Building a sustainable business in challenging times

The Cambridge dictionary has two definitions of sustainable. The first is “able to continue over a period of time” and the second is “causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time”. While there is rightly a lot of focus on the second definition in the business world these days, off the back of a pandemic and in the economic environment we are in, I am focusing on the first definition for this article.

As I write this, it is now almost 12 months since Australian businesses really saw the start of the devastating impact of COVID-19. March 2020 saw massive amounts of fear, significant job losses, panic buying and many businesses looking to cut whatever costs they could to simply survive. “able to continue over a period of time” simply looked like a fairy tale.

Fast forward twelve months to February 2021. Globally, COVID-19 is still having a significant economic impact however for Australian businesses, much of the fear has dispersed. I’m not saying that business owners are being flippant about it, that’s far from the truth. But many are cautiously mapping their way out of trouble and looking for the opportunities that exist to come out the other end with stronger, more sustainable businesses.

What we have now is an opportunity to reset the strategy. Take on board all you have learned over the last twelve months and come out stronger. Build your strategic plan to deliver a sustainable business. Some steps we would typically take include:

Ask questions like:

  • Why are you really in business?
  • Are you getting the rewards that you want out of the business?
  • Who do you service and why?
  • How do you do what you do? Is there a better way?
  • Review your business on a “now, where, how” basis using a balanced scorecard approach
  • Get clarity on the key drivers of your business and understand how you can influence them to grow profit
  • Build an action plan
  • Hold yourself accountable to the action plan
  • Measure results and help you adjust the course as required.

The game hasn’t changed, but the field we play on has. What worked last year might not be the right way anymore. If nothing else, many of us were forced to better embrace technology as we worked from home. Has that led to lasting change for the better?

For most, sustainable business doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of being able to effectively fulfil a market need in an efficient way and being agile enough to adapt to the changes thrown at you along the way.

If you have concerns about the sustainability of your business, there’s no better time than now to do something about it.

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