Small Business Lessons Harvested from Nature and Gardening
Deep-Rooted Love of Nature
My mom loves – loves! – her flower gardens. I always thought it was through my dad that I came to love nature. I did, but I have also come to understand I also love nature because of my mom. They loved nature differently. Mom is all about flowers and nature around her home, or seeing new buds in the spring and sunsets from driving the roads, seeing the leaves turn in the fall. My dad was all about nature through camping and campfires, cooking outdoors, hunting, fishing…most of which involved snakes. So, there was the divide between Mom and Dad around nature…snakes. They both loved nature. They simply treasured different aspects of nature, for different reasons.
I shared their love of nature, but also differently. For me it is container gardening in pots, planting and harvesting lots of herbs, planting low-maintenance shrubs, and throwing in some bulbs that come up every year, faithfully, giving little splashes of color. I am not one to spend hours gardening, but I truly enjoy an hour here and there. I revel in nature when I hike, bike, walk trails, explore our Great Lakes or dunes, and love sunsets. Yes, I find the occasional snake, or run into a spider….yuck. I’m like my mom on that one.
Lifelong Love of Flowers
Back to flowers. As I said, my mom loves her flower gardens. That love is shared by my sister, who became a Master Gardener. They conspire each year on ways to expand Mom’s flower beds, experimenting with new varieties, transplanting here and there, digging up new beds. Mom now has 9 or more flower beds…I have lost count. They bring them both joy (and me too!), and they are gorgeous. The only challenge to me is that their beauty comes at a cost. Once planted, they need to be maintained….every…..single…..year. We are no longer talking about my gardening comfort level of an hour here and there. This is a serious commitment…and one they both love.
However, in recent years it has become harder and harder for Mom to work in her garden for hours on end, to weed and fertilize, mulch and transplant. And yet it remains the one thing she looks forward to all winter, without fail. It is great for her mental and physical health and simply brings her joy. So our family weighed the question of how to help make sure she could continue to enjoy flower gardening without it becoming a burden. Family is our answer.
Spring Cleanup – Flower Beds
This past weekend my sister and I planned a spring cleanup day with Mom – weeding, mulching, a little transplanting. Our thought was that if we got things under control early, it would allow for a summer of light maintenance for Mom, doing the things she loves, working a few hours here and there when the weather is right and when she feels like it, pulling errant weeds, preparing for fall pruning and transplanting, and planning where she wanted another flower bed next year. We would work together as a team and get this done. A great plan, right?
It Is Hard Work
Have you ever actually weeded and mulched flower beds? It is back-breaking work! First, you have to get the mulch. Being closest to the store, I picked it up – six bags, 41.2 pounds per bag. I swear their scales are off. Thank goodness I started at a measly six bags. While I totally underestimated the amount we needed, but it was a great start and all my muscles could handle the first day out. I know, sound like a wimp. On this project, I am.
I roll up to Mom’s in time for pizza. Didn’t plan it that way, but what a great start to the gardening day. Again, I miscalculated. After eating the pizza, I wanted to spend hours weeding/mulching even less than before! However, no excuses, we had flower beds to wake up for spring so Mom can enjoy her flowers all summer. Onward.
There is a hierarchy at work here. My Mom and sister weed, because they know the difference between weeds and the multiple types of green flower leaves in the beds. I mulch, because I know the difference between brown soil and green stuff.
After an hour of mulching – lugging heavy bags, tearing tough plastic bags open, leaning wwwaaaaayyyy into the flower beds to get the mulch in all the right spots – I am tired. I wander around a bit, stretch my muscles, get defocused, take a breather, and then back at it. After over 3 hours, I am exhausted. I walk over to my sister, and she says, “It is supposed to rain at 4:10.” It was then 4:00. I deadpanned to her, “I have never prayed for rain before in my life.” Translation: I am now! It did not rain for another hour.
After stretching my muscles again, I went back to mulching another flower bed. However, before I began, I looked over at my Mom, sitting on her bench under the plum tree my dad had given her years ago, with the warm breeze blowing softly, listening to the birds singing, gazing around, admiring her newly weeded poppies springing up through the mulch, and saw that she was happy – really, really, truly happy, at peace, contended to be in nature with her flowers and her family. That is what this day was about.
As I went back to mulching, I realized I did not mind it quite so much. Yes, I was getting really exhausted. I also saw the fruits of my and my sister’s labor, and it was worth it multiple times over.
Harvesting Insights for Small Business
My mind wandered, as it often does, to what lessons I could harvest from this experience and use in my small business coaching and planning practice. A lot, actually.
Concentrate On What You Love
You hear it said all the time….do what you love in business. It is true. It is hard work to launch and grow a small business, truly hard work. When you love it, like my mom loves her flowers, it is not work. It is joy.
Create Your Solid Foundation
Make sure you have a plan. In business, that is a business plan, blueprint or action plan. It covers actually launching your company, deciding what you are selling, what price you will charge, who your competitors are, how you will market and sell your product, setting goals, creating your marketing and sales plans, etc. In gardening, that is having a yearlong plan to maintain the existing beds and plant new ones. We started with setting a date to complete spring preparation, to weed, mulch and fertilize. The plan continues throughout the spring/summer/fall with setting times for the family to get together to weed, water, snip off spent flowers, when to harvest the tomatoes (we haven’t even gotten into that yet – a new product line!!), when to do fall cleanup, rake the leaves, etc.
Consistently Execute Your Plan
For many, this is the hardest one of all. Planning and setting the dates can be fun. Actually executing, like hauling and spreading mulch for hours, can be hard work. In business, it often centers around consistently doing online digital marketing, outreach, follow-up, relationship and referral-network building, and sales. Gulp. Yes, sales. Having a system in place for sales, and then actually selling, consistently executing your plan.
What if it had rained when we were working on the flower beds? We would have set another time to continue our spring work. What if you set goals for your business and don’t complete them for a day? a week? You take a deep breath, review your progress, your challenges, your wins, adjust your plan, and start right in again. Consistent execution over time.
That moment of seeing my Mom’s joy in her flower garden was priceless. Many small business owners feel a similar joy as they grow their companies, overcome challenges, provide for their families. Over time, with help when needed, with perseverance, with consistent execution of your plans, you can reap the rewards of your small business labor. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes consistency. Yes, it takes courage. Yes, it takes not giving up when you have a bad day. Yes, there is great joy and fullfillment!
In gardening as in business, the fruits of my labor are worth it multiple times over.
I have two sayings I often use when working with small business clients:
- Success is rarely accidental.
- Results require action.
I realized these same small business truths are evident in my Mom’s garden, too. Those beautiful flowers are not accidental. Action? I’ll be back out there with my sister in the flower beds again this weekend. My sister has already picked up more mulch 😊
Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth. She has worked with thousands of small business owners through coaching, mastermind groups, education and training. Robin believes success is rarely accidental and her passion is to help her clients set and reach their goals. Working with clients remotely through video platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning and execution questions as well as supporting them while they explore their potential.
Robin encourages clients to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their tangible Success Steps. Check out the website for ongoing virtual Small Business Coaching, Small Business Blueprint Coaching, Sales Workshops and the MEG (My Entrepreneurial Group) Membership program. From time to time we launch new MEG Connect and MEG Startup mastermind groups. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or to set up a free 1-1 consultation.