Putting Down Roots – Gardening Tips for the Small Business Owner

Putting Down Roots - Gardening Tips for the Small Business Owner
Nancy Goodyear applies her grandpa’s age-old gardening wisdom to business growth, showing how strong roots and hard pruning are the secrets of a good harvest.

When you run your own business, whether it be a start-up or an older, more established business, you need to create space for it to develop. As your business grows, it will inevitably change. From time to time, you may need to stop and take stock, review where you are and where you’re going. You may find your business has changed slightly. You might be attracting different clients, they may be buying slightly different products, or they might want slightly different services from those you currently offer. Your business may no longer be what you thought it was. You may need to give yourself some time and space to grow into where you are now.

“But,” I hear you cry, “I have a business to run. I’ve put loads of time and energy into getting this far, I have clients and commitments to honour. I can’t just drop it all and start again from scratch – I don’t have time!” To this, I say growing a business is like growing a plant from a seed; it takes patience and nurturing to get it to bear fruit.

My grandpa was a keen gardener and spent his retirement tending his garden. He was very proud of it. Whenever my brothers and I visited, he would drag one of us out to show off his roses, and to the greenhouse so we could admire his tomatoes. I’m no gardener myself, but some of what Grandpa taught me found its way in and stayed. Now I would like to share with you some of his wisdom, and try to relate what I learned about growing plants to growing your business.

Growing Strong Roots

When you plant a seed and it germinates, its first priority is to grow strong roots. These are the plant’s foundation; they give it stability; they absorb the nutrients and water from the soil that it needs to grow. A plant’s root system is the same size and shape as the plant itself. In other words, there is as much below ground as there is above and, until the roots are established, not much happens above ground. All the activity happens out of sight. Only once the roots are established, does the plant start to focus its energy on what is happening above ground.

What we can learn from this in terms of our businesses is the importance of directing much of our energy below ground, to the bits our clients don’t see. Yes, this means all the boring admin stuff we all love so much – but it also means paying attention to what comes before the part the client sees. I’m talking about defining your vision, your brand and your audience, by asking yourself these fundamental questions:

  • What is your business for?
  • Who is it for?
  • What does it do for them?

These questions should all be answered to some degree before you send your business out into the world. Otherwise, how do you know whom you should be talking to and what you should be saying to them? And without talking to the right people – people who want what you are offering – there is no business.

So, your attention first needs to be given to growing those nice strong roots that will keep you grounded during stormy weather and soak up all the available water and nutrition your business needs during the dry summers.

Pruning Your Business

Every year Grandpa’s garden was full of beautiful, vigorous rose bushes full of gorgeous blooms. Once they’d finished flowering, he would cut them right back almost to the ground. It seemed brutal to me, to cut this big healthy plant down until it was barely more than a thorny twig sticking out of the ground. Grandpa assured me these bushes would grow again in the spring and be even bigger and healthier than the year before – and they would produce even more flowers. He was right. His roses were always beautiful – every year.

Your business needs pruning from time to time, as well – ruthless pruning. Grandpa always said you should get your neighbour to prune your roses for you because they would be far more merciless that you could be, which is better for the plant’s performance the following year. In terms of business, this means periodically reviewing where you are, what you’re doing and for whom. It means going back to your roots and asking:

  • Has your vision changed? Are you still doing what you set out to do?
  • Has your audience changed? Are you still working with the same kinds of people or are you attracting a different group of people? Are you still enjoying working with the people you work with or are you yearning to work with someone different?
  • Are you still delivering what you set out to deliver? Or are clients asking for something different? Are you finding you’re actually delivering something slightly different from what you promise?

Keeping Grounded as Your Business Starts to Bear Fruit

One thing I always enjoyed helping Grandpa with was his tomato garden. He showed me how to ‘nip out’ the new shoots at the top of the plant to stop it growing upwards and explained how, by doing this, we would ensure the plant put all its energy into growing tasty fruit, rather than wasting it on growing ever taller. By nipping out the very top shoot, the plants’ energy would be directed at new shoots lower down, making the plant stronger, healthier and capable of producing more fruit.

Applying this principle to business means staying focused on your vision at all times – not allowing yourself to get distracted by shiny exciting new projects that don’t serve your vision, and learning to discern between what is an opportunity and what is a distraction. Entrepreneurs are often very creative people who have a magpie tendency towards shiny, sparkly new things. They can flit from one exciting new idea to the next, seduced by its newness, leaving behind a trail of abandoned projects that have lost their lustre simply because they are no longer new. Some of these new projects will be in alignment with their business vision, but a lot won’t. The trouble with this approach is that nothing gets finished. Even the most exciting visionary project will become old and therefore less interesting than the new project that comes along. The challenge such entrepreneurs face is sticking with the old and seeing it through to fruition.

Growing roots isn’t glamorous. They aren’t what’s visible to the world. However, strong roots keep your business grounded. Put too much energy into producing flowers too soon and your business will become top-heavy and unstable, just like those tomato plants, and yield less fruit.

Closing Thoughts

As a teenager, my brothers and I went out of our way to find excuses not to be chosen for the guided tour of Grandpa’s garden. Now that he’s been gone for 20 years, I would give anything to have just one more visit to the greenhouse with him. I realise the true fruits produced in that garden were the life lessons we learned. I hope you can take something from his garden, too.

And if you’re ready to put some energy into the roots of YOUR business, you might want to check out our newly redesigned 7 Graces Business & Marketing Strategy Packages. Have a look through them below, and then drop us a line via the contact form on this site to set up a free 30-minute consultation to see how we might be able to help you cultivate your ethical business.

  • ‘A la carte’ services – Many of our other services can also be purchased ‘a la carte’ (although the package prices are always lower for the equivalent service). Some a la carte services have fixed fees, while others will vary according to the complexity of your particular project.

Nancy Goodyear
24th March 2015

Nancy GoodyearNancy V Goodyear is a Business Mentor and Coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners cultivate their relationship with self , their business and their audience. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French having lived in France for some time. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. She is also a product developer, coach and member of the editorial team at The 7 Graces Project .

Nancy on Twitter: @NancyVGoodyear
Nancy’s website – http://nancyvgoodyear.com
CLICK HERE to read Nancy’s other articles on the 7 Graces website.

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Lynn Serafinn, MAED, CPCCLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.

Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

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