Business lessons from a gardener

The analogy between "starting up a business" and "growing a garden" is amazing.

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It has been over four years since I changed from corporate to starting up my own business. The analogy between “starting up a business” and “growing a garden” is amazing. Nature has it’s own plan as the market does. You think you are planning your business (garden) and then, season after season, you recognize some of it has grown according to plan, but most of it has been taken over by the market (nature). Your job is to participate with an open heart and a sharp mind. Be patient. Give with generosity even when the outcome is uncertain. Your efforts are rarely unrewarded.  

When I decided to grow my own vegetables, I was prepared to work hard and a lot. First I bought a stack of books and read through them. Then I hired a gardening company to do the hard work, hoping to learn by watching. A few months later, I still felt like being at the starting point, with just a little progress, and very far from growing my own vegetables. The gardening company would come to do the job without agreeing on a fixed day and hour. Most often, they would be in the garden when I was not.

I was almost about to give up when luckily I shared my disappointment with a neighbor. Within a few hours, her brother in law and his spade were in my garden. He savvily and expertly dug and planted 48 salad plants while explaining how to do it. As he spoke, he shared gardening and life lessons that made me think about the connection between gardening and business life.

Two lessons seemed particularly fitting:

  • Water should be given around the plants and not directly over the plants. If you water directly over the plants, it’s too much stress for the plant and insects will be attracted by the water on their leaves. This reminded me of how much more effective it is, to nurture employees on-demand instead of pushing them.
  • He did the work without me helping in any way. When he finished, he told me: I am happy to do the work once, even twice to show you. But if you ask me to do it a third time, then it becomes a job, and this is not the purpose of me showing you. 
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