Sustainability

January 9, 2009

Since I have friends who read and think about and discuss sustainability in an environmental sense, I’ve started thinking about it in a business model sense. I ask questions about how long a business owner can maintain a business model without harming his or her personal or social environment. This is the idea of psychological sustainability or personal sustainability. A lot of “green” concepts can be applied to lifestyle choices, but be warned. I was certain I had put my laundry in the dryer last night and went to retrieve it this morning. It was sitting in the washer still damp. Turns out I had recycled an old memory of a previous time I dried my clothes!

The principle of recycling, reusing, and repurposing is an idea about stewardship of resources. It seems great to have the convenience of a plastic bottle for water or a soft drink until you hear about a collection of plastic bottles twice the size of my home state of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. The idea of nearby shopping areas sounds good until they remove cattle from acreage and clear-cut it.

To me entrepreneurial sustainability is about having a lifestyle you can maintain for years. It means not sacrificing time with family and friends on an ongoing basis to have a higher income. It means understanding what you need in your life, and also what you really want, and figuring out how running your business will help you meet your needs and get some of what you want.

I read a quote recently that jumped out at me, so I searched the internet for its author. I saw it attributed to an unknown source, to an old Spanish proverb, and to someone named only “Johann.” It says:

The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

I experienced some of that richness over the past two and a half weeks. I posted here last on December 23rd, and then left for an extended road trip on the 24th. I didn’t get back until the night of January 2nd. While I was gone I rarely had internet access. More correctly, I wasn’t willing to pay ten dollars per day for internet access at the “resort” hotel in Orlando. I thought about explaining to them what “hospitality industry” meant, but I decided to wait and cool off and maybe put my experience into one or two Anything But Marketing! articles.

We were in Orlando for a – you guessed it – soccer tournament. My older son’s team played as well as we have ever seen them play. They won three games and tied one. I also had a chance to take my younger son and his grandmother, my mother, to Magic Kingdom (possibly another idea for another article on customer service and business models by counterexample). After the tournament my sons, my mother, my stepfather, and I went to Universal Studios together. On the drive home we got to tour the Vicksburg battlefield. We brought back a lot of memories from the trip. Fortunately, some of them were pretty good!

Just before I left I wrote about business models that aren’t economically sustainable. They rely on constantly increasing demand, constant expansion into new markets, and a lot of debt just to make a profit.

In a similar way, business models that aren’t psychologically sustainable for entrepreneurs require them to spend sixteen or more hours per day working with no end in sight. They measure success by rapid growth and successive conquests. They set material wealth as the only goal.

A sustainable business model for an entrepreneur has to complement the entrepreneur’s life. It has to fit in the right spot on the list of priorities. It has to enrich the entrepreneur’s quality of life in many areas, or at least leave time and energy for other areas instead of draining every bit of physical and emotional strength.

Even though “here’s your chance to hit it big” is still one of the most successful marketing messages of all time, I still believe

The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.

Money can’t buy happiness if you have no idea what really makes you happy. And I’m pretty sure once you find out what your happiness is all about, money will be at best a dull distraction and at worst an insidious counterfeit for what you truly want.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

Comments

2 Responses to “Sustainability”

  1. January 24, 2009 : On The Twisting Road on January 24th, 2009 3:00 pm

    […] Since I have friends who read and think about and discuss sustainability in an environmental sense, I’ve started thinking about it in a business model sense. I ask questions about how long a business owner can maintain a business model without harming his or her personal or social environment. This is the idea of psychological sustainability or personal sustainability. A lot of “green” concepts can be applied to lifestyle choices, but be warned. I was certain I had put my laundry in the dryer last night and went to retrieve it this morning. It was sitting in the washer still damp. Turns out I had recycled an old memory of a previous time I dried my clothes! Continue Reading… […]

  2. Back To Sustainability… : Twisting Road Travel Log on April 29th, 2009 8:27 am

    […] I’ve written about how to have a sustainable business and what sustainability means to solo entrepreneurs. In addition to criticizing large corporations’ business plans that require […]

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