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What Makes Your Business Sustainable?

Updated: Mar 25

Sustainability is thankfully a word which is active on most people’s lips a large chunk of the time.  It’s vital as we all know for the climate and everyone who is fortunate enough to live on the planet.

There are so many levels to it, and now and rightly so, a lot of focus is on the ‘grass roots’, for example, in the chocolate industry preventing deforestation and encouraging cacao farmers to enter the industry and importantly to remain in it.  It’s a challenge I’m confident a solution will be found for given so many incredibly innovative, good-willed people.

So … the area of sustainability I’m going to challenge you on is business sustainability.

  • What components do you think makes your business sustainable? 

  • Are there are missing gaps or areas where gaps could open and a moment of precarious winging it kick in? 

  • How robust is your business if it was given a serious stretch with accounting ratios?

A lot of business, especially small businesses, are often teetering on the edge of trading and closing.  Often, it’s cashflow and finding your revenues come in and the same time, or ideally before, you have to pay your suppliers.

With Amelia Rope Chocolate I juggled cashflow for a long time.  I never overextended myself financially as I had no buffer to fall back on and I wanted to avoid administration if the business was ever heading in that direction.  It meant though that to keep the business ‘sustainable’ I was limited with investing in its growth – a frustrating position to be in as many of you will know.   I did manage to pay every supplier on time or pretty much on time which ultimately paid off when I had to call in favours!

So, when does a business become unsustainable do you think?

From my experience I perceive it to be lack of adequate funding, lack of manpower and potentially areas of your health becoming compromised beyond what it should be. 

But it could also be because your product has become obsolete, lack of innovation, ignoring trends, too many competitors, to niche a market or perhaps a saturated market and more.

Do consumers realise the impact of the links between the growers, suppliers, manufacturers and end product they buy off the shelves?

I’m not convinced that many do but it could just be my perception.  As with so many things in life the base line on a potential purchase is so often down to the end price.  Is it within the ‘willingness to pay’ and contribute the desirable consumer surplus? Are they financially able to pay more?  I know with the current cost of living crisis there are somethings I’m now going without as frustratingly I can’t pay any more.

Each link needs to be sustainable – however small it is – which requires fairness and understanding.  Fairness and understanding by addressing adequate margins for each link to be able to invest into their business and manpower at EACH and EVERY stage of the link.

If your business becomes unsustainable and you have to close it?

I’ve been there.  I’ve done it.  It’s tough.  It rips you apart.  It makes you question your life, your purpose et al BUT the growth it has taught you, the learnings of business beyond what I’m sure you had ever experienced before, the people you met, the places you found yourself standing in will always blow you away and bring a smile to your face.  Your next chapter will await you and will sparkle.

Finally, I would love to hear your thoughts and insights into what you think makes your business or a business sustainable. Pop your comments below or ping me an email




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