What Growing Vegetables Has Taught Me About Running a Business

January 3, 2021

Rich, fertile, organic soil.

I know what you’re thinking. This dude has officially lost his mind. I understand why you’d say that. I didn’t embark on a vegetable growing journey this year to improve my business accruement, or even to try and benefit Icely Done. That said, the power of hindsight and reflection can often join the dots in unexpected ways.

A journey to The Grand Canyon in January last year served to reconnect me with nature, and the beautiful planet we live on. I reflected on how it might be possible to maintain the link with the planet and the earth, living in and around one of the busiest cities in the world.

The answer to this question came in the form of gardening, and particularly, growing food. During one sleepless night, I woke up – and as a continuation of the above inner dialogue, I wound up booking on to a course with Charles Dowding who teaches No Dig. As a busy person running my business, I thought that this could well be the gateway into the world of growing food. In a nutshell, I left with the tools to embark on my vegetable growing journey.

But it’s the principles of  No Dig which hold the significance that I want to explore today.

Disciplined Creativity

No dig works because you use deliciously nutrient rich and fertile 100% compost. The best you can lay your hands on. With this as your starting point, you have an incredible foundation on which to grow a beautiful array of vegetables. You also reduce the likelihood of weeds growing.

It has become obvious to me that this is a very necessary truth for businesses to be awake to. Only from beautiful, rich, fertile soil can beautiful things emerge. I believe that foundations (or soil), are apparent in every business; but they may take different form.

(N)icely Does It

For Icely Done, our soil refers to two key things. The first and most important is our culture.

Once culture is established, it functions as a North Star. An underlying code that quietly steers our conduct – first amongst ourselves, and then outwardly towards the outside world.

We recently reached our 5th birthday – a milestone that I take seriously if no other reason than to show gratitude for the fact that we are still alive. Only a small fraction of new businesses live long enough to celebrate their 5th birthday. We are alive, healthy and growing into an adolescent whose parents are optimistic about a bright future. Now we can think less about survival, and more about our longer-term plans and aspirations without the fear that it might all come to a sudden end. It has become obvious to me that culture is our brand. It is what differentiates us because it explains our character.

Acknowledging our character honouring its principles is called integrity. Character is perhaps an internal trait. Its who you are and how you behave when no one is watching. Personality is how the outside world receives you. It is an outward manifestation of character. So our culture seeks to explain who we are and who we aspire to be as we unfold in small ways, every day. As a business, we have spent time establishing who we are and reflected on who we want to be. By doing this, we have laid the foundations from which, I believe, beautiful things can emerge. Business is challenging. You need hard work, perseverance and you need to be prepared to get smashed in the face – a lot – and recover quickly. On top of all that, you can’t control the outcomes – and you need a huge helping of luck. So, with that in mind, focus on the things you can control. Nothing good can emerge from rocky, thorny, weed infested grounds. No seed, no matter how beautiful, can grow to become a beautiful flower if you do not cultivate it in beautiful grounds.

So take time to think about what the soil is composed of in your own business. Once you have identified it, seek to nurture it, find ways to add nutrients to it. In a (business) landscape that often feels like the Serengeti, think about your soil. The more fertile and nutrient rich it is, the more chance you have of harvesting beautiful & nourishing things that you, your staff and the folks that follow your organisation can enjoy. The fruits of your labour will only be ripe, delicious and nutrient rich if the solid that came to bear them was worthy. It has been said that good fortune is when preparation and planning meet opportunity. Your soil can be viewed as a big part of your preparation. Taking care of it means that you have a chance of reaping good fortune when the opportunities emerge – and they will.



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