I am hoping that this post will hit home with at least some of my readers – you may think I’m nutty as a fruitcake, or may consider this profound, it’s just a way to look at a business to keep yourself focused on the bigger picture and the end result, and whilst doing this, enjoying it, much like you would sitting in the garden on a warm summer evening with a glass of your favourite Vino and music in the background. You could survey your business in the same way, I know I do, and it helps me to come to terms with the days the rain is pouring down, and I don’t enjoy it as much.
When I was starting up as a ‘new to everything’ VA, new to business ownership, new to online service providing, new to the place where I was living even, I noticed one thing about the whole getting up and off the ground process. It was pretty dull, nothing really exciting or interesting about it, and tedious… it was all figures and currency, business plans and projections – bah… I may as well have gone back to my day job, I didn’t know how to pull everything together in a way I would be able to manage it all and still get excited about it, even on the days when I had to do all those mundane number crunching jobs and figuring out where the next client and the next amount of money was coming from.
So I decided to do what I really do best and think outside the box. Being someone who is very down to earth in every sense, I love the outdoors – seeing new things, enjoying my surroundings, so I created a virtual garden, where all the components (or essential items in my business agenda) needed tending to, and then, just like you create patterns in a real garden – of when to water, when to plant and when to maintain, including doing the weeding, I started to create my own business garden, which I would tend to like a normal garden, from my Mac.
What to plant in your biz garden.
Well, assuming you are still reading and haven’t thought I’ve lost the plot, you may have an online services business, and if you do, you have several things you need to plant and attend to on a regular basis.
Your Prize Flower Bed.
Take very special care of your clients, as if they were a prize collection of rare orchids, make sure the conditions are perfect for their own business growth. You’ll need to tend to clients daily, and make sure they have everything they need, always see if you can do anything to improve their environment, and keep them happy.
#2 Potential Clients
Think of these like little shoots that can sprout up from the ground — if you are lucky, and you give them the right kind of attention, talk to them nicely, they could eventually be planted in your ‘client bed.’
#3 Social Media
The 3 Mighty Trees.
Now this has become in my opinion a complete essential to any online business, and needs to be tended to, ideally daily — you have 3 main Mighty Trees in this section of your garden, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn — go to each one daily and sit under them for a while and watch the world go by, then if you see something you would like to get involved in, you can make your moves. Also make sure you actively tend to your social media trees so they grow big and strong – you’ll need these to be a very healthy, solid part of your business garden.
The Roman Statue Centre Piece.
It has to be Roman, because I am currently hanging out for 8 months in Glorious Italy. No garden is complete without its prize Roman statue, the centre piece of the garden where everything can be seen from — this is your website, it should never be compromised on, don’t go for the cheaper one — because if it’s not a beautiful piece of outstanding art, it will ruin the rest of the garden as an ugly spot. It should be the pillar of your online business.
The Fountain around the statue.
Around your static, masterpiece statue is a beautiful fountain providing sound to your garden and your website — your blog should be what people in your garden “hear” — so the content should be refreshing, it should flow well and it should be constantly moving like running water with a regular, uninterrupted, blog schedule.
No business garden should be without its pergola, this is where you can go to spend some time researching and interacting with all the various flowers and climbers around it. This could be websites you love to follow and read up on, or support groups you are a part of with like-minded people running similar businesses. Without your pergola and all of your climbers and connections to other business owners, you’ll have a very important piece of your garden missing.
The decking area is a place where solid pieces of wood (in other words marketing techniques) are joined together to form a pattern. The pieces are placed in specific places to hold the deck together and there is sufficient bonding to keep everything in its place. This is your marketing strategy – you need one that you can rely on and depend on, one that won’t cave in with the first signs of strain. If you can lay out your marketing techniques like panels of a deck you’ll be able to easily see each piece and by using them — constantly and consistently — you’ll see where the weak spots are and the pieces you’ll need to replace to make the deck more solid.
If you want a well-maintained garden, it’s tough with all the different areas you have to take care of, manually going around with a little watering can is going to take heaps of time and is very unproductive, so you need to install irrigation to become more productive when you are taking care of your garden. These will be your systems and technical applications which help you organise and automate parts of your business, leaving you more time to tend to your prize flower bed. Finding systems that can save you time are essential to the growth of the garden, your business.
As a business grows, just like a garden grows, it picks up unwanted, undesirable things which slow down the progress of the garden — these could be clients which are not profitable, or make it difficult for you to tend to other areas of the garden, they could be systems or processes which no longer function properly, or even Facebook fans or Twitter followers who aren’t playing an important part in your garden anymore, they need to be weeded out so your business stays healthy and happy.
The Vegetable Plot.
Every business has the general day-to-day duties which are required — if you let the essential items slip, then you’ll be in trouble, this is a bit like tending to a vegetable plot, so we need to understand something, this is probably the most important part of the entire garden — it’s the fuel, it’s what keeps us alive, so we have to make sure we stay on top of our vegetable plot to sustain our life. Keep on top of your emails and admin, do your bookkeeping (or at least hire someone to do this for you), keep your computer equipment running smoothly and make sure you keep your sites updated, make your phone calls, deal with your issues.
This touches on what I consider the essential items for any online business garden, and it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t let them fall by the wayside. But even if you do, say a plant dies, or withers away, it provides room to replant, rethink, and replace it with something better in that spot, far more suited to your own personal business garden.
This concept could be adapted to all sorts of scenarios, I picked a garden because I love the idea of comparing my business to a beautiful outside space, I love sitting in the sun, surveying the plants and trees around me, breathing in the fresh air, and soaking up what should be a pleasant, creative and inspiring area of my life (well most of the time anyway!!). My business.