I recently finished reading Troubled Waters: The Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins.
If you haven’t read my twitter bio, you may not know that, as much as I love marketing and love New York; I also have two other loves – the Wales Rugby team and Whales.
My career in marketing was not planned. I fell into after finishing a French and European Studies joint honors degree at the University of Birmingham.
As a child, I had dreamed of being a Marine Biologist after a family vacation to Canada, where my parents took us whale watching and I came face-to-face with the true eye of an Orca (Killer Whale).
The excitement was too much. I actually temporarily stopped breathing.
Due to a nasty susceptibility to sea sickness, a deep fear of sharks and a natural love of history and languages, my schooling took me a different route.
Graduating from university, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. One thing I did know, was that I wanted to work in a dynamic business function. I like to try new things; hence the choice to study European Studies, where I got a taste of History, Film, Drama, Literature, Psychology and Sociology, alongside my core study of languages.
Marketing was the obvious fit. Now, in my fifth year in the industry, I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
But, my love of whales and dolphins has not dissipated.
My wonderful little sister got me Troubled Waters: The Changing Fortunes of Whales and Dolphins and I have actually read it twice.
The book itself is a history of our relationships with whales and dolphins. What can only be described as a rocky relationship, our treatment of these magnificent creatures has drastically changed over the years. What is particularly interesting is how intertwined this relationship has been with human history.
From when hunters first hunted whales over 1000 years ago to the growth of a global industry that (literally) fueled human progress; we now rally behind these animals, fighting to protect them.
As I was reading the book again, I couldn’t get the idea of business sustainability out of my head.
Running a sustainable business with a long-term future is the goal of every entrepreneur and businessman.
But there are many factors to sustainability, some that are often overlooked.
Let’s look at the case of the whaling industry. There are several reasons why this industry was not sustainable. The first and most obvious is that the industry outstripped the resource.
The whaling industry hunted faster than the whales could reproduce.
Understanding your market and its limitations is vital to any business’ survival. Be it the need to monitor animal populations or keep an eye on new technology making traditional methods obsolete, long-term survival is dependent on the businesses monitoring their resources.
Next, the whaling industry lost public support. As the general population began to understand more about these gentle giants, the industry came under intense pressure to cease or at least reduce their activities.
A key turning point in public opinion actually came upon the discovery of whale song by military sonar technology. Recordings of whales singing, in a sense, personified the creatures. They were communicating.
Public opinion around your business practices is also vital to sustainability. PR activities are great tools to change opinion.
Another factor that can influence a business’ sustainability is its staff.
The whaling industry, as did many industries in the early 20th century, did not look after its employees. For example, those who worked on the boats and did not hold a position were subject to horrible working conditions. Disease was rife. Food was limited and often rotting.
Treatment of your team should not be overlooked, especially these days when the individual is active on social media and should be considered a social (marketing) asset.
Your employees can be great advocacy tools for your brand. Don’t forget them!