Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This summer my daughters wanted to start a vegetable garden and I was thrilled that they wanted to do so. Although in hindsight it has become a bit like the time they wanted to get a rabbit. “Oh yes, mummy we will look after it.” “Oh yes, mummy we will clean out the cage.” Right. Guess who ended up with the maintenance of the rabbit?

Likewise with the garden, the major watering and weeding seems to have landed with me. However, it has been an interesting experience and as I reflect on it – very similar to starting a business.

Being novice gardeners, we started by planting all sorts of vegetables and strawberries. I have to say, we rather leapt in and read up what we should do after we’d planted – not always a good idea. Just as in starting your business, it’s helpful to do some homework so you can determine what you need to do and when.

We had a broad selection of vegetables from tomatoes to broccoli to pumpkins. The first to take off were the radishes which is when I started to question our choices. You see none of us like radishes, so why are we growing them? Similarly when you start a business you tend to offer a broad range of services and products because you are not sure what will take off, what will prove popular. My lesson from this – don’t choose something you don’t like to do, or in our case, like to eat. It’s a waste of your time.

Watching our garden grow has also been a lesson on flexibility and not guessing at outcomes. Given our lack of knowledge, the weather and other tests of nature such as local critters who are also keenly interested in our produce, it has paid to diversify. You never can tell, especially when you are starting out what is going to fly. So as you offer a range of products, give it time, you will soon learn what works and you may even be surprised at what ends up being your niche market. And like the garden, it pays to cultivate and nurture your customers.

We planted the seeds too close together, making it impossible for some to grow which makes me think of how we can take on too much and squeeze too much into a day when we start, not realizing how much time all the different tasks will take. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Prioritize.

And as for the strawberries, they were a lost leader. The weeds grew up so strong around where we planted them that we were unable to discern which were weeds and which were the strawberry plants! The solution– we dug it all up. We’ll start over next year and be a tad more attentive as to what they look like. As you grow your business, there will be lost leaders too. The trick is to learn from your mistakes and move forward.

Next year I think we will be a little more selective and realistic about what we will plant. We know more about what works, what we like and have a better sense of the work involved. If you have just ended your first year of business, no doubt you will have grown too and be better prepared for the next season in the life of your business.

Tonight we are sampling our beans – one of the joys of gardening – be it a business or vegetables - you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

No comments: