In memory of Mike Britten, Founder and CEO of Goodwill Solutions CIC
Just this week I learned the very sad news that Mike Britton had passed away after a sudden and relatively short illness. It is, of course, to his wife and relatives as well as to the family who make up the team at Goodwill Solutions that we send our heartfelt condolences and say that he will be missed.
For those of you that never met Mike, then you missed out. As ex-fellow retailers, we spoke the same language believing that running a great commercial business could be the foundations of a successful social enterprise and that these two factors were not mutually exclusive.
I loved Mike for his directness, his ‘no-nonsense tell it how it is approach’, his passion for community and for getting things done, cutting to the quick of the issue and putting solutions in place. He cared in abundance. But most of all, I admired his passion and his vision.
I vividly remember him talking me through his plans for the future, spreading out his blueprints on a table in some spare space within the office block whilst surrounded by the comings and goings of the many partner agencies he worked with and offered free office space to. Another great strategy in collaboration and making things happen. He wasn’t a loud or bombastic man. He spoke with a gentle assured manner and his purpose to help change lives for both individuals and communities shouldn’t be read as a weakness or flaw but for what it was: the evidence of a true social entrepreneur at work.
It is not a coincidence that Goodwill Solutions won so many prizes and not just the ‘special’ category prizes carved out for social enterprises. In 2017 alone, they included: the Barclays Entrepreneur Awards, being listed in the FTSE 1000 fastest growing companies in Europe, the Chief Constables Special Commendation and the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Silver Award.
So, why amongst so many fabulous social enterprises does Goodwill Solutions CIC stand out? Under Mike’s leadership and stewardship, it achieved the holy grail of scalability and sustainability. Mike never thought small and his success as part of UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge helped prepare the organisation to take on investment.
Goodwill Solutions used repayable finance from a number of sources including an equity investment from Northampton University to purchase their distribution centre base. This demonstrates the role that social investment played in expanding the organisation and the impact.
With an annual turnover of circa 6 million, it delivers large distribution and fulfilment contracts, runs a local community centre and works as a core partner in the redevelopment of Wellingborough prison. It does all this whilst opening up employment opportunities within their own business, supply chain and with partners.
Today, it employs around 50 people; over half of whom are ex-servicemen, long-term unemployed or ex-offenders. Training is delivered through their own Learning Academy and 67% of those who are supported go onto employment after completing their 6-week programme. This size of operation is relatively rare and the scalability of the commercial operation is a holy grail amongst many social enterprises!
Great leaders and founders are always a hard act to follow especially when they are gone too soon. But we wait eagerly to see what the directors of Goodwill Solutions and the Learning Academy will do next.
The Community Interest Structure will help keep the assets locked in for the community benefit they were created for but that’s mind stuff. What our hearts want to know is how the board will build on Michael’s legacy, making it bigger, better and even more impactful than before. After all, that’s the most fitting testimony and one I am sure Michael would have demanded.
Michael Britton, Social Entrepreneur 1959-2018