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.”