Sustainability and Longevity

Can your business outlast you? (courtesy of Ignorance is Bliss)

Who are the poster children of business success these days?

More often than not, they are innovators and iconoclasts like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Starbucks are admired - and even worshipped - for their abilities to buck the trend and swim against conventional wisdom.

Creativity, passion, vision, energy, and sacrifice have become the new mantras to success. These qualities appear to have taken centre-stage in our companies' performance.

If you can't whip up an original revolution, excite the masses, move at the speed of light, or be powered 24/7 by the social web, you can forget your goal of world dominance. Or so it seems.

The problem arises when we try to copy the "crash and burn" lifestyles of these corporate superstars and their ilk without considering something far more important: the longevity of our enterprise.

Think for a minute and consider the following:

1) How long can you excite yourself to work 18 hour days for 7 days a week with minimal sleep, family time, social interaction, or exercise?

2) How many wild and wacky products and services can you possibly imagine day after day, month after month, year after year?

3) How much funds do you have to churn out idea after idea, prototype after prototype, and product after product?

4) How many "world class" talents can you find, based on your track record, resources and credibility? More importantly, how long can you retain them with the promise of reaching the land of flowing milk and honey?

5) How many chances will your bosses/investors/partners/suppliers/distributors give you while you careen from one world changing scheme to another?

6) How much planetary and financial resources - fossil fuels, trees, raw materials, money - are needed for this journey? Are you able to access these resources easily?

7) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how long can you do what you're doing without feeling bored, tired, weary, restless, or totally burned out?

The thing is this. Its easy to be caught up with the flavour of the month and imagine that you're invincible. Its easy to be beguiled by the dreams and visions of storied entrepreneurs. Its easy to let your heart rule your head (and body).

What is not easy, however, is to take a good stern look in the mirror. Ask yourself the hardest questions. Go through the worst case scenarios. Get your confidantes, family members, and mentors - those who will not mince their words - to offer their honest, unabashed opinions.

Think long-term, not short or medium-term. Consider carefully if what you're doing can last beyond the initial honeymoon year. Will you still be around 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more? Reflect upon what it takes and the changes you need to make in your lifestyle to achieve that.

Nobody likes to think too much about the future. It is murky, scary and uncertain. However, the ultimate test of success in any entrepreneurial or professional journey isn't just about present glories but future happiness.

How long can you sustain your enterprise? Are you burning your candle at both ends?

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