Business leaders are currently balancing four different business contexts:
- The world as they knew it before the downturn.
- The downturn itself.
- The world in front of them as they look for new growth and opportunities for innovation.
- What will the next decade bring as far as additional change and opportunity.
Some organizations are literally stuck wishing business would return to the world they knew before the downturn. Fortunately or unfortunately, that will not be happening, and companies that are stuck on that hamster wheel may not be companies for long.
However, many organizations realized that in order to make it through the downturn, they needed to manage cost focus on smart cost cutting strategies as well as keep a keen focus on how they would keep customers. While many organizations have developed strategies to successfully manage their basic business and manage their cost structure, many are also looking at the business world in front of them and questioning what growth opportunities and innovations will present themselves if they keep it top of mind. What new products or services could be developed? We will still be operating in a somewhat constrained world but there is no doubt things are starting to move in a more positive direction.
Finally, there are other companies managing their basic business, keeping growth and innovation top of mind, as well as looking forward to the next decade. They are also asking the additional question—what opportunities will industry change and restructure bring to our business? Companies that think forward plan to grow and prosper no matter what may happen in the next ten years.
Building a truly sustainable business is more about creating a plan for what your business will look like in three, five or ten years as well as creating and committing to a process of constant evaluation of trends and monitoring change in the world around you. Many businesses leaders, when they put their nose to the grindstone, know how to manage through the muck and mire of an economic downturn, and strategically manage their costs and focus on their customers. A truly sustainable company has the leadership, structure, and decision making process in place to know how to get through today, tomorrow, next quarter and next year in order to be a viable and sustainable company three, five, or ten years into the future.
There are six key areas of every business that need to be aligned for short-term success and long-term sustainability. Those components include your people, your processes, your leadership, your customers, your commitment to the environment, and profitability. The alignment of these six core components is critical to innovation and to a systems thinking approach. Here is a link to a business sustainability model that gives you a good visual of how the areas can be quite dysfunctional when they are not aligned and how they can produce amazing results when they are aligned.
Keeping these six areas in alignment is a lifetime commitment for any business. It is never a “one time and done exercise” as outside forces beyond your control can throw any one of these areas out of alignment and quickly destroy organizational balance: economic conditions, regulations, customers’ needs, changes within your supply chain just to name a few. So, the question becomes how will you prepare your company to be successful today as well as create a sustainable organization three, five, and ten years into the future?
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC, through their Institute for Sustainability, has specialized in helping businesses define and implement a common sense approach to sustainability while achieving high levels of excellence and results. Learn how at www.theinstituteforsustainability.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.