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The 3 S’s of Running a Sustainable Business

The 3 S’s of Running a Sustainable Business

I recently had the joy of meeting up with my fellow Profit First Mastery members in San Diego for sun, fun, and of course, strategy. One of my key takeaways was the keys to building a sustainable business. Now, I want to share what I learned with my community of business owners.

This rock stacking activity symbolized figuring out scalability and sustainability in different ways.

I am forever grateful to be a part of this group of brilliant minds. They are authors, speakers, award winners, and game-changers. We challenge each other to push beyond the “status quo”. We encourage and support each other as we strive to get to a place where we are helping our small business clients run sustainable businesses while building our own sustainable businesses (without going off the “deep end”!).

What it means to run a sustainable business

One of my most powerful takeaways from the Profit First Mastery Meetup was the concept of what it means to run a sustainable business.

If we could break it down in its simplest form, running a sustainable small business is defined by 3 S’s:   

  • Self-Sufficiency 
  • Systems & Structures 
  • Scalability 

Wow. Those 3 S’s of Sustainability pack a very big punch for me! As small business owners, we often pride ourselves on the ability to “do it all” for our business and handle multitasking like a pro. However, our business is kind of a big old flop if all we focus on is being a superstar that knows how to do it all. How can we outgrow our own prideful need to be the chief-of-everything?


My business besties are Peter McCarroll from Fuel Accountants and Cathy Ramos from IBC Bookkeeping.

Self-sufficiency is massively different from business sustainability. Don’t get caught in this trap!  Your business cannot progress forward if you – the business owner –  are holding it back because you think that you are the only one who “knows how to do things right”.  You need to let your team carry their own burden of self-sufficiency. Likewise, do you find that you are hoarding work? Possibly because it feels good and you’ve been doing this work for years? Chances are that you are the bottleneck holding the business back from sustainability and growth.

Systems & Structures

The business needs systems & structures to grow and develop.  The systems and structures that you develop as a business owner will likely be the fuel that feeds the team when there is a thorny issue and no one else feels confident to step in and tackle it.

Think about it. If the team doesn’t have the base-level systems and structures in place, they cannot go out and dissect new, sticky issues. This is due to a lack of ability to identify a broken link.

Here’s the thing. There is an underlying business hierarchy of needs that applies to all businesses. As small biz owners, we are often so deeply entrenched in the activities of the business that it gets difficult to see the forest through the trees. If we step back and return to our foundational systems and structures, we have a greater ability to forge a path through the forest.   

When you get frustrated because you don’t know how to teach your team to do what you do, your team is likely feeling that same frustration. We have to allow our teams to step up and build systems and structures. Those systems and structures will allow them to take work off your plate. Then they can make your special magic repeatable and build consistent results.


Scalability happens when you empower your team to be self-sufficient and responsible for their own capabilities. We all know it’s hard to give up our own power. The wonderful thing about teaching the skills you have to your team is that this is where scalability and growth happen. If you don’t allow your team to do the things that you do because you don’t know how to teach them, your business cannot scale and grow.   

If you are honest with yourself, you might find that the only thing holding your business back from growth is your own arrogance or need for control. It disallows others on your team to grow and shine.

As the owner of Reconciled Solutions, this has been a hard pill for me to swallow. I have come to realize that the things that got me to my first hundred thousand in business are not the same things that I need to grow to my business to a million, or ten million. Those are lessons I have yet to learn.

I feel that constantly reviewing and returning to these 3 S’s of Sustainability can act as a guide to growth. When the next hurdle in running a sustainable business is hard to jump, I think the key to overcoming it will likely be found by digging into it through self-sufficiency, systems & structures, and scalability.    

Angie Noll