I was hesitant to start gardening as a hobby because I thought it would take up too much time. Even though I've always been drawn to growing food and flowers, it seemed like too much of a distraction away from my "real" work.
I've since come to appreciate that, as I've ramped up my time in the garden over the past few months, my productivity, resourcefulness and creativity as an entrepreneur have also noticeably increased. The combination of fresh air and exercise, plus results that I can see, taste and smell, amount to a flourishing, satisfying green space at home and improvement in myself.
Here are three takeaways from the experience that have applied to my journey as an entrepreneur, and how they could help you, too.
Priorities Fluctuate Seasonally
The showstopper "money-makers" of my garden at home are, without a doubt, the hydrangea plants. They require many hours of pruning and coddling but the "wow" of their bloom, in my opinion, are worth the investment of time.
Hydrangeas are like the marquee product of a business, with its attention-getting "wow" factor. They're also risky, particularly in an economic downturn or lessened demand for highly sophisticated products, and they would get monotonous if they were the extent of a garden's (or a business's) substance.
With care for the hydrangeas completed for now, I've been focusing recently on the raised beds in our garden for herbs, vegetables and flowers. They're not as impressive but also require less maintenance, and they add an understated elegance to the garden's output: the accent of Greek oregano in a salad, for example, and the sunny yellow heads of zinnias at the breakfast table.
Similarly, in our business, we've recently launched a "lite" version of our marquee product - not to detract from the "money maker" but to sustain us by a more diverse offering. The idea is not to derail your business from your core offering, but to take advantage of the opportunity (and the necessity) to pivot creatively and intentionally. Where can you "lighten up" on infrastructure? Is there a way to create tiers of your product or service, and see which resonate and are considered essential? Now's the time to find out.
The User Experience, Revisited
I've never walked through my garden more than I have this season and, as I've done so, I see the landscape with new clarity: the patterns of steps that repeat most often, for example, and the experience of what I see and smell along the way.
The metaphor for founders rings true. We're often told to revisit our customer or user experience, but how often do we actually do that? What stones can we lay to make the journey easier under their feet, and what flowers can we plant along the path to beautify the experience?
Before, my company went through this exercise semi-annually or on an as-needed basis; now we're finding it to be a useful experience on a weekly basis. Putting yourself in your customers' shoes, and walking the path that they walk every day, is an exercise that's become more mandatory by the day, as businesses everywhere re-evaluate budgeting priorities.
Digging Through the Tough Spots
In digging holes for new posts to anchor the structure around my garden, I've learned that the water table of my yard is about two and a half feet down. Between the grass and the water, however, is about eighteen inches of dense red clay I needed to excavate before ultimately getting to the point of "refreshment."
The metaphor for founders is clear at one level, in the sense of digging through the challenge. There's also a second, more practical takeaway from this scenario: the dense red clay (the "challenge" of our business), once it's been excavated, can be usefully repurposed in another area of the garden or business.
What is the "red clay" that you're excavating right now? Maybe it's the difficult reality of seeing that your business is a nice-to-have rather than an essential product or service, or maybe it's having to let staff go. Whatever the case, take a few steps back to evaluate how these "red clay" lessons and insights can be usefully repurposed.
Far more than a hobby, and far more than exercise and fresh air, gardening has emerged for me as a time of creativity and fresh perspective just as much as it is a time of solace and reflection. Whether you'll be able to apply a fresh perspective now or in a season to come, it's a useful tool to tuck into your belt.