Small and medium size businesses are the backbone of all Pacific Island cultures – without them the economy would not survive or thrive. In this series I look at different ways in which we can grow and develop our small businesses sustainably.
I am coming towards the end of this series and will use the last two articles to summarise business sustainability and resilience. Firstly, sustainability.
Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive. We must shift our thinking away from short-term gain toward long-term investment and sustainability, and always have the next generations in mind with every decision we make.
To make your businesses sustainable you must think ahead and make decisions based on the future. Start by having a clear goal in mind. Why are you in business and what is your vision for your business? What do you ultimately want to achieve?
Work hard to be proactive in everything you do. You have the freedom to choose. Proactive people are driven by their values, and they understand that because they are free to choose, they are responsible for their own lives. When you have a proactive attitude towards life and business, you make intentional decisions based on what matters most to you. You spend most of your time and energy on things that you can actually control or influence. Reactive people spend a lot of time worrying about the things they cannot change – they are driven by what is going on around them not on what they are trying to achieve. Proactivity is a key aspect of sustainability.
Another key element of sustainability is your ability to keep yourselves fit and healthy – physically, spiritually, emotionally/ socially and mentally. The stronger you are internally, the more strength you will have to ensure the sustainability of your lives and businesses. Make a list of activities you could do in each of these four areas and then choose one that you will commit to, for a full week. Then at the end see what difference it has made! In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey calls this ‘sharpening the saw’. You are the saw.
Sustainability also requires a lack of procrastination. Procrastination is putting off things you should do right now. It is often driven by fear – fear of failure or fear of success! Lack of confidence encourages procrastination.
The more you build your own confidence the stronger you will become to tackle those things that have to be done but that you are not really looking forward to. If you do not know where to start, try to talk with someone you trust and ask for their help. Talking with someone like a business coach is often a good idea. They will be objective and are not involved with you in any other aspect of your lives. Take small steps forward every day. Think of a situation where you lack confidence and make a small plan.
For example, if you get nervous dealing with new customers, write down a few words that you can use to start the conversation or a few questions you can ask that will help you gain confidence. Practice with friends or your coach!
Absence of planning has a negative impact on your ability to run a sustainable organisation. Keep your planning simple and start by focusing on four main areas. Firstly, clarify what you are selling and what is special about what you do – your products and services and your unique selling point.
Then focus on where the money is going to come from – your markets and customers. Who is going to buy from you and what can they afford? How can you best reach your markets? Thirdly, what is all this activity going to cost – think about your running costs (the materials you use to produce your products), your fixed costs (the things you have to pay like rent and wages whether you sell anything or not) and your one-off capital costs (things you will only buy once like equipment or vehicles). Finally start to put together a budget to see if you are likely to make a loss, a profit or break even. If you need help around planning, contact your business coach or local business support organisation.
When building a sustainable organisation keep your focus firmly on the future and on your vision. Seek help and treat every obstacle as a challenge to be overcome!
Next week is the final article in this series on business sustainability and focuses on resilience.
If you have any other suggestions or any questions or comments, please contact me.
Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org