Business strategist Dr Monique Beedles compares growing a business to tending a garden and finds that cutting out dead wood and scaling back for future growth are an essential part of both practices.
When I was a young girl, my grandmother had a beautiful rose garden. It was formally laid out, right next to the house that sat in a clearing on a hilltop, surrounded by about five hundred acres of native forest. My Gran cared carefully for her roses. Fertilizing with manure and pruning in the winter were all part of keeping the roses in full bloom.
It seems counterintuitive, to cut something back in order to help it grow - but any gardener knows that a good prune is essential to healthy growth. Growth may happen anyway, but it will be slower, messier and more erratic. Gardening guru Peter Cundall advises, “Roses are among the toughest of all plants. Even if you ignore them they'll continue to flower, but there is no question they do benefit from a good winter prune.”
|Dr Monique Beedles|
In business a good prune can also work wonders. This doesn't mean sacking everyone! Rather, it means reviewing what's really important in your business and pruning those aspects that don't contribute to good growth. It's easy to be busy. It's easy to generate activity, but is it productive? Are you growing a beautiful rose bush or a wild thicket of lantana?
When I first started my business, I was inclined to say yes to any work that came along. In the early stages this can help you to find your feet and test the market. However, as your business grows, some things will have to go by the wayside. You need to focus on the areas that are most profitable and have the most potential to grow your business.
Eight years on, I'm a bit more choosy about the work that I do. My business continues to grow through a focus on the areas I'm interested in and where I can provide greatest value to clients. Before taking on work, I'll ask myself a few key questions, such as:
Is this my target market?
Does this fit with my future direction?
What other opportunities will I need to forgo to take this on?
What other opportunities could arise through doing this?
It's the same if you're considering introducing a new product line, expanding into a new geographic area, or competing in a new market. Perhaps there's an outdated product that you'd really like to drop, but you haven't quite brought yourself to do it yet. Give some thought to the reasons why you continue to stock or manufacture a product that isn't profitable or doesn't bring in new customers.
How does what you're considering fit into your existing strategy? Will it take you in a new direction, and if so, what will happen to the business you're doing now? Taking on a fresh, new opportunity, might mean having to let go of something else that's becoming a bit stale. That's OK. It's all part of innovating and adapting to the changing environments within which all businesses must operate.
What will be changing for you in the year ahead? What new ventures will you undertake, and what will you leave behind? In this final month of the year, it's the perfect time to tie up loose ends and consider the new opportunities you can create.
As you think ahead to 2012, review the focus of your business:
What is your vision? Is it well clear and well defined?
What are you really trying to achieve?
What unproductive activities can you prune to make room for new growth?
What will be your focus areas for the new year?