Is Collaborating Really Beneficial?

Is Collaborating Really Beneficial?

By Al Lopez, March 28, 2013

In the last couple of years, as I have navigated around the nonprofit/public sector, I’ve observed very different levels of organizations that are willing to work together when it may be in the very best interest of the clients they serve and the mission they purport to have.

Having been a long time financial executive, I find that management of an organization is all about making the best use of your resources, seeking out and implementing best practices, and continuing to drive for improvement and efficiency – along with executing your mission.

For the most part, there seems to be acceptance of the fact that collaborating around some issues can have an impact on the clients and communities being served; in addition to the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of each individual organization.

However, there seems to be reluctance on how to best work some of these relationships. There definitely seems to be a trust factor that plays into conversations, if it’s felt that both organizations are “competing” for the same resources or clients.

Much like we tell our small business entrepreneur clients when considering a “partnership”, which does have a legal organizational implication, make sure everything is understood up front… how is the initiative mutually beneficial, what roles will each organization fulfill, and even under what circumstances will the working together cease.

Jane Wei-Skillern & Sonia Marciano wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review article The Networked Nonprofit, “networked nonprofits achieve their missions far more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably than they could have by working alone.”

We’ve been extremely fortunate with the partnerships we have developed here at EGBI. Besides the great relationships we have with the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce among others, we’ve also established some key ones where we deliver our training services.

Our bilingual Curso Empresarial is a product of a couple of pilots we ran in 2012 with Las Comadres Para Las Americas.  Those successful pilots led to expanded plans for 2013 and even some terrific recognition from Austin’s FuturoFund as their 2013 grantee. Our next class with Las Comadres is scheduled to begin on April 9th.

In addition, we are working with El Buen Samaritano to run a Curso Empresarial at their facility in south Austin for their clients. The cohort at El Buen will begin on May 14th.

Finally, our latest partnership involves entrepreneurial outreach to veterans as we work with The University of Texas-Pan Am Veteran’s Business Outreach Center.  The Entrepreneur Training Project for Veterans is scheduled to begin at EGBI’s Emerging Enterprises Business Development Center on April 4th.

Encourage start-up entrepreneurs you know to sign up… the next wave of classes will start in a couple to a few weeks!  Go to the bottom of our home page and register.

Through our partnerships, we have been able to expand our footprint and service offering. In a city with thousands of nonprofits, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Nonprofit collaborations can be very powerful if they are managed correctly. If you are a nonprofit thinking about collaborating with other organizations, check out Greenlights for Nonprofit Success’s Town Hall event on May 7th and explore national trends and local experiences with nonprofit collaborations and mergers.

Are you Financially Fit?

I know we’ve talked about this, but ARE YOU FINANCIALLY FIT?

By Al Lopez, March 19, 2013

Our initial session for EGBI’s small business startup training is Boot Camp. Many of you have taken it, and I know that many wonder why we are starting our “how to start a business” program with a class on personal finances and credit. However, it is surprising to me how many of the clients who begin our program have very little idea when it comes to their financial obligations, book-keeping and overall financial fitness. So we start with the basics and build on that. In fact, as we have refined our curriculum over the last two years, most of what we have embellished has been financial in nature – more detail on income statements, break-even, cash flow, pricing, and taxes.

Cash flow is critical – a business can be “profitable” and still go bankrupt. So, don’t get caught up looking at your income statement over a year and assume the cash will flow. It is critical to look at it monthly and sometimes, depending on payment cycles, even inside the month. Be prepared to navigate through those dips in available cash with savings, lines of credit, etc.

As a finance executive for most of my career, spending the last 11 years of it at Dell, Inc, where metrics and data were the only “truth,” I am pretty obsessed with looking at key measures. As a small business owner, you should measure everything: profitability, balance sheet, and cash-flow statements. In addition, there may be some measures that are unique to your business – identify them and track/measure those that are specific to your customers and product/service. As your business grows, make sure you evolve and expand your metrics so that you are able to understand the state of your business at all times. Those measures may be more operational in nature, but they will affect your financials. It is also important to review your performance and understand the indicators of the future of your business. Ask questions, be wary, and know what you are getting into. If there are areas that you are still uncomfortable with, get help. Don’t be too proud or take too long to “figure it out”.

Make sure you are financially fit at the personal and business level, and remember that EGBI is here to assist you. In fact, we are proud to be part of the Financial Fitness Greater Austin Week, which is coming up April 22-28, 2013.

Financial Fitness Greater Austin (FFGA) is an education and awareness initiative in partnership with the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, Senator Kirk Watson and more than 60 entities in the Greater Austin area. The goal of FFGA is to provide financial awareness and information to the Greater Austin community and emphasize the importance of financial literacy and the need for consumers to be proactive about managing their finances.

EGBI is a partner in the Adult Financial Fitness (FF) Contest, as part of the FFGA. This contest engages participants in actively managing their finances. Participants get to choose between a “CREDIT” or “BUDGET” packet that walks them thru four financial activities. After completing the activities, participants write an essay on how their “new financial knowledge” has made a difference in their lives. Packets are available at EGBI for pickup now thru April 12th (or downlaod them from the FFGA website). Check it out: 1st prize gets $500, 2nd prize gets $300, and 3rd prize gets $200. Join in and demonstrate your fitness! Please email for information and to request a package to participate.