31. May 2021 | CEO Spotlight

Ensure Sustainability in Your Start-Up Through Maximum Customer and Team Centricity

Practicing sustainability is what companies and their customers want in equal measure. In fact, this topic has become universal, running like a common thread through a steadily increasing number of diverse organisations and target groups. We all want to live, consume, manage and produce in a more sustainable manner.

Many companies have even had this painted in lovely writing on their office walls. But how do CEOs transform these sayings into a sustainable business strategy? How do they reconcile their desires with reality? What can companies do to operate both sustainably and profitably? What answers can businesses give their partners, customers and employees?

Read how companies are practicing sustainability to drive their success, meet customer expectations and create a new league of CEOs.

Customer Is King: Only Radical Customer Centricity and Climate-Neutral Innovations Lead to Sustainable Success

Always putting customers first is one of the basic prerequisites for business success. Although an art in itself, we’re not aiming for outstanding customer success management here. The process starts much earlier, before the company is even founded.

Nevertheless, this process is amazingly simple: consumers have a need, and the company that recognises it and responds appropriately will enjoy growth. As a result, it has succeeded in seeing things from the customer’s perspective.

This “thinking from the customer’s point of view” is rightfully the basis for practically every innovative business strategy. With a minimum viable product (MVP), a business continuously moves closer to fulfilling customers’ wishes. As part of a value proposition design, you place the result desired by users at the centre of your development. Whatever the issue, you should always focus on solving real, tangible problems. After all, customer needs are what causes products to emerge, because the best product is worth nothing if no one needs it.

Today, sustainability is closely linked to this key customer need. Wherever we look, we see the increasingly prominent role of sustainability, with customers boycotting products from companies that destroy habitats and whose values they consider contrary to their own. This is true for organizations in all industries, both for B2C business models and B2B.

Implementing climate-neutral innovations in accordance with customer wishes are at the heart of tomorrow’s companies. Sustainable businesses invest in their customers’ vision, favour clear and consistent customer communication, think laterally and act with integrity.

People Matter: Team Centricity in a Sustainable Business

The special thing about sustainable, future-oriented companies is how they focus not only on customers but also on employees and their needs. Information is passed on openly and extensively, and people deal with each other in a similarly open manner. Dream teams are formed in which everyone excels in their field and works together effectively, leaving no room for brillant egoists. Constant feedback among team members replaces rigid rules.

The core philosophy is: people before processes. More specifically, great people working together as a team. With this approach, you’ll be a more flexible, humorous, inspiring, creative, collaborative and successful company.

It’s a common belief that the best way to learn is from your mistakes. However, we rarely seem to apply this truism to our own employees. Companies must embrace the much-vaunted courage to not be afraid to make mistakes if they’re to be truly successful. The big threat to any company is a lack of innovation – and innovation usually requires more than one attempt. That’s why we should definitely be tolerant of mistakes among our employees.

Discover how start-ups can scale while remaining innovative and sustainable.

How can sustainability help to build a high-performing team? By adopting sustainable corporate values, companies retain their most valuable asset: capable employees with values and ambitions. Highly skilled employees in particular are passionate about standing behind decisions and actions with pride, which is why they’re increasingly turning to companies that have a clear, positive impact on the world. When their own interests and the company’s interests coincide, the only rule that makes sense will also come naturally, namely to always act in the best interests of the company.

How is it possible to set and attain these common goals? The best way is to work together on achieving ambitious personal goals. The OKR (objectives and key results) principle is ideal for this, enabling teams to achieve their biggest goals, no matter what they are.

Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.” – This is exactly where the OKR concept comes in. The process helps to implement good ideas effectively while fostering employee engagement and driving high-performing teams. They prove their worth especially when it comes to the following challenges:

  1. Formulating goals
  2. Tracking and measuring progress
  3. Revaluating and changing direction as needed (pivot)

Efficient Energy uses OKR to achieve goals such as carbon neutrality, among others.

A Sustainable Mind: The Sustainable CEO

A Sustainable Mind: The Sustainable CEO

Leadership has always meant having a vision and wanting to shape the future. In today’s business world, however, there’s an urgent need for a new kind of leadership – one that makes the long-term sustainability of our world, society and businesses a top priority.

Leaders play a crucial role in making the right strategic decisions to create that sustainable future. Sustainable CEOs want to build a lasting legacy, namely to achieve something for the company and world that has value and will stand the test of time. What’s more, the leaders of tomorrow have the ability to steer the company through uncertain and turbulent times.

What distinguishes this sustainable CEO? What does true sustainability look like in a business environment? As a true champion of diversity, understanding people from different cultures and building productive, long-term relationships with key stakeholders is second nature to them.

A sustainable CEO demonstrates intellectual flexibility that allows them to see the big picture and appreciate the details, reasoning in a value-driven and convicted manner. This enables them to shift perspective between competing interests to develop a strategy that inspires all stakeholders.

Once upon a time, all CEOs were the same … but a sustainable CEO is an individual that doesn’t have all the solutions.

Adaptive and collaborative leadership styles offer solutions. Instead of laying out all the problems and suggesting a way forward, sustainable leaders listen. They are most successful when they adopt and perfect the art of active listening. The key is to ask precise questions, seek clarity, and maintain a high level of intelligent focus.

At the same time, sustainable CEOs prioritise collaboration, which means they actively seek to interact with their team. They often stand out due to their balanced, empathetic manner, which has little in common with the classic image of a self-confident (but arrogant) CEO who is unwilling to embrace alternative perspectives. Instead, sustainable leaders show genuine confidence in their team’s abilities.

The CEOs of tomorrow are characterised by determination and courage, yet always remain humble. For example, they hire employees with talents they don’t have themselves. They always find common ground in the team and lead by example.

The most decisive characteristic of a sustainable CEO, however, is having a far-reaching vision of the future. This vision looks beyond current problems, inspires others and fosters trust. These qualities help them to implement sustainable, growth-oriented practices that contribute to the long-term security and development of everyone.