Case Study: How Do You Define Sustainability?

How do you define sustainability?

These days there is a great deal of talk about being more sustainable, but what does this really mean? The answer is …it depends. Is this sustainability for a family, business, or community? Each has its own distinct set of challenges and what works for one may not necessarily work for another.

During the past two years Creo Quality has been approached by a number of businesses and a handful of communities seeking assistance in improving their current situation. However, the reality is that in many instances an environment for success did not exist and there was an unwillingness and/or inability to take the actions necessary to create such an environment.

One of the greatest challenges was in working with different Economic Development groups. Many of these groups were focused on trying to hit a home run (e.g. bringing in the next big manufacturing plant or distribution center) as opposed to growing from within. The latter is referred to by some as Economic Gardening and has been shown to be an effective way of strengthening a community.

Economic Gardening emphasizes working with existing businesses and entrepreneurs. However, in order for these groups to be successful, often there is the need for additional assistance. Ideally this assistance comes in the form of talent or funding. While “free” money is hard to come by, there may be resources around the community with the skill sets necessary to help.

Tired of hearing all the rhetoric from community representatives about helping entrepreneurs and existing businesses only to see nothing changing, Creo Quality has begun to seek out groups to assist for free. The following case study illustrates the difference that just a couple hours can make to a struggling entrepreneur or existing business. Who could you help? We strongly encourage others within the community to assist one another and pay it forward. This is how Creo Quality defines sustainability.

Case Study: I was approached by a young entrepreneur that had recently started a computer repair business. The business was differentiating itself from the other numerous competitive organizations/ individuals in the community by stressing its quality of service, fast turnaround time, and attractive pricing. Unfortunately the business was struggling and therefore I offered to assist for free to see if it could get pointed in the right direction.

Based on an initial consult, it became apparent that the business needed greater focus. They were trying to be all things to all people and capture a share in markets that were already being effectively served by the existing organizations/individuals. The suggestion was made that they target a demographic that was not currently being marketed to by others since this was the lowest hanging fruit. At first management was lukewarm to the idea, but eventually came around.

The next challenge was figuring an effective way of marketing to this group. Based on our work experience and network, we were able to suggest a marketing approach that another individual had considered when trying to reach what he viewed as his demographic. This approach seemed particularly well suited for the computer repair business and was therefore implemented. According to management, within 2-3 weeks of launching the marketing campaign the volume of work had increased significantly and in fact was reaching a point in which 1-2 new people might need to be hired/contracted to assist with getting all the work completed. It is still early and thus remains to be seen whether this can be sustained; however, the point of this case study is to show the impact that just a couple hours spent with an entrepreneur or organization can make.

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