I was out puttering in my garden this morning, planting a few new perennials – (I’m running out of space for planting new things!). My mind was on work, as it is a lot these days. I stood up for a second, and looked out over my now-5-year-old garden, and thought of how far we have come together. When I started it was rocks and sandy clay—a dusty, hard-packed, unproductive mess. Now I’ve got incredible bushes, trees, flowers, herbs, vegetables; and everything is filling in and working together to create a hospitable, productive, and beautiful garden. And working in the garden is a lot easier, too.
As I was napping on my couch a bit later (it’s Sunday, mind you—even CEOs need a day of rest!), I started thinking about how good business is similar to organic gardening. I’m in my second year of the job as CEO of Rodale, and it’s kind of like the second year of starting a new landscape—I can see the potential, and I can also see how far we have come…but as any gardener knows, there is lots more to be done. And as anyone who has seen me garden knows, I’m always a big dreamer! People have called me crazy…until they come back a few years later and see what I’ve done.
I’m hoping if I use these same principles at work, I may have just as much success:
1: First, have a good plan for the “bones.” In garden terms, the bones refer to the parts of the landscape that you want to last a long time—pathways, trees, patios. But that’s also a plan for how to make the most of what you have and minimize the challenges you face, whether it’s too much water or not enough. In business, this means deciding what business you are, and are not, going to be in for a long time. It’s the commitment part. It’s the key to making it all work together.
2: Think long-term—especially when it comes to the big stuff like trees. A tree can take 5 to 10 years to grow big enough to have an impact or bear fruit. Just like new parts of the business: You have to be patient, and make sure they are planted in the right space so they don’t get too stressed to survive. And then have patience. Shouting at a plant has never made it grow faster!