Creating a Sustainable Business

In 2004 I sat in a meeting in Johannesburg feeling sick to my core, as I realized that the business I had worked so hard to set up was finished in its current form. Legislative changes were going to deal a killer blow to Rodel.
Upon reflection, we were totally unprepared to deal with the scenario that faced us. The only thing in my favour was that I had the luxury of a bit of time, before the Act changed, to decide what to do. After a few months of research, I approached my shareholders with a completely new business model, which after much persuasion they agreed to try, and the rest is history.
I do not ever want to be in that position of helplessness again and I have resolved, as best I can, to plan for all eventualities to create a sustainable business. There is no doubt that the business world is not always fair – bad things do happen to nice people in good businesses, and if something happens to your business, something that is beyond your control, bemoaning your fate is not going to get you anywhere or help you in any way.
Things happen: negative things that are beyond our control, and they can happen in an instant: legislation changes, market trends change, exchange rates change, technology changes, there are environmental disasters and these are just some of the numerous occurrences which we cannot control.
What to do? As a wise business – and this can be applied to any business no matter how big or small, as well as being applied on a personal level – we have to expect these things to happen and make provision for them. This starts with brainstorming as many worst case scenarios for a business as possible and creating potential rescue plans for these. As well as this, the adaptability of a business constantly needs attention. Think: how adaptable is your product, your service, your offering should situations change and what can you do to make it more adaptable should the need arise? As well as this, an astute business leader needs to retain earnings for challenging times. Like interest rates, markets go up and they go down. You can count on it! If your scenario planning is for the long term, your business will ride out the humps and you will survive when all around you there is market mayhem.
And lastly there’s reading to be done: empowering oneself with the other people’s business ideas and experiences. I always think that there are few things more satisfying than learning from other people’s mistakes. It is just so much cheaper! In short, in my view, a wise business needs to be able to take control of circumstances instead of letting circumstances take control of them.

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