By Shea Parton
Since we started Apolis in 2004, we have learned some valuable lessons about running a business.
Don't worry if everyone is moving faster than you.
When we started, we saw quite a few other socially-minded for-profits and nonprofits gain some immediate traction in the market. While these organizations were doing some great work, many of them struggled to achieve longterm sustainability. With Apolis, we decided from the beginning to be content with gradual progress, and we continue to believe that the most powerful form of social impact takes place through longterm partnerships. Over the past nine years, we've only recently begun to to see this patience pay off. We've made some good progress recently—solid, sustainable growth that's resulted in an improved ability to provide social impact, all of which we attribute to a small group of friends and family that have remained patient and supportive throughout the evolution of our brand.
Think about how you can sustain your business.
Today, more than ever, there is an incredible amount of pressure on businesses to grow and scale at an unreasonable pace and in an unrealistic timeframe. Companies take on capital and essentially set up their own financial hurdles to jump over, so to speak, with the expectation that some sort of miracle will manifest that justifies this risk. There's something beautiful about building a profitable business while being discerning enough to stay true to what you believe. That is the type of fiscal and philosophical sustainability that we are passionate about.
There are benefits to taking the longer road.
The most apparent benefits came from our mistakes having fewer zeros. In other words, we tried to make our mistakes methodically and over a longer period of time, rather than fall into some of the traps you'd typically associate with a quick-growth business model—one where you burn through cash and then ask questions later.
When there are quite a few more zeros tied to each decision, we are much more calculated and understanding of the ultimate risk. We love what we get to do everyday and can't imagine having to find a new occupation, but we are more mindful than ever of the potential pitfalls involved with with our work. That being said, it is always important to us to move as prudently, but quickly, as possible on the right opportunities in order to maximize our impact.
Hindsight is sweet.
Hindsight is how we assess our successes and failures. We try to learn from our mistakes and amplify our wins. Our view is that a patient approach is about being as creative as possible with limited resources. It's about earning true trust and brand equity that no promotional campaign can replace or substitute. Warren Buffet often emphasizes that credit is one of your pre-eminent assets. And that wisdom holds a lot of weight with us. In our opinion, brand equity is your industry credit score that really points to longevity and an earned market share rather than a "bought" market share.
Other social entrepreneurs can help you.
We're inspired by many of the social good-focused organizations that mutually believe business can improve people's lives. Our goal is to continue to participate in the development of this beautiful concept—the idea of building an industry of socially conscientious people where the community as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.