Best Practices, Operations, V9I3

In a Word ‘Sustainability’

Years in development, DeLorean Motors’ DMC-12 had a production run of approximately 9,000 cars with less than half sold before production ceased in 1982. Not exactly a sustainable existence for a startup company built by career automobile industry executive John DeLorean. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Abato,

We hear the word sustainability used everywhere. In political discourse, by governmental entities, by social scientists and economists, and to describe environmental concerns. On a more personal level, sustainability can describe relationships and their chances for success. But think about sustainability as it relates to your business and those whom you conduct business with.

A simple definition of sustainability is “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.” Is your business on a sustainable path? Can you continue profitably at current levels? What about your vendors and those who are vital to your business’ supply chain? What about your customers? 

Companies that you deal with at either end of the transaction need to be stable, dependable, loyal, and attentive to your company’s needs. If, for instance, communication is lacking, this could be a signal that your vendor or customer may be struggling. We all struggle at times and how we deal with this makes all the difference. Honesty should be the No. 1 response in any situation. This goes a long way to maintaining a good working relationship—resulting in a sustainable situation. 

Your sustainability is directly related to all the other companies and individuals that you deal with. Their sustainability matters to yours and vice versa. This means both companies that you purchase from and those that you sell to impact your sustainability as well as those who provide marketing and consulting services, building materials, or transportation services. 

The software you choose to run your business and streamline manufacturing processes will cause a ripple in your sustainability, good or bad. Your choice in all of these matters are critical to your own sustainability and the sustainability of businesses you partner with. 

Select partners carefully. Ask the difficult questions upfront. Listen to the answers with intent. Use common sense to respond with thought provoking challenges. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And finally, make the best choice for your business based on the information at hand. 

I can see the fruit of sustainability in the nine years I have been publishing Shed Builder Magazine. Growth of the shed industry has more than doubled in these years, tripled even. But, it’s not about the size of the industry that matters. That’s just a number. What matters is that the companies and businesses that have built the shed industry are responsible for its growth and maintaining sustainability. 

Your shed business has done its part to expand its presence locally, regional, or nationally and you should be proud of your accomplishments and recognize your significance to the overall success of the shed industry. You have contributed to the sustainability of our industry and will impact its future. But the shed industry is slowly leaving behind its fragmented roots, turning towards the future.

I see more companies specializing in just one area, where before they tried to do everything themselves. Being a sustainable enterprise means realizing that everything around you is bound to change. How you conducted business yesterday may not work a year from now or two years from now or even tomorrow. 

Having the realization and fortitude to change is a part of being a sustainable entity. Focusing and specializing can increase your company’s sustainability and contribute to the industry as a whole.

We are all not created equal. Thank God for that. Our individual uniqueness is a gift from the Almighty. Sustainability has much to do with the path our companies take when they are first created. The uniqueness of being a pioneer (like Steve Jobs-Apple Computer) or an innovator (like Elon Musk-Tesla) will dictate the future sustainability of these iconic companies. Exponential growth followed and sustainability to a degree few can imagine. 

I’m not saying that we are all bound to be Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but each one of us should believe in and formulate a plan for sustainability within our own companies. And we should demand the same from our partners and vendors. We should also care about what we convey through sales to our customers.

We are witnessing a boom in startups in the shed industry. While this is exciting to see, I believe there is a cautionary tale to be told for both the startup and prospective customers of these new companies. Startups exemplify the vibrance of the shed industry and the founders who have an idea and decide to jump in with both feet are to be celebrated for the risks they endure. 

While there is nothing wrong with this, my concern is about long-term sustainability and the effect on the industry. Tremendous resources are being invested into shed-related products and technologies. While it can be said, “necessity is the mother of invention,” being an innovator without the specific experience and skill, or background necessary, can be a costly road to profitability. Thus, sustainability becomes increasingly difficult to maintain throughout. 

Sustainability can be fragile. Let’s not take for granted what the shed industry has provided to our individual businesses. Use your resources wisely. Ask tough questions of those we intend to do business with and then make your decision. 

Unfortunately, this means selecting what we think is a winning idea or product and eliminating the ones we think don’t measure up. In the end, when more companies make these sorts of decisions to create sustainability, the industry prospers and grows. 

Before I let you go about your day let me leave you with this: any conversation about sustainability should reference the Bible. Jesus’ parable about the Wise and Foolish Builders lays out sustainability that we should follow. To paraphrase Mathew 7:24, we should hear Jesus’ words, put them into practice, and build our house on the rock. But if we don’t put Jesus’ words into practice, we are like a foolish man who built his house on sand. When the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash. 

This means sustainability creates a certain steadiness within life and ignoring it creates an imbalance that is hard to recover from.

Here’s wishing you a prosperous future growing your idea, focusing on your existing business, and thanking you for being a valued participant in the shed industry. 

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