For a company to be self-sustaining it should:
1) Be sensitive and attentive to the marketplace, its customer base, and the competition so as to maximize revenues consistently given market conditions; the idea is to avoid disruption and market displacement -- companies who are not looking toward the future and its potential for change are virtually asking to become extinct -- companies, just like species, need to adapt and to evolve. Give the customers what they want - and not merely what you have.
2) Control fixed costs, and try to keep them at a minimum. I recommend a zero-based budgeting approach for evaluating which costs are necessary and which are not; unproductive costs must be eliminated;
3) Maintain multiple sources of supply and avoid sole-source vendors. Similarly, diversify your product mix -- if you are too steeply vertical in your marketing, you increase the chance of being out-priced by a stronger competitor or by the marketplace due to a technological or social change. Diversify you products or services and diversify your revenue streams as well.
Suggestion would be to essentially serve the interests of those far beyond just your company's interests. You live in a global community, there is little tolerance for companies that only live in a vacuum ... meaning only interested in the profits it can generate for itself ... Look to serve a wider community, this provides longevity.
Being able to stand firm over any problem or challenge a company or business may meet is something that may vary depending on how they act over the matter. Skills or knowledge is not enough to get over a particular problem. Attitude also count. That is why, I think, some may survive while others fail to do so.
Sustainability of organizations come from innovation. Companies that reinvent themselves and forever keep changing there offering strategy keeping market interest as the top agenda. This however has a competitive dimension to it and the comapny has to stay ahead in the innovation race. Often that mode of operations is fraught with risk and not sustanable for very long stretch. Companies that have long term contracts, low client attrition (because of stickiness of business and/or loyalty) and have the ability to keep adding to their client list have best chance for sustainability. A very healthy ratio of business would be 80 to 95% from existing clients and only the balance from new clients, which will become part of the existing client business in the following year.
A good book to read that addresses this is called "The Dip", by Seth Godin.
Good luck man! Looks like you got all the answers you needed!
Just at a quick glance through the answers and I'm seeing the same things I was thinking: cash flow, the need to constantly reinvent, listening to your customers, among others.
Firstly, there need to be total alignment of the organizational objective with the personal one. Having quality and committed personnel. Passion makes a major difference. Engaging an end to end risk analysis to assess sensitivities is key to ensure special attention is given to those items. Being visionary and foresight are key factors.
The answer to your question can be summed up as "fit and fitness." There must be a good fit between the organization and its larger environment (especially markets and suppliers) and the organization must possess no small about of fitness with respect to its operation and functioning. Three core processes come into play in this regard. First there are the transformation processes that convert resources into products and services. Second are the transaction processes that focus on exchanging products and services for revenue from customers and money for goods and services from suppliers (including employees). Third are the adaptation processes that achieve and maintain a good fit between the organization and its environment. For a model of a sustainable organization go to this link: http://www.nickols.us/The_Sustainable_Organization.pdf
I believe it is all to do with aligning your company with its surrounding business environment. Environment is no more as static as in the old days. It is now very dynamic and companies need to be more environment friendly in order to sustain its success.
How to do that?
---By continually revisiting environment changes or anticipating them before they take effect.
---By continually modifying your products and services to meet customers expectation
---By delivering your products and services in a way appreciated by customers. For example, do not hesitate to go virtual, if it is required to do so.
Wish you the best of luck.