What I have learned about building a sustainable business with a sustainable mission

by Rasheeda Russell on Jun 07, 2022

Apple iMac on wooden desk with orange chair surrounded by plants

Businesses in the sustainability sector have a great purpose. It’s through their work and ideas that we are able to ensure a better world for future generations.

A truly sustainable business does not only have a responsibility to the environment but must also be sustainable in the way they run the rest of their business. We are currently going through our B-Corp accreditation and the process has really made me think about what that means.

Sustainable business finances

I am a bit “old-school” when it comes to business finances. In my early days of entrepreneurship, I tested the “build it and they will come” philosophy but I have quickly learnt that the first focus of a business should be getting to a positive cash flow position.

We achieved this in July this 2021! 2 months ahead of schedule. It was a struggle as most of 2020 was a struggle. But we now know we have a strong base to grow from and have the confidence we have a financially sustainable business.

red notebook and yellow calculator

Why is break-even so important?

The first responsibility of a business is to it’s employees. This is the responsibility to ensure that you are able to give your employees the confidence that their ongoing employment does not depend on the next equity raise. It also creates a better working environment, a business with a high turnover of staff or a boom and bust hiring philosophy can not build a sustainable culture. This is often the drawback of taking external investment, once taken the need to accelerate can come at the expense of the culture of the business.

It is also important to be transparent about the businesses finances with your team, the success of a business is not just down to its founders but the work of all of the team. How can the team really be a stakeholder in the business if we don’t share where we really are?

ipad with team text on home screen background

A sustainable business should not be shy to turn a profit (but fairly, we discuss this more below). A profitable business is one that can keep doing good things in the future, and not always be dependent on external funding. Profits can be re-invested into R&D, to ensure the innovation cycle continues.

Sustainable employment

At its most basic employment is of course exchange of a salary for the hard work of an individual. But in the modern workplace there are so many other factors to consider.

The first challenge of providing a sustainable working environment is finding a balance between work and life**. It’s not about “face-time” but about how we are doing against our targets. I always say, when I am asked if a team member can leave early or take a couple of hours out for a doctor’s appointment, that I really don’t need to be asked. As long as you are able to complete your work for the day and are able to support our customers then you own the diary.

I have found that this actually means that the team cares more about the goals we need to hit. Treating the team as partners rather than employees brings about real ownership.

The second challenge is allowing your team to feel they can keep growing and learning. At Klyk we have decided to provide our team with a training budget that they can use flexibly where they feel they can gain the biggest benefit.

desk with laptop apple coffe and hands writing notes on 2021 goals

Sustainable business practices

It means putting profit second and certainly not taking advantage of a customer who is in a tight spot. It is about putting in place fair contracts and always providing a fair and honest service.

The technology and telecoms industry, where we operate, is particularly bad at this. Part of the philosophy behind Klyk was to provide a human service rather than locking businesses into expensive contracts, with unnecessary cancellation fees.

The mission is always important but don’t forget that the way you reach your goal is important. There have been a number of examples of businesses that provided real change (Uber, WeWork) but provided a poor working culture.

Creating a sustainable business is as much about sustainability in business practices and culture as it’s about the positive change you are looking to bring about.

laptop with klyk logo on home screen