We proudly present: our new shortcomings
Written by Koen The on 19 June 2019
Lendahand is on a journey. We don’t know it all and we never will. The world is moving quickly and what may make sense now may not be tomorrow. As a for-profit company on a social mission, we want to stay relevant for all our stakeholders. We don’t want to move fast and break things, but we want to stay sensitive to new ideas and methods. One of the ways to do this is to identify our shortcomings and see how we can improve on them. More than a year ago we put our shortcomings on the website and in a previous blog post we set out what we did to tackle them. As we have addressed most of our original shortcomings, others have emerged. They stand in the way of becoming a better company and you can bet that we are going to work on them.
We still don’t know what the net social impact is of our efforts
Let’s start with the one shortcoming that remained from last time. It’s easy (and sometimes tempting) to use numbers and statistics to look better. If we want to claim that we are creating a huge impact, then we are pretty sure we can find the data that backs that up. But we want to tell the whole story. We did not start or join Lendahand to produce some vanity metrics. We have a genuine interest in trying to better the lives of others in a sustainable way. Thus, we want the real numbers.
Since most of us have a commercial/business background, we didn’t have the skills and knowledge to measure our impact. But earlier this year someone joined the team with exactly the experience we need for this. Stay tuned!
We find it hard to balance between creating impact and scaling up
When Lendahand started, the idea was that we would help SMEs that are not able to get access to finance. But we see now that by scaling up we must finance those small companies more indirectly (through local financial institutions) and/or finance companies that are bigger and have a larger funding need.
This means less social impact per Euro that goes through our platform. We are trying to do our best in finding the right balance, but it’s definitely not easy. We are a commercial company and our shareholders are patient, but they also expect us to become profitable. More importantly, we want that ourselves as well. We want to show that a company can have a social mission in a sustainable and profitable way.
One of the things we are doing to make sure we have social impact in our DNA is to work closely with NGOs and non-profit organizations. Concretely, we are in the process of setting up an impact-first platform with two Dutch NGOs, so stay tuned for more details on that project.
Stress levels are high
We do a yearly happiness survey in the team to check the temperature and see how much people like working at Lendahand. A few months ago, we re-asked the 6 questions we scored the lowest on. The good news was that we were able to improve significantly on 5 of them. However, what remained was a low score on stress levels.
If anything, it got actually worse, and we don’t know why. We are about to start an internal review to identify the common factors that are driving these stress levels. The next step will then be to address them appropriately. We don’t mind some stress now and then, but work should not be in the way of enjoying life.
Suboptimal channelling of ideas, opinions, and energy
This might be related to the previous shortcoming. In our hiring process, we emphasize the diversity of the team. We’re not specifically looking at age, gender, etc., but we have a special interest in behaviour and principles. By building a diverse team we hopefully minimize blind spots and groupthink. The flipside is that we have as many ideas and perspectives as we have people.
We find it hard to facilitate a constant stream of new ideas, diverse standpoints, and various ways of working. On bad days it leads to energy leakage and standstills due to inertia. But we do value the different opinions and we do want to incorporate as many as we can in our workflow. There are no quick fixes here, but we know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
We don’t celebrate our successes enough
Our entire team here has a commitment to excellence, and we are very critical of ourselves in the pursuit of improvement. Although that allows us to get the best out of ourselves, we should also take a step back occasionally and reflect on all the good stuff that we have achieved.
Lendahand was created out of thin air. Along the way, we have helped thousands of people work themselves out of miserable situations and socially-minded investors to put their money to good use. We have also won several awards and received recognition from the industry and press.
Of course, we don’t want to be a team that is patting each other on the back all the time for no reason. But celebrating our wins together more often would bond us, boost productivity and morale, and of course stimulate nearby beer-serving establishments, so obviously a clear win-win.
Update 2021: Read here an update on these shortcomings.