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Did the future just sneak up on us? Reflections on a new business model for private practice

By: The Career Development Company (CDC)

Date: 27 Nov 2019

Category: Article reviews

Tags: social enterprise, business model, private practice, cdc, career development company

Did the future just sneak up on us? Reflections on a new business model for private practice

A big thank-you from The Career Development Company to those of you who attended our workshop at the CDANZ conference to hear some of the challenges, opportunities and rewards in launching and establishing a new private practice model. Having mused with some of you after the workshop we thought we’d write this article about the new possibilities for how we work together as career practitioners.

The future did indeed sneak up on us while we were thinking about it (Contomanolis, Cruzvergara, Dey, & Steinfeld, 2015) and the associated 21st century realities of technology and social change have demanded new ways of working.

Within the profession of career development, which has for some time been “striving to revision and reposition itself” (Watson & McMahon, 2012, p. 6) it has never been more imperative for practitioners to rethink and revise career practices to stay relevant and connected to the clients we serve.

So, as we do with our clients, as career practitioners we need to reflect on the ever-changing reality, reflect on our strengths, explore new possibilities, create strategies and take steps towards our desired future. It was in this context that, in late 2018, as four experienced career professionals collaborating on the CDANZ projects, we came together as a company knowing we had a shared common purpose. And we believed from experience in sole operator private practices (and one coming new to private practice from the public sector), we would be more effective as a team rather than separately.

In discussions prior to launching the company we quickly established that a blend of for profit and social enterprise was the right fit for us. In effect it formalises the approach of many career practitioners in giving freely of their time whilst running a private practice. Underpinning the social enterprise model, is the assertion that making a profit and having a positive social impact are not mutually exclusive (Narula, 2017). The Ākina Foundation (https://www.akina.org.nz/), which partners with Government to develop New Zealand’s social enterprise sector, describes social enterprises as purpose-driven organisations that trade to deliver positive social, cultural and environmental impact. Ākina suggests that a good way to think about social enterprises is that they have the heart of a charity with the mind of a business.

We found successful models to emulate outside the career development field in the New Zealand world of business (e.g., Eat my Lunch, Thankyou Payroll). However, we came to understand that our development as a For Profit Social Enterprise would require both creativity and forbearance because there appeared to be a lack of evidence or research about the model within career development either in New Zealand or internationally.

We also became very conscious of the ideological and resourcing differences with the Not for Profit Community Sector, and the possible implications as we work with and alongside those operating from other business models. There are two highly recommended reports for going into a new business model with eyes wide open. Part of a Larger Whole looks back over a 30 year period for learnings from previous approaches, and at the ideological considerations between the social and community enterprise sectors. Social Services System: The Funding Gap and How to Bridge It reports on research findings that the social service system in New Zealand is not working as well as it could be and that, as a result, providers delivering critical services to those in need are underfunded and over-reliant on the philanthropic sector.

It’s a steep but invigorating learning curve to put in place all the elements for a profitable small business whilst learning how to establish our Give-4-Good social enterprise offer. In 2019 we have successfully delivered a major social enterprise offer through the Careers Expos in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington and our for profit offer to individuals and organisations is starting to take root. Under our Unfurling Fronds branding for our social enterprise, we are collaborating with Seeds of Love in Christchurch to provide support to migrant women in Canterbury. And we are making pitches and applications for a significant project to improve the access to career development tools and support in communities.

In conclusion, we welcome conversations about new business models in careers private practice and will continue to share our insights as we grow our For Profit Social Enterprise.

References

Contomanolis, E., Cruzvergara, C., Dey, F., & Steinfeld, T. (2015, November 2). The future of career services is now. [Online forum post]. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/career-development/trends-and-predictions/the-future-of-career-services-is-now/

McMahon, M. (2016). Career counselling: Constructivist approaches (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Narula, P. (2017, December 22). The Forprofit Social Enterprise is the impact model of the future. [Online forum post]. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/12/22/the-forprofit-social-enterprise-is-the-impact-model-of-the-future/#2f1d2c0a5571

Watson, M. B., & McMahon, M. T., P. (2012). Career development: Global issues and challenges. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

The Career Development Company (CDC)

Dr Val O’Reilly, Caroline Sandford, Amanda Smidt and Julie Thomas are Executive Directors of The Career Development Company.

Val is Past President of CDANZ and past co-leader of the Professionalism Project. She has a PhD (Career Development), Master of Career Development (Distinction) and is a Fellow Member of CDANZ.

Caroline is serving her second term on the National Executive of CDANZ currently leading the Professionalism Project in developing professional standards. She has a Grad Cert in Career Development, a MA in Industrial Psychology (Hons), is a certified coach, a Fellow Member of CDANZ. 

Amanda is a graduate of the Master of Professional Practice (Career Development), a Professional Member of CDANZ and on the Professionalism Project team.

Julie has an MBA and Post-Grad Dip Guidance and Counselling, is a Life Member of CDANZ, Co-Chair of the Wellington Branch, on the professional standards project and on the advocacy team.