What is a Sustainable Business?

Sprouts growing larger toward lighbulb

Being a sustainable business means more than just recycling and using renewable energy. It means laying the groundwork for future employee and customer growth. An organization with sustainability as one of its core principles has a better chance of success in the future.

Sustainable businesses have three things in common:

  • Continuity or the ability to repeat processes
  • Availability or the ability to adapt to sudden changes
  • Scalability or the ability to scale up or down as needed

Imagine your business increases overnight, tripling in size.  Sales increase week after week while you try to keep up.  You bring new people on and get them right into producing for the company.  As this continues you start to see people completing tasks “just to get the work done” not necessarily in the best way.  The quality of the product suffers because everyone is just doing what they think they need to do, and they do not have specific guidelines to ensure quality does not suffer while quantity increases.  What happened here?  Most likely the growth of the business forced a focus on quantity instead of a balance between quality and quantity.  This is an example of scaling too fast before business procedures could be properly documented so the result is exactly what we expect.

Some businesses grow exponentially over a short time, if they fail to create repeatable processes to support new hires, onboarding, and other business tasks everything falls apart. These processes must also be flexible enough to change to meet organizational requirements. Businesses also need to be able to grow or reduce resources on demand.

Business leaders should prioritize sustainable scaling over rapid, unsustainable growth, because rapid shifts aimed at addressing a current problem, without due diligence, can backfire later and become a stain on your organization’s growth story.

What fuels a sustainable business?

Never miss these if you aim to grow sustainably:

Platform for growth

It is much more efficient to complete a task if you have all the resources you need at your fingertips.  Building a bench can be done quickly if everything you need is in one place.  It will take much longer if you start building and then remember your saw is in the closet and your hammer is in the basement.  We can think of business tasks in the same way.  If you are putting together an end-of-year report, is it much more efficient if you have the financial and production reports in one place before you start creating the end-of-year document.  Having all or your systems integrate or work together allows information to be available anywhere in the process in which it is needed.

Your line of business application should be able to gather information from all other sub-systems, centralizing information used to make business decisions and allowing for improved productivity and efficiency.

Document, document, document!

A simple documentation system can help your employees work more effectively. You get bonus points if parts of it can be automated.  The system should allow your employees to modify or revise existing templates in the document generation system to comply with changing regulations or requirements. This helps manage and create business documents on time and with greater accuracy.

Knowledge management

An integrated learning management system can help you customize and manage employee training across teams and accelerate employee engagement. The more knowledgeable your employees are, the longer they stay, and the better they serve your customers.  This system may also help indicate a potential “rockstar” employee who was being underutilized in their current position.  So, never be afraid to invest in employee training because it yields a high return on investment (preventing even a single phishing attempt can save your company thousands).

Integration or lack thereof

Because they consolidate data, solutions that successfully integrate can be a long-term asset for your organization. However, some executives overlook this, resulting in a mishmash of incompatible technologies.  A lack of integration can also be seen as an organization not valuing employees’ time and skills.  An employee whose sole job is to go from one place to another just to replicate the same task manually most likely is not going to feel they are a value to the company.

In the long run, lack of integration can be a real pain in the neck and could be the biggest obstacle to your organization’s sustainable growth.

Automation

Leveraging automation can be a huge boon to your business.  Any task which is time-consuming, repetitive, or manual should be considered a candidate for automation.  Potential business benefits from automation could be lower costs, increased efficiency, reduction in errors, and higher employee morale.

Don’t go it alone.  Partner for success!

You risk losing your employees and customers if you fail to be a sustainable business. It’s time to abandon rapid acceleration in favor of sustainable growth which can help you achieve customer/employee satisfaction and long-term success.

A managed service provider (MSP) like ITNS Consulting can seamlessly help you achieve sustainable scalability. Feel free to contact us for a no-obligation consultation on ways to make your company more sustainable.

Click here to download our “What Is Your Organization’s Current Sustainability Posture Score?” checklist to learn more about the concept.

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