4 Keys To Creating A Sustainable Business Built To Scale
New business systems will need to emerge in order to keep pace with the accelerated growth that’s occurring in our world.
Up until this point, collectively we’ve gotten good at creating businesses that operate like machines. Input in = input out.
If we have the right to-do lists, and the right priorities, and the right goals, and we stay on top of them, then we’ll be successful.
This productivity-based model is the most prevalent form of business we see in Western culture.
But things are evolving.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a whole new slew of business models that incorporate sustainability, people before profits, and other “green” values such as giving a portion of profits to a global causes.
But the challenge with many of these business models is that bureaucracy is still embedded in the DNA of the organization.
There’s a CEO, or someone calling the shots, who is responsible for the wholesale vision of the company.
The rest of the company attempts to fit their own personal vision within the frame set by CEO.
Keeping in accordance with a top-down vision, often times these business systems incorporate a high level of control that suppresses individual creativity and freedom, ultimately stifling the growth of the employees and the business entity itself.
It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished up to this point, however moving forward it’s imperative that we create a business model that promotes growth into the highest levels of consciousness at both the individual and organizational levels.
In my company Transformation Agency we are currently battle-testing a new business model along with software that supports the growth of the culture.
While developing this technology, we made sure to use the following as guidelines…
1. Simplicity Is Key
This is the crux of a business model that is built to last. In referencing spiral dynamics, we want have look at business from a “Turquoise” level of consciousness — meaning that it transcends and includes all of the previous levels of consciousness. No one is excluded.
If it’s simple and works for everyone, then the barrier to entry to starting a business will be the lowest it’s ever been. Too often people are dissuaded from starting a business because they are overwhelmed by all of the legal and accounting details.
But people are inherently creative. They want to help. And business is one of the most powerful vehicles for transformation and innovation that human’s have created. We must make it more accessible.
That involves cherishing simplicity and elegance. We want to make the system so easy that a 3rd grader could use it. If not, it doesn’t pass the test as it would eventually halt growth on both the individual and organizational levels.
2. Contribution over Effort
While operating within a traditional business model, effort is highly rewarded. If you work harder and you produce more results then the business will succeed as a result.
This perspective is not sustainable, especially when trying to foster deep connections within the workplace. The notion of effort in society and the drive to be successful at all costs is the source of so much relational disconnect today.
As we formed Transformation Agency, we saw that in order to remain connected to each other on a deep level we needed to find a better way to evaluate performance above and beyond effort. We wanted to be able to enjoy each other’s company and enjoy the journey from a relaxed place, even when we were working hard.
As such, it’s important that the system of rewards incentivizes not effort, but contribution.
Included in that contribution is how you make people feel — your actual presence and energy, not just the work you do.
The kind of fuel that powers your results can create generative or entropic impact on the business organism and culture at-large.
How are you affecting your environment? How are you contributing?
We wanted the evaluation of contribution to be in accordance with point #1 — something that works for everyone.
When we see business metrics and evaluations of people in companies, there’s up to 20 different metrics per person, that can take up to an hour to fill out.
Because of how complex the rating systems are of people’s contributions, companies only do it once per year, if that.
So in our software and business systems, we use one 5-second rating that represents another person’s contribution.
3. User-Created Hierarchies, Not Mandated Ones
Top-down hierarchies are common-place in today’s business world. The CEO is the boss, followed by a series of managers that are pulling the strings on the employees.
The challenge with mandated hierarchies is that someone is always controlling or being controlled.
And getting results under a mode of control comes at a relational cost.
We’re seeing corporate bureaucracy is finding itself incompatible with the millennial generation who refuse to be bossed around. Meanwhile, technology is producing an entrepreneurial boom with more and more people exiting the default work world to build their own path.
Rigid control is just not going to work for the future of business.
But the opposite doesn’t work either. Having no hierarchies whatsoever would mean that nothing would ever get done. Who’s to lead?
Imagine you’re on a ship. If the ship is your business, and someone says there’s an iceberg up ahead, but there’s no leader, and you’d need to come to consensus about a decision being made, that could very well cripple and kill the business.
It’s not that hierarchies are the problem. Hierarchies will form naturally among a set of people who are connected to each other. Someone will naturally become the leader as it will inspire them to do so, and other people will trust them to lead.
But people grow and change. To keep someone in one role, forever, or make it very difficult for a person to change roles in a company (like needing a promotion) will eventually stunt the growth of the company.
To keep the company operating as an organism, we need to allow roles and hierarchies to fluctuate in real-time in accordance with the fluid needs of the business.
4. Cultivating Truth and Transparency
A business model that is built to last would reflect the truth of what’s occurring in the relational space. This involves creating a culture of non-coerced transparency.
Because of the level of control in current business models (boxing into narrowly defined roles, complicated metrics for qualifying contribution, goals prioritized over relationships, etc.) it becomes difficult for people to see how their own fears and beliefs of scarcity and unworthiness are affecting the overall business.
If we think of a business as an organism, it’s important to note that the world will respond to the consciousness of the group as a whole. If two people in the group are having conflict, and it’s not being resolved, it’d ultimately hold back the growth of the business. The culture needs to have a way for that to come to light.
If people are contributing and helping as much as they can then we’d want to culture to have room for that to be honored and recognized.
Because these re-imagined businesses will experience higher resolution information passing through the relational system, they will be in a superior position to sense and respond based on what’s ACTUALLY happening inside of their business ecosystem.
Having access to metrics that offer a real-time reflection of the insecurities, bottlenecks, strengths, and opportunities for growth within the group creates a distinct evolutionary advantage over control-based boxed-in bureaucracies.
Do these principles resonate with you?
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in your own business or a business you work for - how does it feel to work at your company? What are the biggest pitfalls you're experiencing, and how have you tried to solve them?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Follow me at @maxnachamkin to follow my journey on this business model and for more writings around decentralized business structures.