My elderly neighbor, and long time friend, has a garden. She’s had one for the last 30+ years and despite request from all of her family and friends to let it go, she insist the show must go on. Why I ask, when vegetables could be bought so cheaply at the local farmers market, and at Wally World?

  • “Mine are better!”
  • “I’ve always had a garden.”

So a garden we have…. The weeds are doing awesome! Everything else needs constant attention, watering, fertilizer, etc….all the things I didn’t want to be doing in the first place but as a good neighbor, I try to do my part. But as I’m pulling weeds, it got me thinking how gardening compares to running a business.

Everyone Resist Change:

Whether its “I’ve always had a garden.” or in business, its “We’ve always done it this way.”, its the same response to a common problem…..people generally hate change. It creates stress and takes people outside their comfort zone. The commitment to decisions is magnified by the number of years someone has been performing that role. Take the best, most talented people in industry (or gardening) – they’re generally the best because they have so much experience, but can also be the hardest to work with…the hardest to inspire into embracing change.

Confirmation Bias (Mine is Better):

We ALL look for facts that support our decisions – its harder to accept the discrepancies. In gardening, its great to have beautiful, great tasting tomatoes……but what about the 50% of tomatoes that are tossed because of stem rot, or insect ridden? Do they really taste better? In business we generally WANT to control as many facets of an operation as possible (the more you control, the more you control), however, its harder for us to see our shortcomings (inconsistencies in meeting client expectations, revenue leakage due to rebates, etc.). It takes courage to embrace data driven results over our emotions.

Know your Markets:

Dollarize it! What does it take to produce a product and deliver a service? Keep it real…. In gardening, its the cost of the plants, fertilizer, sprays and most importantly……time. The most valuable commodity of all. What does it cost to harvest 1-lb of beautiful tomatoes? Now what would it cost to buy 1-lb of tomatoes from a local grower?

In business, we have to know our Cost of Goods Sold, and our Operational Expense. Then we should ask ourselves “How consistent is the quality of our product/service? What does our best clients say? How about the clients we’ve lost – why did they leave? What does this mosaic look like? Now, just for fun….what would it look like if we outsourced these services to another Vendor? Maybe one that has greater economy of scale than we have? Maybe one that offers performance guarantees? Is it possible we could private label their services while improving our margins, our reputation and our client retention?

The Take-away…

Just like my neighbor, we business leaders must have the courage to ask uncomfortable questions. We need to remove emotions from our decisions and rely on well crafted data. What makes business sense? Is what we’re doing practical given the facts?

p.s. My neighbor has finally acknowledged it’s no longer practical to have a garden and this will be her last year. Fantastic! No more weed-pulling for me 🙂

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