When we purchased our new home, everything was spectacular—that is, except for the lawn. Apparently when the builders decided to construct our new home, they didn’t mind leaving a big pile of building materials in the front yard. Instead of the plush, green perfection of our neighbor’s yard, we inherited a huge “bald spot” of dirt that had become a dandelion factory.
Like any self-respecting new homeowner, I rushed off to the hardware store to buy some grass seed. But I didn’t stop there. I also borrowed sprinklers from my father-in-law, researched the Internet, spent countless hours pulling weeds, aerated, and just for good measure, purchased expensive lawn fertilizer. I could see it all so clearly; my new lawn was going to be so perfect that people would travel great distances to practice putting, or take family portraits.
A couple weeks later, however, I started to worry. The bald spot was still bald. All of my labor to create the perfect lawn fell flat. What happened? Why wasn’t my grass growing greener on the other side of all this hard work? The answer was pretty simple. Grass never grows well if it’s planted in the middle of the summer. The sun is too hot, the soil is too dry, the roots are not able to take hold. If you plant something at the wrong time of year, you can’t expect it to grow. I learned an important lesson during this experience. Doing the right thing at the wrong time will not produce great results.
As a business consultant I have seen so many business leaders focusing on the right thing, but at the wrong time. Like my efforts to grow grass in the middle of summer, these endeavors are not likely to see positive results.
In order to help business leaders choose the right thing to focus on, I developed a model called “The 4 Business Seasons.” Just like the four seasons in the natural world, every business will cycle through four seasons in business. Read through the following seasons and see whether you are focusing on the right thing in your business.
- Spring – The Launch Season: When you are launching your business (or a new product or service for your business), the main focus should be on your potential customer. Never waste huge amounts of energy in product development if you are not absolutely certain that people will buy your product. If you are in a launch season, focus on the market!
- Summer – The Learn Season: After discovering a paying customer and launching your business, now you have to figure out how to grow. More often than not, this means modifying your original plan in order generate more income. If you are in a learn season, focus on profit!
- Fall – The Leverage Season: Once you discover a paying customer and you are maximizing profit, you now focus on how to scale. This is where you bring in the harvest of all your hard work. At this stage, business leaders have to focus more energy working “on the business” instead of “in the business.” If your business is in the leverage season, focus on systems!
- Winter – The Legacy Season: Even businesses with great customers, great profit and great systems will eventually need to reinvent. Society changes at such a rapid pace that business leaders need to ask whether their products or services are still relevant. If your business is in the legacy season, focus on vision!
What stage are you at in your business? Are you focusing on the right thing during this season? Perhaps a shift in focus will help you stop producing weeds and dandelions and bring more health to your organization!
Joshua MacLeod is the founder of the Growability™ consulting firm. His passion is to equip business leaders for less stress, better teamwork, more productivity and great marketing. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Sarah and their eight children. You can contact Joshua by visiting Growability.net or emailing joshua (at) growability.net.