Value Lessons Learned Between Entrepreneurship and Non-Profits

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Entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders both have a lot to learn from each other. Even though it may seem like they’re working in completely different industries, both worlds have a lot of interesting insight on how to grow, partner, and market to a larger audience.

Dr. Ken Thiessen is the Founder of Power of One Consulting. He focuses on consulting for the social sector and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Ken is also a certified senior Gazelles coach and uses his expertise to help business owners and nonprofit leaders succeed in their industry. By working with both nonprofit and for-profit sectors, he has found some very interesting lessons that we can all learn from, and use, in our business.

When Dr. Ken was 18 years old, he decided to buy a restaurant. He had no business plan, and yet the bank gave him a loan anyway. Two years later he went bankrupt but he learned a lot of important lessons from this experience at the ripe age of 20.

When Dr. Ken turned 29, he did a major career shift and went back to school. Truth be told, Dr. Ken is surprised he even did this as he wasn’t very good at school in the first place. He decided to become a minister at this time, and he continued to do this for the next 20 years. The shift from for-profit to nonprofit was a major wake-up call.

He did consulting work for 45 churches to help them get more organized and make a structured plan for their future. He worked with so many people who meant well, but couldn’t plan beyond that.

After 5 years of doing this, Dr. Ken wanted to do more and help others in a bigger way. This is how he got introduced to Gazelles and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. Once he adopted Gazelles framework, things changed for him. He began helping a variety of nonprofit organizations.

So, between entrepreneurship and nonprofits, what kinds of differences and lessons has Dr. Ken learned so far? In the nonprofit sector, you have people rise up in the ranks (executive director positions, etc), despite not knowing how to read a financial statement or run a team. How did this happen? They get there because they are passionate about the cause and are willing to roll with the punches and learn on the job.

A lot of nonprofit leaders will say that they’re not a business, but Dr. Ken tells them that they owe it to the people who fund them to show them that they’re using their resources effectively. This is why it’s so important that you treat a nonprofit like a business.

The reality is, you can run a nonprofit like a business and you can do it without compromising the core values and the core reason why you’re helping others. In fact, by treating a nonprofit like a business, you are able to effectively structure your organization in a way that helps more people. Who doesn’t want to do that? Once nonprofit leaders realize this, they actually end up scaling and growing their nonprofit to new heights.


Interview Links:
The Entrepreneurial Non-Profit: The Key To Maximizing Sustainable Impact
Ken on Linkedin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish

discount code for nonprofit organizations NONPFT


More Resources:

Scaling Up Business Growth WorkshopsTake the first step to mastering the Rockefeller Habits by attending one of our workshops.
Scaling Up Business Website
Bill on YouTube

Gazelles Website


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Scaling Up is the best-selling book, by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles, on how the fastest growing companies succeed where so many others fail.My name is Bill Gallagher, host of the Scaling Up Business podcast and a leading business coach with a Gazelles. We help leadership teams to get the 4 Decisions around People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash right so that they can Scale Up successfully and beat the odds of business growth success. Our 4 Decisions are all part of the Rockefeller Habits 2.0 (from the original best-selling business book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits).