I heard a quote today about how difficult and tedious gardening is: “Gardening is 90% pulling weeds, 10% planting seeds.” It’s not just the glamour of designing a garden and then planting the flowers, but a great gardener knows what it really takes to create and sustain that magnificent work of three-dimensional art.
This got me to thinking – gardening and launching a business really aren’t all that different. We typically get wrapped up in the final product but tend to forget the sheer level of behind-the-scenes effort that went into creating it. Consider gardening for a moment. We don’t even realize that the gardener spent nine times as much effort removing the unnecessary, like weeds and bugs, as he did adding the key components.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself – what do weeds and bugs have to do with entrepreneurship? A lot actually.
For the gardener, unwelcome surprises, like dealing with pesky bugs or playing whack-a-mole with weeds, will always crop up in spite of the best planning. This is where a gardener’s resilience is put to the ultimate test. He has to think quickly and creatively in order to keep this garden that’s been so meticulously maintained thriving, such as by making a quick trip to the garden store for supplies to wipe out those bugs once and for all. As for weeds, the key is that a talented gardener can predict which weeds will grow faster than others and will spend his effort combating those weeds even if some others hidden in the corner are left alone. He knows that he’ll never get all the weeds, so he jumps on the ones that might cause the most disturbance.
Of course, when a startup tackles the challenge of developing its software, the team is no stranger to bugs, either. Speaking from personal experience, I initially couldn’t understand why there were bugs in our software, but I now know that this is just an inevitable part of the process. Like a great gardener, a great engineer can spot the initial signs of a weed and pull it out before a layperson even notices anything out of balance. And just like the talented gardener, the best engineers identify the most crucial bugs and knock those out first, sparing the ones that have the least impact for later, without getting lost in the proverbial weeds. (Speaking of which, I’m lucky to be working with such amazing engineers!)
In fact, the challenge of combating bugs and cutting through the weeds isn’t limited to software development. It touches upon a much bigger theme: the world of entrepreneurship is highly unpredictable. To survive, the entrepreneur must adapt in how they respond to difficult circumstances, just as the gardener artfully handles prioritizing weed-pulling and mitigating bugs. Perhaps a business idea didn’t scale at the speed the team had initially hoped and now, as cash and time are of the essence, the entrepreneur is tasked with figuring out what to do next. It might feel as if the business is under attack, like a sudden weed or bug invasion in a garden, but it’s all about swift (and sometimes unconventional) thinking as the entrepreneur works to determine the best solution so the business can continue to grow.
Let’s face it, dealing with these ongoing crises involving bugs (both real and metaphorical) can be draining for anyone. But, in order to succeed, there’s another core quality that both gardeners and entrepreneurs share: patience. Gardeners have this in spades, hoping that their work pays off in the form of a bounty in the spring. They’re in it for the long haul, realizing that results aren’t necessarily going to be instantaneous. The same goes for entrepreneurs as they work toward the sustained growth of their business. They plant their own seeds along the way, in hopes that they bear fruit for the long-term, whether it’s adding new features bit by bit to further entice the adoption of the product or coming up with some clever user acquisition campaigns to hit growth targets. The beauty of a successful business isn’t an overnight sensation, but instead the culmination of many, many months (and years!) of hard work.
So, whether you are a gardener or an entrepreneur, it’s important to realize: distractions, like bugs and weeds, are always going to crop up, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. The key is to get to them quickly and methodically, so you can focus on continued growth for the long-term.
– Originally published via CoInvent Media