“Whatever you do, you have to make money doing it,” said Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach. I am not a client of Mr. Sullivan but have known about him for over a decade. His company targets independent sales agents like life insurance agents and wealth managers. He improves the quality of their lives while massively increasing their earnings. He started this business in 1978 and at age 72 is still going strong with a loyal and enthusiastic following.
I was invited to one of his introductory seminars by a friend who is a former client. Sullivan gave a great presentation on his methodology, but his comment on making money really struck me.
A year ago I started blogging. I hired a professional to create my website. He meets with me for planning and idea sessions, edits articles, and manages my social media presence. The blog costs with no offsetting income.
The reviews and the connections are really encouraging. I love working with entrepreneurs in whom I am invested. I also love meeting with entrepreneurs to help them in their next step in business and life. It is all very rewarding to be on purpose. But I do ask myself, “How long will I continue writing?”
I work with entrepreneurs who are creating for-profit businesses and nonprofit businesses. At the heart of every discussion is the concept of sustainability. I tell them there is no long-term if you can’t figure out how to make money at what you do.
You might offer an amazing product or service, but the true test is this: Will people pay for it? And will they pay you enough to cover your expenses and create enough money for you to live on? Without this, whether for-profit or nonprofit, you will only last for a season. It may be a lengthy season, but a finite season it will be.
Three elements of sustainability include:
- A service or product which satisfies a need
- Someone willing to pay to satisfy their need
- A profitable distribution and delivery model
Do You Satisfy a Need?
I recently met with my friend and mentor, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu of Hands of Love Uganda. Fifteen years ago he created his organization to serve orphans in Uganda. He serves these children through two orphanages he founded.
In each of these locations he also created elementary schools. They are certified schools which are highly rated by the Ugandan Education program.
Pastor Elijah built an organization to satisfy a real need in his country. Orphans need shelter, food, love, and education. Hands of Love satisfies these needs.
Is Someone Willing to Pay?
Until now, all revenue has come from donations. He has created a network of donors in Germany, the UK, and the USA. As the ministry grows, more money is required to meet the continuing needs and expand the base of orphans.
Thus far, the donor base is keeping up. But Pastor Elijah knows this model will not succeed forever. He wants to become sustainable.
Is Your Delivery Model Profitable?
One of the schools he created is ranked fourth in the nation of Uganda. His plan is to complete the upgrade to the infrastructure of this school.
He wants to make it attractive to parents who can pay for their children to attend. He projects this revenue will be enough to move the ministry closer to sustainability.
Hands of Love is a nonprofit. Yet, Pastor Elijah is working diligently on his plan to achieve organizational sustainability.
Every week I speak to entrepreneurs who don’t understand what the pastor has learned. It is easy to find people with needs. It is hard to build an organization to meet those needs. It is hardest but necessary to become sustainable.
But what about me? The painter’s house needs painting. In other words, I am loaded with advice, but it is time I started putting some of it to good use for myself. I need to become sustainable, or I’ll only last a season. That’s my challenge.
Also published on Medium.