Ogunte: Hi Kate, what would be the top 3 areas Local Authority staff need to think about when they envisage to take over a public service as a social enterprise?
KW: The questions to ask are firstly around attitude of mind.
i) Are you ready to move into a world of risk where you have to manage your finances in a way you have never done before ie cash flow and profitability not managing against a budget?
ii) Making sure you have enough money in the bank at the end of the month to pay the salaries really concentrates the mind.
iii) Are you ready for the competition?
The service may be yours for the taking this year or even next but will probably be put out to tender. Can you prove you can deliver the very best service at a reasonable cost with added value?
Have you got the right people? You probably manage around sickness absence and poor performance in the public sector but there is no real room for either in the social enterprise world.
Ogunte: What first thought comes to your mind when we know that a large group of women will be going away as part of the public sector staff cuts?
KW: This is a great time of opportunity but also challenge. Running a social enterprise takes vision, passion and a great deal of your time and energy. Women are really good at all of those but also have many other caring commitments. Keep a good balance.
Ogunte: What sustained/supported you when you took the Acumen CEO job on a full time basis?
KW: I was very fortunate to be backed by a great team of my family and friends. My children were growing up and becoming adults which made some things easier. I also had the support of the Northern Rock Foundation as a funder who placed great faith in me. Being appreciated by the people in our community who we helped also made a huge difference. We held awards ceremonies each year and the stories people told me about the staff who had helped them and the difference it made to their lives made me feel it was all worthwhile.
“Kate Welch OBE is founder and Chief Executive of Acumen Development Trust which works to achieve social and economic regeneration through learning, employment and enterprise. Acumen works across the North East and Cumbria engaging people in disadvantaged communities and supporting them to achieve their potential. Kate founded Acumen in 2003 having previously worked for JobCentre Plus and County Durham Training and Enterprise Council.
More about Social Entreprise Acumen here.