Living Things Grow

This past weekend, I was behaving at my Loyola best. My wife and I were planting roses and I was working as the manual labor and occupying my mind by reflecting. First, let me set the stage and make the connection. We live in an area where the deer are in abundance and they feast on our plantings. After many years of battle, we took a different tact a couple of years ago and are slowly populating our gardens with beautiful Knockout Roses. They are resilient to our local weather conditions and the deer don’t like them. Plus they bloom for an extended period of time. A lazy homeowners’ dream. Over the past couple of years, we have planted them in several spots in our yard. As we were adding to this collection, I was taking note that some of our past plantings were doing better than others – this began my evaluation followed by reflection. Why were some doing better than others? Why do some businesses do better than others? Perhaps living things grow and properly nurtured things thrive.
The healthiest plants were set in soil on our property that was most conducive to growth. Fertile soil promotes growth. Our home sits on an old farm property that a developer bought many years ago and created our neighborhood. Many times developers sell off topsoil to add to their profit. Was the difference the soil? I started wondering if fertile soil was the addition of nutrients or the absence of unhealthy material? Do our businesses thrive if our “soil” is not as fertile as our others?
Roses, like most flowering plants, require pruning to produce an abundance of blooms. The most capable rose caretaker knows how and when to prune the branches for the best effect. They don’t necessarily cut off only the dead branches; they know how to trim the bush to promote the best new growth. Isn’t that also true of a successful business? So often we think only of growth as an additive process. What about the healthy branches that, if trimmed, will promote more growth in the future? How then to decide which ones to prune? It seems to me that in business and in roses there is both an accumulation of knowledge combined with a healthy dose of experience.
One of the key challenges that face most businesses is how to develop new leaders. How do we deposit knowledge in the future leader so they will have the foundation to produce more growth down the road? It is readily acknowledged that one of the most important characteristics of successful leaders is their desire for continuous learning. There is no better place to find broad, values based learning than at Loyola University where programs have been structured to address specific areas of knowledge with leaders and future leaders seeking the same insight. If you want to see your business differently, I recommend you take a walk in a garden to notice and ask why some plants thrive, some survive and some dry up and fade away.