The term sustainability has been thrown around frequently in the past few years, covering everything from green products and services to sustaining the balance of an ever-fragile economy. My experience with this concept and the long-term success of a business focuses on creating a business environment where needs, goals and opportunities of the future have the same value as the needs, goals and opportunities of the present-day.
At Geneva Rock Products — a company with six decades of trial, error and improvement under our belt — we focus on sustainability every day.
We experience two types of decisions on a regular basis. Routine decisions happen throughout the day and are given little thought, like choosing to follow the speed limit, recycling a soda can or making an extra follow up call to a customer.
Complex decisions happen infrequently and require information, research, and group input — like deciding where to open your next office or investing in a new product line.
Making good decisions bring immediate value and offer long- term returns, extending the life of your organization. Take the time to make even routine decisions purposeful. Set a standard of “the higher path” with regard to customer service, environment and community building decisions. These small decisions do just a bit more to sustain your culture, your motivation and your brand.
My advice for making complex decisions that result in sustainable outcomes? Avoid unproven short-cuts, recognize a “want” from a “should,” and be prepared to sacrifice.
Early on, little thought was put into the value of human capital to a business. Not until the likes of William Edwards Deming did businesses see there were real costs in recruiting, training, developing, motivating and turnover. I see three key areas where sustainability relates to the people we employ.
1- Making the company a sustainable career path for your most valuable assets. A fulfilling salary is only the start. Geneva Rock’s commitment, from the beginning, has been to value people. That means we provide top-tier benefits, a supportive, family-friendly culture and promote from within to make sure employees see, from day one, a clear career path within the company. We think this commitment is paying off; we currently have 166 employees who have worked at Geneva Rock for at least 20 years.
2- Keep employees productive and happy with an appropriate workload. This is one area where experience has proven there is a distinct tipping point. Quality employees who feel like their workload is manageable, attractive and challenging excel. Quality employees who feel like their workload exceeds their time allowances or mental capacity look for relief, usually outside the company, regardless of pay scale or bonus structure.
3- Give every employee power to innovate. At Geneva Rock, we reward those who take responsibility over their role. We believe the employee who is behind the controls often has the best perspective or feel of how to improve the work he or she is doing. For our businesses to be sustainable, we have to elevate our work, and our employees drive that innovation.
In the past, businesses’ success was typically measured by profit. Pollution, waste and other side effects of uncontrolled business processes were ignored, but now have lasting effects on our communities.
Today, a business cannot expect to succeed without putting in place practices that sustain the resources they use and the services they provide.
Throughout my 32-year career with Geneva Rock, I have been impressed with the company’s commitment to sustainability, and its stewardship as a part of the greater community.
Countless initiatives have been implemented to make sure we are being the best neighbor possible. Recent examples include recycling asphalt and concrete product (millions of tons each year), installing a $10 million conveyor system powered by renewable energy, utilizing a new 25-unit fleet of natural gas concrete mixer trucks, a natural gas filling station, and using recycled water in water cannons and other systems to reduce dust at quarry locations.
As we move into 2017, I am excited to continue our focus on sustainable business. It’s a responsibility all companies have, because it’s an obligation we all share as inhabitants of this amazing planet.