It is often useful to look backward before one moves forward. We may be surprised to learn that our agrarian past holds valuable lessons that can be directly transferred to today’s fast-paced, high-tech, high-stakes and unsentimental business environment. In Summer 2011 I read about a farmer in Georgia named Bobby Kirk, who made national news when he wisely pointed out that it was too hot to fish. Summers are hot in Georgia, so I’m sure he was right. Bobby Kirk’s folksy observation made me think about things I’ve read that compare farming and gardening to finding clients and creating more business. Here’s a distillation of some Farmer’s Almanac-type wisdom that I’ve picked up along the way. I hope you find it useful.
I. Plant seeds so that you will reap a harvest.
Whatever actions you take that will grow and nurture your business venture are the seeds. Update your assumptions regarding client motivations for hiring your type of services or customer preferences in your product category. Update your info on competitive activity. Attend a workshop or take a course for professional development. Read one business book per quarter, to sharpen your skills and get some inspiration.
II. Tend your garden.
Plants, prospects and colleagues all have their preferred form of follow-up actions. They all want to hear from you! Plants like sunshine, fertilizer and water. Prospective clients who showed more than a passing interest in your services would appreciate a call or email from you, inviting them to lunch so that you can get to know each other better and explore how your expertise can address their business needs. The colleague who asked you to provide a reference or answer a question would like to hear from you also, preferably within one week. Research shows that it takes six contacts to establish the foundation of a meaningful relationship. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up in anticipation of your harvest.
III. Last year’s crop is history.
Weather, predators and pestilence can wipe out a garden. Shifting business priorities, tight budgets and competitive activity can hurt your business. Whether you have a farm, a consultancy or an auto repair shop, last year’s crop is just that. Glean available lessons from your bumper crop or plague of locusts and use that knowledge to reconfigure your strategy and work smarter next time around.
IV. The more seeds planted, the bigger the harvest.
If you expect to grow your business you must plant more seeds, or the harvest will be meager. Stay focused and discover and/or create money-making opportunities.
V. Plant what you want to harvest.
If you want basil and tomatoes in August, then plant them in May. Who do you want to be your clients? Learn the best way to approach them and persuade them to meet with you. Monitor which products/services are selling and to whom. Is there a niche market you can develop? Which categories of clients will be most profitable to your business and how can you access them or increase your access? Analyze your financials, brainstorm options, formulate a strategy, plant seeds, follow-up and reap your harvest.
Thanks for reading,