How Vegetable Gardening is like Business
Each morning this week, as I’ve surveyed the leaves of my vegetable garden, I’ve noticed a different caterpillar. First it was my baby tomatillo plant. I found the green bulbous body hanging on to the stem of one of the sprouts. I think I shrieked. It was my first encounter and, clearly, this was the culprit who ate holes out of the leaves while we were on vacation. I extracted him onto my garden shears and marched him straight down to the waste bin. I brushed my hands off and thought, “Good riddance. You won’t make a mess out of my plants again!”
Then, yesterday afternoon it was my romaine lettuce. A thick green slimy belly weaved his way between my plants. He looked similar to the tomatillo terrorist but he was even bigger (like 2 inches long)! After researching caterpillars, I believe that he and his friends are some sort of moth caterpillars. A moth had to have found my greenery so pleasant that it felt the need to leave his babies to grow up amongst my romaine.
This morning, I was out there and I found little black ball specks on my lettuce. I assume these are the eggs. I found another caterpillar too, hunkered down inside one of my largest romaine plants. He wasn’t quite so green as the other two, I don’t know if he was younger or was getting ready to cocoon.
But for now, I’ve eradicated the buggers and washed away the eggs. I’ll have to be more vigilant in the future, if I don’t intend to share my lunch.
All of this, brought me to ponder all the ways in which growing vegetables is like starting a business:
|Decide what you're going to plant and where.||What will your business provide?|
|Will you grow in a container or raised bed? Or will you grow direct in the soil in your backyard or a field?||How large is your market? Are you feeding yourself or 100 people? Will you have one location or many?|
|Get the proper tools. Gloves, fertilizer, scissors, and a scoop to start.||Get a business license, name, insurance, technology, and the tools specific to your trade.|
|Plant the seeds. Or mayabe you buy a starter plant.||Do you buy an exsiting business or do you build from stratch? How will you find your customers?|
|Your veggies need regular watering, but not too much. Do you set them up on a drip system or do you handwater?||When is it better to create automated processes and when is the personal touch better?|
|Be patient and persistent. Some plants take as little as 4 days to germinate, others up to a month. Then it can be as little as 20 days to harvest (radishes), or as long as 6 months (garlic). Staying the course when all you see is dirt is paramount to the tiny seedling finally emerging from the soil.||Many things in business may make you feel like you're looking at dirt for awhile, until you get the hang of it or the idea takes hold and sees the light of day. Marketing ideas can take time to provide ROI.|
|Once the seedling pops through it's your job to nurture and grow it into a bigger and stronger plant that can produce the end results.||Nuture and educate yourself and your employees. And nurture and grow your client relationships.|
|If the seedling doesn't pop through, grow something else. Give yourself an expected window, then go a week beyond that. If your seedling hasn't popped up in that time, plant something else in its space.||You may have a product or company that just doesn't have demand, staying power, or is too costly. Know when to let go and move on to something else.|
|Watch for pests and slugs -- and birds, the neighbor's cats, and even your best friend, Fido.||There is competition out there. Some are disguised as family dogs and others are more menacing and stealthy like the moth caterpillars and tomato slugs. Know what they're doing!|
|Cut your losses. If you overplant, you need to thin the seedlings. This means choosing which broccoli sprouts to eat today and which to try to grow to maturity. If you let them all grow, they fight over the resources and you won't get a good crop.||When is it time to let an idea fail? Failures can lead to bigger successes later. Or, said another way, can allow you to focus on other projects that are more likely to succeed.|
Every step of the way you need research.
- Before starting your business or new idea make sure there is a market for it. (Similar to picking the right climate for your seeds).
- Talk to people who've grown what you're trying to grow. Create a network of like-minded professionals who can help you through your questions and provide moral support.
- Always know what the competition is doing.
- Always know what your business is doing. Take note of key metrics and expected results and timelines. That's how you know which seedlings are failing and which are strongest.