Build a Sustainable Business Like a Fire

If you have ever tried to build a fire, you know that there is skill involved in building a sustainable fire. It can be incredibly frustrating to get a blaze going only to have it fizzle out 5 minutes later.

Using gasoline or another form of accelerant is expensive and is not a sustainable strategy. These ‘sparks’ can be seen across the world in the graveyard of startups that tried to make a quick buck and did not properly build for the long-term.

So how do you build a sustainable fire?

Starter: First, something is needed to start the fire. When starting a fire this can be a lighter or a spark, when starting a business this can be an idea or a belief. Whatever it is is you will know it when you feel it. Make sure this starter is ‘the’ idea before you start out.

Fuel: In a campfire fuel is what burns, usually these are logs. In your business, the fuel is  your team. Your business is fueled by people, period. They are the most important factor of success. Pick the right ones and do everything you can to keep them.

Environment: A fire needs the right environmental conditions as your business needs the right market conditions. It is quite difficult to build a fire in wet conditions. Pick a dry, safe location to start your fire and make sure the market is ready for your business. Once you find the right environment, make sure you have oxygen. Without oxygen there is no fire. Oxygen is the life you breath life into your business by building awareness, building relationships, building believers, and building sustainably.

Gravity: If you are throwing paper and cardboard boxes on top of your pile of logs, the logs are not getting heat. All that flame you see is a distraction and is going wasted. These burn out quickly. The key to building a sustainable fire is to ensure that the energy radiating off of one heat source is fueling another. A spark fuels a leaf, a leaf fuels a twig, a twig fuels  a branch and so on. Start small (lean) and build upward.

A fire generally does not build itself. Work is needed to start it, grow it and maintain it….just like a business. If you have a starter, fuel, and gravity in the right environment, you can build something sustainable. This takes vision, determination and continuous effort. Every day. As you build, keep in mind that every flame should heat something else and you will build something truly sustainable.

Fire image: By Fir0002 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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