If you are selling pumpkins or Christmas trees, you know that your business will be having a cash flow boom followed by months of no income. Not all business, of course, are quite so dramatic.

However, almost every business, no matter its size, goes through annual cycles. There are months when cash is flowing in and months when its eerily quiet. It takes a few years to uncover the cycles for your particular business.

If you’re new to business, don’t panic when things slow down. Quieter times when you’re not dealing with clients and customers can be used to create new products or acquire new skills or plant more seeds.

At this lovely time of year, take time to clarify what rewards you wish to harvest from your business now and in the future.  Here are some suggestions for growing your business.

Cultivate a Bumper Crop

Ever since I read Paul Hawken’s marvelous Growing a Business, I have looked for metaphors in the plant world to help me solve problems and find better ways of growing my business.

Even though I never lived on a farm, I grew up surrounded by small family farms and went to school with kids who lived on those farms. I didn’t realize they were teaching me many things that would serve me well as a non-farming entrepreneur.

In most places in the Midwest, spring is for planting, summer is for growing and autumn is for harvesting. I remember noticing that even though side-by-side farms endured the same weather conditions and shared the same soil, they didn’t necessarily produce the same results. The human factor had a great deal to do with a farm’s success or failure.

So what does a farmer do when the crops are in the ground, but not ready to come out? A smart farmer works on growing the business.

Your business may resemble a garden more than a farm, but if you want to see visible progress come harvest time do one simple thing: consistently do something— anything—ever day to grow your business.

Here are some lessons gleaned from good farmers that will also work in a business.

° Make business a daily practice. Eastern disciplines such as yoga and meditation talk about the power of daily practice. Paul Hawken says, “Business is no different from learning to play the piano or to ride a surfboard. With most activities there is no presumption of excellence in the beginning, but many newcomers suppose that they should sit down at the desk on the first day and become SuperBusinessperson, in full command of the situation.”

Even if you have not made the transition from employee to entrepreneur, having a regular time every day to move closer will bring big results over time. And if you are years into running a business, be diligent about cultivating new ideas. Complacency is the beginning of the end of even the best business ideas.

° Get rid of the weeds. After a recent seminar I taught on thinking like an entrepreneur, I received an email from one of the participants, telling me that her first project after the program was to get her home office in order. That involved removing nine bags of trash.

Even if the clutter is gone, spend time every day pulling a weed or two. Get rid of a self-limiting thought. Eliminate or revise procedures that aren’t working. Refuse to spend time with negative people. Keep your tools in tiptop shape. You get the idea.

 ° Build a Seed Bank. Like a regular bank, a Seed Bank is a physical space where you store ideas. The best was I know to build such a collection is to constantly be on the lookout for ideas and write them down when they come. Cocktail napkins should only be temporary. Your Seed Bank deserves its own special place whether it’s a journal or jar.

Challenge yourself to see possibilities. If you faithfully did this for the next 90 days, you’d have more ideas than you could use in a year.

° Don’t be afraid to get dirty. The Joyfully Jobless life is participatory, not a spectator sport. Try things. Be willing to do things badly. Reconfigure. Learn to approach problems by finding creative solutions, not running away.

° Keep watering and nurturing. Too many people forget that staying inspired and creating an excellent business requires on-going attention. Know what inspires you and refresh yourself often. Connect often with people who fan your own creative spirit.

I often end a three-day seminar with dinner at a wonderful restaurant. When dinner is over, I notice participants standing on the sidewalk reluctant to leave their new entrepreneurial friends. Once you’ve spent time with a group of creative thinkers, it’s a pleasure you’ll want to repeat.

As Goethe said, “To know someone, here or there, with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distance or thoughts unexpressed—that can make this earth a garden.”

One of my favorite exercises in The Popcorn Report is the Universal Screen Test. As author Faith Popcorn explains, this is a simple way of taking an idea and holding it up against the major trends.

Is the idea of making a living without a job, for instance, riding the horse in the direction the horse is going? Let’s look.

