Cover Story: Safety Line
“A lot of organizations think that this is something that the executive director is going to do on the side, and we just know that the executive director is wearing too many hats,” Peeler says. “We always counsel our clients that if the executive director thinks that they’re the one that’s going to be running this business, then they should not move forward. They really need to have dedicated [staff] and sometimes even industry experience to make sure that the venture is a success.”
Though some of the duties of Freedom Wheels overlap for Vehicles for Change staff, and they share a receptionist and office space, Freedom Wheels has two full-time staffers to run it. Schwartz says his organization was lucky in that one of his staff members had been a general sales manager at a car dealership.
“He had extensive car-sales knowledge, so we were very lucky in that we already had somebody on staff that had that information and knew how to do it and was aware of the business itself,” Schwartz says.
Bromberger says that as organizations brainstorm and plan business ventures — whether with the help of a consultant or not — they should at the very least involve an accountant and a professional knowledgeable in business planning.
“Those people will poke. They will probe. They will challenge assumptions. They will point out things that the group hasn’t taken into consideration,” he says.
The biggest success factor is a willingness to come into the process with an open mind and a long-term approach. When done properly, Block says, the process — from brainstorming to planning to launch — can take about nine months. And most ventures take about three to five years after launch to break even. If an organization is in survival mode and trying to figure out how to make payroll in six months, this is not the way to go.