, finding and discovering the inherent complexities in assessing social landscapes in social ventures, and then on the other end assessing impact again, small group, but growing body of literature and research on applying these insights.

That really is where my personal focus and emphasis is. If I can help people better understand what the real nature is of these social ventures that they're intending to engage in and what they can learn that will help them be more effective in organizing, leading, and operating and impacting. That's what I want to do.

Adam: [00:43:15] Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It's been a real pleasure.

Bruce: [00:43:20] Oh, and I can't thank you enough for the invitation and for the opportunity. And I look forward to hearing the finished podcast and to sharing this with many people that I know.

Adam: [00:43:30] Fantastic. Thanks. And if you're listening visit freethinc that's think with a C .com for more information, and you can find more resources on the show notes on people, helping people dot world. Thank you so much for listening. Cheers.

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