When I step back and look at what we are currently going through as a company during the coronavirus pandemic, I can say that I see a dominant theme about sustainability.
Obviously in the immediate and medium term sustainability is going to apply to how we weather this crisis as a company, keeping our business healthy and our customers supported, and as our employees ARE our company, it also applies to how they will manage through this.
So I have three takes on sustainability to offer to companies today:
- How sustainability applies to the way you do business
- What sustainability means to your customers
- Why sustainability depends on your employees
First, sustainability is a critical aspect of how to grow a business. Building a sustainable business is how to maximize your survivability - not just through this immediate crisis, but the long term health of the business.
“Maximize your growth” is generally the current focus pushed on startups, that is, growth at any price. In my experience that’s just not the right model. The right focus is on quality, a solid structure, attention to customer and partner satisfaction, and well-supported employees.
Sustainable growth is more solid and profitability then lasts over time. Fast growth with big revenue also can also mean big losses. We have learned, from others and from our own past, that maximizing growth while maintaining profitability is usually slower but it’s steady - and it’s sustainable.
Then, look at what sustainability means to your customers. When you engage for the long term with your customers, partners, and ecosystem, you think not about just selling something now - you work to build trust and become a partner with strong relationships that are mutually beneficial.
When you shift your thinking to consider both the current and future impact of your services and products, you can deliver them in a way that benefits your customers most, and can maximize your earning not just in the next month but over the long term.
For Bonitasoft, building dependably recurrent business is how we can be sure that we will stay viable. So my advice here is to always think long term in how you deliver products and services, no matter what business you are in.
And third, I have a perspective that applies not only to running a company, but also to anyone who is managing a team. Trust is the foundational element.
And talking about trust, just look at the situation we have here, now, today, with the stay-at-home situation that has resulted in so many people working from home. At Bonitasoft we had a fairly easy transition to working 100% remote, because we already had in place a policy to allow anyone to work from pretty much anywhere. Successful remote work does not depend entirely on the right technology, or the right logistics - those are important, but before that is the trust that people do not need a manager hovering over them to do good work! I think this is why so many companies have been reluctant to allow remote working - until they were confronted with a pandemic.
A sustainable company needs to have a mix of trust and responsibility. Management trusts employees to do their jobs well, and employees trust their leaders. Transparency goes a very long way to build that trust.
Because it’s your team that delivers the services and products, they are the company, so they should understand how their daily work, their actions, correlate with the company’s financial health. When company management is transparent about that, and communicates clearly about it, everyone shares in the success and everyone pulls together to weather the crises when they hit.
A culture of meritocracy builds trust among team members too. When they respect each other’s work and technical ability, they are able to trust that each contributor will produce what is needed by the entire team, from a small group of product developers, to the delivery team, to marketing, and sales, and administration - everyone is needed, everyone is valued and everyone matters.
You can’t build any of these things immediately. You need to create it deliberately and proof it over time, and when an emergency like Covid-19 hits, you are already ready to meet it.
And you maximize your chances to come out on the other side with something good.