Nature has four seasons-at least we do in northern Nevada. For those of you who live outside of the state, you may be surprised to learn that we have more than just flat desert lands. Fall is my favorite time to hike and here’s a photo of one of my preferred hikes, Thomas Creek Trail. You can see the gorgeous aspens welcoming you into the mountain.
I was recently visiting with one of my clients and I found myself comparing business growth to the four seasons of nature. As many of you already know, I love to garden and consider myself an amateur farmer. Many of my thoughts about business are tied to perspectives involving nature, growth and natural cycles.
Nature is a system-and one that is reoccurring. Even though there will be some deviations from one year to the next, in general, the cycle remains consistent. The land adjusts to numerous environmental factors and always manages to come back to its beginning point.
However, when care is not given to cultivate the crops properly or the right factors are not present for growth, plant life can suffer. For example, sometimes there will be minimal growth; not an abundance. Sometimes the crops that are produced during a certain year yield just enough to barely get by because environmental growth factors are missing.
A plant has stages of growth – start-up, growth, maturity and decline, and it is interesting to note that these stages in the life cycle of a plant are similar to the life cycle of a business. Furthermore, when it comes to business, the seasons of growth can be compared to the introduction, growth, maturity, and decline of product lines, divisions and profit centers.
In both business and nature, the stages can be interrupted or repeated due to the care that has been provided to them. Let’s take a look at the stages when it comes to the business world.
A business, new product or profit center starts as an idea. At this point, the idea can be considered to be a seed. The comparison between businesses and plants continues as we think of some common terminology that is relevant to business. For example, people look for “seed capital” or investment money to start a new idea.
The next stage of a business is growth. Obviously, this period of time takes place as you start growing the business or the new product line. At this time, your company or its new product is young and fragile, so it is susceptible to a number of environmental factors. There are often a variety of storms for your business to weather. However, the good news is that your business can grow rapidly in this start-up stage if there is enough attention, proper watering, proper nutrition, pruning and other care.
There are no fruits to yet be harvested in the growth stage. In fact, gardeners will rarely take clippings or transplants from young growing plants-as you can weaken the plant and perhaps even stunt its growth.
After the growth stage, your business or your profit center starts maturing. If your company is strong and has a solid foundation, it will enter the phase of maturity where it will bring to completion a large number of fruits, i.e., the “harvest” will be plentiful. If, however, the conditions to date only supported a moderate growth; then the harvest may not be ample.
As a mature business, you may start a number of new products, profit centers and other startups without injuring the parent company. Similarly, with a plant, you could take clippings from your original plant to start new growths. However, it you take too much (or you expand too quickly or too strongly), you may injure the company’s health.
Cutting and removing old growth can rejuvenate an older business. This is the same as pruning an older shrub or tree. Also, when businesses have a number of products and services to sell, each of these products goes through the same natural cycle. In contrast, if a company were to try to establish a number of projects or separate profit centers while it is in the start-up stage, most likely the plant would be unable to spare too many clippings to create transplants. Due to the fact that a young plant cannot support a large number of clippings or transplants, the main plant would most likely decline.
On the other hand, a maturing company is able to create a number of spin-offs without endangering itself or the subsequent products and services. Maturity can last for a number of years. In fact, this is the best place for a business to be.
Popular opinion may argue that any business that’s not currently growing is, in fact, dying. However, as we observe nature, I find that most plants are dormant for very specific allotment of time. This is part of the natural process. During the dormancy period, nothing is happening on the outside. However, on the inside, the plant is nourishing itself and it is also rejuvenating.
When the time is right, the plant will spring to life again with new growth, and excitement. The mature business can rightfully acknowledge that it is in a dormant phase while it rests, regroups, explores new options and prepares to burst forth with new life. When a plant is never allowed to rest and is forced to grow and bloom continually, this actually weakens the overall life span of the plant.
In my view, a business that never allows itself to rest ends up risking the vitality of its lifespan. Rejuvenation and rest is a requirement in nature, and I believe that this is a requirement in business as well. In fact, it is fine for a mature business to stay dormant-as long as the time is spent re-nourishing itself, allowing it to come back even stronger than before.
The bottom line is that ultimately both businesses as well as plants require care, maintenance and continual pruning. They both have natural life cycles and seasons of production. Do you know what stage your business is in? Drop me a line at Marie@Marie-Gibson.com and share with me what cycle you’re in now and why…intentionally? accidentally? or due to environment factors?