Cashing Out: Absolutely. The movement  away from working for large corporations and doing work that is satisfying—even if less lucrative—is the wave of the future.

Cocooning: Right on-trend again. Creating a homebased business gives us more time in our own cocoons.

Down-Aging: There […] Continue Reading…

On the back cover of Tools of Titans, there’s a list of some of the folks Tim Ferris includes. All of them seem to have qualified because of big numbers.     Reading that list brought to mind something that still puzzles me.     For some time now, I’ve wondered if I’m the only one who winces at the frequent admonition to Go Big or Go Home. That sounds more threatening than inspiring to me. Why, I muse, would folks smart enough to abandon a huge soulless working environment want to replicate that?     And why, oh […] Continue Reading…

When I drive the 40 miles or so to Ventura, much of the trip takes me through an agricultural area. There are vineyards and fields bursting with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The road is also lined with produce stands run by farm families. It’s a lovely contrast to the big city environment of Los Angels.

One October trip was especially memorable. In the springtime, this drive reminds me of Ireland because the craggy hills are so lush and green. Right now they’re festooned in shades of beige and brown, but it’s still a pleasant drive.

The road goes through an […] Continue Reading…

During the days when I taught high school English, I would never have assigned a book that I hadn’t read myself.  That carried over into my self-employment journey where I vowed to only recommend things I’d found worthwhile

That showed up in other ways as well. I decided to treat my business as a laboratory where I would experiment, test ideas, pay close attention to what worked—and what didn’t. I vowed to never teach what I hadn’t learned myself.

What I didn’t know back at the beginning was that the learning would never end. My curiosity never went on vacation.

There have […] Continue Reading…

Trendspotters agree that the market for unique and customized items is having a resurgence as more and more of us are learning to cherish the work of human hands.
Not all artisans are taking advantage of the opportunities, however.
Several years ago, I met a man who was a masterful carpenter who loved restoring old houses, flawlessly repairing woodwork and cabinetry.  At that time, he had abandoned his craft believing that no market existed for his services.
He had bought the myth of the starving artist and was living proof.
Happily, that myth is becoming outmoded as artisans are carving out […] Continue Reading…

Every business has times that are less busy than others. You can use this time to fret and worry that your entrepreneurial life has come to an end—or you can view it as a gift of time to do some of those things you’ve been telling yourself you’ll do when you have time.

It just makes sense, it seems to me, to spend this time wisely and well.

Here are a few possibilities.

° Review and revise your support system. Is it time to hire a virtual assistant? Find a new tax accountant? Get expert advice?

Unless you’re will to settle for the […] Continue Reading…

 
Blessed are the curious for they
shall have adventures.
Lovell Drachman
Small, Sassy & Successful
Time Out to Build a Better, not Just Bigger, Business
Got an idea but you don’t know where to take it?
Think your business is ready to move to the next step?
Are you sitting on the next big thing?
Have an idea that’s suffering from neglect?
If you said “yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to roundup your good idea, take them to a roomful of creative thinkers, and see where they want to go next.
Barbara Winter here. I’ve been fretting lately about a frustration I’ve seen in folks on […] Continue Reading…

Coco Chanel, who said a lot of smart things, once observed, “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” It’s not hard to figure out which is which.

The people whom I think of as rich are those who have a practical prosperity consciousness. My sister Margaret is such a person. I have long admired her ability to use whatever resources she has to the max.

When we were in a pottery shop in Sienna, Italy, Margaret was captivated by a beautiful plate. We left the shop to contemplate making such a hefty purchase and as she considered […] Continue Reading…

During my brief stint as an employment counselor, I spent all day every day talking to people about jobs. It wasn’t usually a cheerful conversation.

Not only did most of these folks arrive at the Employment Service in a state of frustration, they seldom had any idea about what kind of job they wanted. “I’ll take anything,” is the career plan of the desperate.

Like so many of us, these folks considered work a necessary evil. In this perspective, a job was the price you paid to get the money you needed to buy the stuff you wanted. And it lasted […] Continue Reading…