Gardening for Entrepreneurs


I love growing things.

It really doesn’t matter whether I’m pruning a tomato plant on my deck or figuring out next year’s business strategy for ProEdit. As long as whatever I’m working on is growing and thriving, then all is right with the world.

I’ve come to believe that gardening and entrepreneurship actually have a lot in common. In fact, some of the most valuable business lessons I’ve learned popped into my head as I was messing around in the dirt in my backyard.

So, in the same way that you might share a bumper crop of jalapeños with your neighbor, I’d like to share some of the similarities I’ve found between gardening and entrepreneurship.

It’s extremely important to start with good seeds.

In gardening, maximizing your odds for success means always using the best seeds you can find. In business, your seeds are your job applicants. This means that a good entrepreneur, like a good gardener, has to know how to spot good seeds and then know where to plant those seeds throughout the organization.

You have to be very, very patient.

In gardening, the worst things you can do to your plants are to overfertilize and overwater them. You’ll burn them out or drown them. In business, overfertilizing and overwatering equate to loading up your people with too much responsibility before they are ready. You can only grow your employees as fast as they are naturally able to grow. Employees must go through their growth season naturally to be successful. Some grow slower than others. That’s okay. Maybe their root system, their core values, is where the growth is happening.

Location is everything.

In gardening, the difference between planting in “partial shade” and “full sun” can be the difference between thriving and withering. In business, this analogy works in two ways. First, the location of the business is one of the most important decisions the entrepreneur will ever make. Access to talent, proximity to transportation corridors, cost-of-living considerations, and tax rates are some of the factors that can make or break a business, particularly in its early years. Second, within a business, the entrepreneur needs to place employees in the proper locations within the organization to allow them to achieve their fullest potential. For example, highly sociable people may thrive when planted in full sun (trainers, salespeople, customer service reps, etc.).

What doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.

In gardening, if your plants are able to survive harsh winters and long droughts, they will be more likely to survive over the long haul. The same goes for business, the longer you stay in the game, the better you’re able to deal with the tough times. As time goes on, you’ll have more opportunities to learn tools and techniques that improve your odds of future success.

These are just a few of the similarities between gardening and running a business. There are so many of them, maybe I’ll write a book or two on the topic in my spare time! For now, here’s one more piece of low-hanging fruit…

They are organic.

Not surprisingly, with all the talk these days about growing and consuming organically grown food, there has been an accompanying buzz around the topic of “organic business growth.” Businesses are organic by nature. They are made up of living, breathing organisms—people. Businesses are not simply buildings or brands.

Like all living things, businesses are formed, they live, and one day they come to a natural end, only to be replaced by new businesses. But by applying these and other gardening principles to your business, it’s more likely to last hundreds of years and always stand up tall and strong, just like the mightiest of redwood trees.

Meet Doug Davis

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