Growing Gardens and People

June 24, 2019

Like many of our readers, I’ve been planting my garden the past few weeks, one of my favorite times each year. I’ve tuned up our irrigation system, spread my chicken manure and turned the soil, planted my seeds and starts, and cringed with each thunderstorm - fearing the hail that has wiped out too many backyard tomatoes and dimpled too many autos in our region the past few years.  

In the weeks since, I’ve watched seeds sprout and grow, and starts flower and begin to set fruit. Soon there will be a harvest of fruits and vegetables of the very best kind - the Bear’s backyard kind!  

In addition to planting my garden, this spring has also found me interviewing and hiring for a new helper at LoCo Think Tank, and seeing two past LoCo Interns find themselves new roles in the world. (Shout Out to Ellie Naasz and Elise Brown!) Both are fitted well for their new positions, and are poised for continued growth and career success. One thing we do well at LoCo Think Tank is attract great people to our team, and give them lots to do and learn. Both have told me their experience at LoCo was integral to their qualifying for their new role, and I have to say I’m proud of them both in finding great jobs and to have supported their growth in their respective journeys.  

New LoCo helper Rory Schaar and I (you’ll meet Rory later in the Thinker’s Thoughts segment) have been going over all the systems and processes at LoCo Think Tank these past weeks,  training her on our current systems, and looking for feedback on what developments we might make. I was reflecting afterward how this current condition of our business enterprise is rather like the soil of a garden - the seedbed if you will - how ready is LoCo Think Tank to accommodate growth? This entails the current clients and customers that we serve, the systems we have to track sales efforts and resources, the work environment and culture offered, and the like. This is the foundation for growth, the existing operations and resources and systems of a business.  

The people in your organization (especially small businesses) are like seeds and starts. There are so many varieties available, and it’s important to match the right seeds to your soil type and growing conditions. You can take some risk out of the equation by getting starter plants instead of seeds, they’re hardier and further along in their development, but they cost a little more. One important thing to remember is to provide enough space for every plant and person to grow.  

Of course every gardener has to contend with weeds, which are like the misfitted employees in your organization. These individuals steal resources, and can choke off the productivity of your other plants and people. To have a productive garden or business, it’s important to eliminate the weeds.  

The purpose of your enterprise is of course is like sunlight for a garden. It is to be strived for, stretched toward - and necessary for growth to occur at all. It’s so important for an organization to define and live out the mission, vision, values and purpose - and to help each person within see their role as a valued part. Each plant and person needs sunlight and purpose to grow toward.  

To develop the seedbed, every gardener adds fertilizer and compost. This is like organizational development for a small business, and like with fertilizer there are many different ways to encourage growth - and it’s important to know what resources to use when and where. There are organic and time-tested soil compounding processes - like development of your business systems and training programs, or you may get some quick results by choosing Miracle Grow instead. It may or may not be good for the long-term health of the soil or business, however. 

The water you give your garden is like the paychecks you give your people. It’s essential for growth, and your garden and your people will wither and fail if you don’t water them properly. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about increasing small business profitability is that it’s an essential part of being able to boost wages - if the owner isn’t making enough income it’s hard to ask them to pay their people more. Also, beware, you can water too much and you’ll spoil the garden, just as if you pay your people too much it’s not sustainable. Of course a key difference here is that your tomatoes won’t leave for a better-watered garden.  

The point I hope to be making, is that growing your business is largely about growing the individuals within, and that requires a holistic approach to support that growth. For a garden to flourish it must have a fertile seedbed and be provided seeds and starts, it must be free of weeds and have sunlight and water and fertilizer. Each must be in sufficiency, but not too much.  

Your business is rather same-same. For your business to flourish you must build a foundation for growth and add people and rid the organization of the misfitted. Add purpose and grow revenues, and develop your systems and seedbed over time.  

Of course the best part is the harvest! A well-stewarded garden can produce great yields, creating abundance to share in your neighborhood and community. A well-stewarded business can do the same. Here’s to the growth of your gardens and people; may they produce much fruit.  

- Curt Bear
Founder, LoCo Think Tank

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