Making the best use of the next 8 months is where its at
Alright, this is the last post of this 6-week series on exploring the CPA model for me personally and Miami as well. There’s a bittersweet feeling in having this experience end, but at the same time it is clear that nothing is really ending, we’re just beginning.
As many of you know, I’ve been embarking on a sort of personal journey in parallel that predates the adventures of CPA, which is applying for my MBA. Assuming I end up going, I have about 8 months to get CPA to a meaningful place before I have to disengage (at least partially) from it. So this post is not only going to be focused on the planning for how to get CPA Miami off the ground, but it will also be my own personal plan for what I personally hope to achieve with CPA. Felipe and his team have placed a great deal of faith in me and I want to honor that to the fullest extent of my abilities.
Since we’re tackling CPA as a project within our organization, there are distinct benefits and challenges to incubating in this manner, so I’ll also be drawing on Prompt #3 to take a look at our edge as a geography and as an organization.
For this part of the Prompt, we’ll be looking at the feasibility study spreadsheet (link) on the Juan/Sheila – Miami Tab.
This exercise was based on a top-down market sizing effort of Miami’s faith-based institutions, charter schools and retirement/assisted living communities (a huge market in Florida).
In summary, we found 270 houses of worship in Miami, 140 charter schools and close to 900 assisted living facilities (I’m having our analyst double check for hidden duplicates, because this seems like too much).
For a quick estimation exercise, we assumed that the faith institutions and charter schools accomodate to the following size distribution:
- 50% of them are “small”
- 25% are medium
- 15% are large
- 5% are Very large
- 5% are very very large
Then, it is a matter of thinking realistically how many institutions we can engage, enroll, and maintain relationships with in the first year and then each year thereafter.
I’m going to assume that, in a year, we can get 20 of each on our side. This means we’ll have 60 total users. Then if we assume that the conversion from users to members is 33%, which is the approximate ratio CPA operates at in D.C if I recall correctly, then we’ll have 20 member owners. To get 60 participants is going to involve getting 5 to sign up per month on average. Given a conversion ratio of 33%, we would need to have 15 intro meetings per month. This may seem ambitious, but we may get a good set of intros at the beginning that could launch us in that direction.
I’ll give all of this a little more thought in the coming days and probably for my reflection, but I’d like to sit down and run this by my team and then go from there.
Also, a little extra side note: I am thinking about how we can get additional organizers to give us introductions and get some skin in the game when it comes to connecting us with other potential members for CPA. Along these lines I am considering an incentive scheme like what Isaac from Boston suggested at annual meeting.
I know the most interesting one I’ve seen is AFLAC, where they give ~50% of the commission for 3-6 months to the person who closes the deal, then 25-30% thereafter provided they are “managing the account and relationship”. We could do something similar here but split between the multiple roles (connect to decision-maker, close the deal, process the contracts, nurture the relationship while, on the MBE side, establish relationship with vendors, negotiate and execute the deal, monitor the working relationship between provider and member + conflict resolution). Also there could be multiple outcomes to target beyond closing contracts like securing membership (and dues), and for group meeting attendance. This would also allow us to financially motivate other organizing groups to lend their contacts and open the door for us.
It’ll take some number crunching to see if/how this could make sense, but it could lead somewhere.
For the next part of the prompt, I’ll detail my planned next steps for the incubator:
- As you think about your next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, what support and resources do you anticipate would be most helpful from me/Felipe & the CPA national team?
- In the next 3 months, I want to deep dive on the relational meetings. My goal is to have all the relational meetings needed to get a clear sense of who the early adopters will be (recalling the threshold tests developed by CPA’s board in 2017). 3-5 meetings per week for 12 weeks should give us a good sense. In parallel, we will be gathering information and building out network of MBEs and double down on funding efforts. I expect our first group meeting to happen hopefully within this window or the next.
- In 6 months, I want to be knee deep in establishing the first set of contracts between these institutions. I also want to have a clear sense of where we are on capacity building partnerships that can support us in delivering the value to the institutions.
- In 12 months I’ll probably no longer be physically around, but for the last set of months I’m there I’ll want to help train the next person and handing off all the knowledge I can. In 12 months I’d like to have several contracts already active and have strong momentum when it comes to finding new institutions and establishing new contracts.
- Would you like to keep relating to other participants in this incubator? What could you imagine that looking like to be most fruitful for you?
- Yes, we think we’ll end up having a zoom check-in twice a week. I think it’ll also be useful to drive accountability and have a peer group whose knowledge and experience we can draw from and contribute to.
- One of my main projects over the next 6-12 months will be initiating and developing funding relationships with investors, lenders, and foundations. What resources do you think would be most helpful, that you realistically can deploy and on what time horizons?
- We’re going to be sending out grant applications as soon as possible. Any past grant applications or documents made for funders that we could use as a template would save us time.
- Any actual funds we could get from CPA centrally can greatly accelerate our efforts. As mentioned in a prior post, my organization is becoming more and more used to the idea of this project being one of our cores moving forward, but since we’re an actual organization, we have a “heavy” structure that needs funding to be maintained. While we may not be the lean mean 1-man shop Felipe was at the time, we have a powerful starting point with my boss’ connections, my drive and wit, and our analyst’s sponge brain. Any request that CPA may have for us to help them make the case to funders, we’re on board to support.
Which leaders at key institutions do you know already or do you know you MUST get into relationship with that will make your critical path much easier?
- PACT Miami, a faith-based organizing group and other related groups are key, including the archdiocese of Miami which my boss has deep connections with.
- (More groups in the coming days)
More than likely, it’s going to be you. Do you need to be the leader/organizer/agitator/visionary/fundraiser/doer to make this happen?
Thresholds and timelines
As with any start-up or new venture, there are always a series of benchmarks or thresholds that you usually set out — if we get to there, we’ll have made it. If we don’t get X by Y date, then we’re not likely to be able to get to where we’re going, so it would make more sense to stop — versus continue down a trajectory that wouldn’t get us there. What are your threshold goals for yourself and on what time horizon?
- These can be inferred from the timeline set out, but will elaborate more on the rules of thumb I use to cut a project half-way through later.
What specific contracts and which specific decision-makers and which institutions need to be part of the first 3-6 months and 6-12 months? What key thresholds do you need at what specific points to show that you’re making it to break-even? How much time and money do you need to get to the key benchmarks that make sense for you and your region?
- Will elaborate more on this later.
Do you believe in your own leadership and entrepreneurship enough to take the money and then be able to repay it — perhaps on a 4-10 year time horizon?
I have nothing else but the faith in myself and my word. Of course I’m coming up against fear as I write this. Of course my monsters emerge when I set out to do this work. We all know why this work is important and meaningful and has a place in the world right now of all times. If we fail, let is be spectacularly, but not because we did not try. It will be after having given it everything we had and with no regrets. And when we succeed, it will be transformative for how these anchor institutions see themselves in their communities and society. It will be transformative to the MBEs who will be able to hire and support the institutions they frequent every day as part of their lives as citizens. This will be an example of the power of collaboration and decisiveness for an otherwise silo’d and incrementalist group of anchor institutions and social impact initiatives.