In the Entrepreneur’s Garden: Weeds!

weeds in the entrepreneur garden

Summer in Atlanta brings the baseball (Go Braves!), time at the lake, the Peachtree Road Race…and weeds.

Yes weeds. And not just any weeds. These are the kind of weeds that grow a foot a day. You blink and there they are where there were none before.

The other day I looked out my window and saw my husband pulling weeds in the backyard. I said a little prayer of thanks (better him than me) and went back to my work. A few days later I looked out again in  dismay. The weeds – and their cousins – were back, bigger and better than ever.

Two days of inattention quickly turned into two hours of yard work, or so it seemed.

Weeds often pop up in business as well. They’re the festering issues we never seem to eradicate. The simmering conflicts that keep bubbling to the surface. The wayward employees who never seem to “get it.”

Leadership and Gardening is Never Done

Much like yard work, leadership is never done. As an entrepreneur, you’re always planting new ideas and you need to be ever-vigilant to eliminate the weeds that can choke out success.

Start by being proactive, like adding a pre-emergent the lawn before the weeds take hold. In a company that includes creating a cohesive strategy, strong culture and establishing clear expectations. These are preventative actions.

When people have a plan, they have a framework in which to perform. They know where they’re going, what’s expected along the way, and how to get to their destination.

A positive culture guides interactions between employees, customers and partners. It sets the bar high and encourages people to rise to whatever challenges they face.

Policies, rules and ongoing training are also preventative approaches. Documenting critical methods and procedures let’s everyone know what to do, or not do, to avoid potential hazards. These things are helpful, bu not fail-safe.

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The Best Laid Plans

In spite of our good intentions, the best laid plans don’t always work out. That’s when contingent actions, like weed-pulling, become necessary.

Even the best pre-emergent won’t prevent all weeds, especially if you apply it at the wrong time. Timing is also essential in running a business. Sometimes an issue arises without warning, giving you no time for preventative measures.

When you can’t take preventative action or missed the opportunity to do so, you need strategies to deal with problems that pop up unexpectedly.

Start by acting quickly to address the issue and prevent further damage, then go a step further.

Like pulling weeds out by the root rather than just lopping off the top with a weed-whacker, getting to the source of trouble and eliminating it makes the solution permanent.

A gardener will tell you that weeds are symptoms of an unhealthy lawn. Frequently recurring problems suggest that a root cause is still dormant, waiting to break through the surface when it’s least convenient for your business.

Ongoing challenges and consistent discord in a business are symptomatic of underlying concerns that need to be fixed. Maybe the partners don’t really agree on the strategy. Maybe customers don’t like the product as much as you thought they would. Maybe a few unhappy employees are undermining you brand.

When these circumstances exist, what you see on the surface is only a hint of what lurks beneath. It’s imperative that you find the core problem and tackle it head on with interventions that address the root cause:

  • Do you find that you’re constantly reprimanding or redirecting an employee? Your time and energy would be better spent finding someone else. Let them go and move on.
  • Have you been beating your head against the wall trying to break into a new market with little success? After you’ve invested a good and reasonable effort, it’s time to change direction or at least modify your approach.
  • Are you unable to secure needed financing or investment? Something is missing in your business model. Shore up the basics to make your company more attractive to investors.

All of these are examples where the problem is distinct from the symptoms. Its easy to blame the employee, or the market or the investors. The real issues are a product of leadership choices and actions. These are things that are very much in your control, if you choose to address them.

Missing a Green Thumb?

Some people don’t have to worry about weeds at all. If you live in a condo or townhouse, you may not have a yard or even a window garden. Going garden-less can be a huge time-saver in your personal life, but opting out of the landscape is not an option that works well in business.

You have to get a little dirty to grow a company.

If you prefer to sit on the balcony and watch the hired hands at work manicuring your complex’s common grounds, then you really shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

Thriving business owners enjoy the process of planting, cultivating, nurturing, and eventually harvesting the fruits of their labor. They’re gardeners at heart, and they know and a few weeds come with the territory.

How’s Your Garden Growing?

Do you have some special tricks for keeping the weeds out of your entrepreneurial garden? If so, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

If you need help cultivating your business, give Joellyn Ferguson a call at 678-823-8228.

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