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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Business Grow?

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Business Grow?

During my recent interview with Landscape Gardener and “Professional Outdoorist” Lynne Allbutt I realised that planning, creating and maintaining a garden can be similar to starting a business and ensuring it “grows”.  So here are a few analogies to help make your business grow.

# 1. Planning Stage

When you begin creating your garden you wouldn’t just start digging, you’d plan the garden design and what you want the finished product to look like. How big will it be? What will you need to produce it? How will you do it?  What will it cost?  In the same respect think about what you want to achieve in your business and the products or service you will provide.

Different weather climates will determine what you can grow in your garden just like different economic climates will suggest what you can do in your business.

Plan your trees and shrubs – these are the skeleton of the garden and therefore the base of your business.

You need a solid Oak to be the mainstay which would be the umbrella type of your product or service.

Your Perennials are your constant business providing an income year after year with a slight ebb and flow.

The Annuals are the products or services that will come and go. They are your shiny, window dressing, loss leaders. Don’t hide them behind the Oak Tree as they are needed to attract the attention.

Think about all of this and it will help to create a business plan to map it out.  Be clear about your outcome and what you want from your business – if you plant an acorn you’re not going to get a sunflower.

# 2. Landscaping

After you’ve planned what you’re going to do you start the work; dig the flower beds, lay the patio and fix the decking. Landscaping your business can be drilled down to:-

Teamwork – employ the team needed for your business (if you need one)

Preparing – prepare the groundwork for the business – roll your sleeves up and start digging

Garden Centre – choose your best supplier, what you need and stock up

Sow Seeds – start the processes needed to create your product or service

Cultivate – stimulate growth by networking, advertising and marketing your business

# 3. Maintenance

A garden needs constant maintenance just like a business cannot be left to grow without being monitored constantly. For example:-

Pruning – get rid of the dead wood processes or products that aren’t working

Analysis – investigate why there were failures and adapt for the future

Support – just like growing stems sometimes need support or they fall over, don’t be afraid to ask for help so you don’t fail. There are several passionate professionals who are happy to share their knowledge, sometimes for free or cheaply. You don’t know until you ask.

Maintain – trim the edges of your garden. Keep costs down if possible and keep your accounts up to date so you know what is working and what is not.

Feed – feed your business as is needed whenever possible – whether it involves money or time investment.

# 4. Growth

And finally Patience.  It takes a while for your garden to grow the same as it will with your business. It doesn’t happen overnight but will give you great pleasure as it does.  Expect to work hard to keep your business going, especially in the early stages. “Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.” (Lou Erickson).

Many thanks to Lynne Allbutt who helped with the gardening phrases – and much more as always.

Obviously this is just a loose reference to starting a business and I’d welcome all comments with handy advice for start-ups.

Merry Christmas to all and wishing everyone a wonderful and successful 2012.

“Image : Gardening/Shutterstock


Sian Phillips is the Managing Editor of and Content Editor on Sian is also the accountant for her clients and but is moving more and more into the content editing world; proofreading and editing blog posts, ebooks and anything that is written. With over 20 years’ worth of experience in business and accounting Sian provides help to the SME sector. The other half of Sian’s day is spent working in the Social Media space; proofreading, sharing posts and advice or conducting interviews for She is a qualified Accountant with an Honours Diploma in Journalism too.

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  • I love this post, Sian!…. It’s very clever 🙂 What a great way to look at planning a biz, I’ll be using with your permission of course.  Happy New Year and thanks for all your help and support throughout the year, thanks, Niall

  • Great perspective. Previously, I heard someone describe building a business as a time to sew and a time to harvest. 

  • Thanks Niall and you’re welcome – please use as you wish 🙂 Happy New Year to you too – looking forward to working with you in 2012

  • Thanks Freda – that’s another great saying that can be applied – very true

  • Love it!  Thanks to Anita Campbell for Tweeting.

  • Thank you 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Love the gardening analogies! It’s always a good reminder of what really goes into growing a business. Perhaps #3 and #4 try us the most but we forget that, like a garden, our everyday actions lead to blooms and/or harvest.

  •  I love analogies, as they are 100% subjective for each individual person – everyone will take something different from the analogies used in this post – and what a great read.

    Thank you, Happy New Year Sian – what a great post.

  • Thanks Elaine. It was fun doing it

  • What a great comment Elli – thank you

  • Thanks for the Comment Elaine- Even as someone born in Asia who is now living in the West I was also confronted by some revelations and reminders about the continent I came from having taken for granted so much in terms of our lifestyles here.

    I listed a lot of basic anecdotal differences because sometimes the simplest differences can really impact how people use and perceive your products e.g. how grandparents are such a key part of any household in the east and therefore become important influencers or users for any household products

  • Frank Hogan

    Thanks for the article Elish. Looks like i missed a great seminar. Hope to be in on the next one. My own interest is in possibly importing from China and getting a greater understanding of what are the tools i need for that. Luckily i have a few friends who trade in such a manner with China so hopefully i  can get some advice there.
    Take care and thank you

  • Thanks Frank – am glad you found the post -I hope it gives you an overview of what happened – Perhaps the people at Pivot dublin will accommodate you with more presenattion notes? There are several Chinese Focused events on the horizon – Perhaps look up the Sunday Business post events and Asia Matters

  • Christina Giliberti

    Wow Elish, a killer post!

    The world is getting smaller and smaller by the day but cultures are getting stronger. Businesses that are thriving in international markets are those that understand local cultures and customs.

    I’m half Italian (for my sins) and at weddings we are quite rowdy and constantly ‘clink’ glasses with a piece of cutlery. This custom always makes me laugh because our ‘English’ table sharers were baffled…at first…then they got stuck in. Just so you know, clicking the glass means the happy couple have to stand up and kiss…..after a while we can demand other couples copy. Its fun and funny and part of the culture. When the others joined in, they became part of the culture.

    While working for the Premier group, I worked with the online team to develop websites globally and it was a real learning opportunity to research, listen and employ different techniques, copy, ideas, etc. What works in one location, doesn’t work somewhere else. Local knowledge is key and I see many companies surviving if they use this information and not just duplicate their own versions.

  • Elishbul

    Thanks Christina! Yes being part Indian too I can appreciate the Rowdy Family Gathering.
    Yes thinking local when marketing global is definitely significant to online marketers and web design professionals too. A key reminder here was the fact that not only are Asian societies different but they are also evolving very fast given the rate of progress there so eve hat little local knowledge one has needs to be updated regularly

  •  Thanks Connor- you know one of your posts on your personal blog was partly responsible for making me want to write – ; )

  • Thanks for the coverage Neil and nice to meet you at the event. Hoping to make the next one even better. We’re putting up the slides and photos later on @

  • Yeah Niall Harbison said that he and Lauren used to spend 4 to 5 hours PER DAY writing blog posts but they did it every day. That’s a long day of work!

  • Hey Brian, yeah good to chat & thanks again for putting on an awesome event. Looking forward to the next one already!

  • Martin Lindeskog

    The free market will take care of the safety of the mobile transactions. Have you heard about iZettle as one of the players of the mobile payment providers?

  • Sian, exactly. So true. Online commerce was a bit slower, but I don’t think it’s possible for technology to move slow anymore! And thanks for the welcome 🙂

  • No, I haven’t actually, but I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for reading!

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