In gardening, to keep plants healthy, you have to regularly trim away dead and living parts of it.
The same must be done to keep a business healthy.
If you’re not sure it makes sense to cut off perfectly healthy areas of your business or which areas to prune to promote growth, this article will walk you through it.
Growing a business is very similar to growing a plant. So I’m going to share why pruning is important in gardening and how those same strategies apply to your business.
Before you can prune a plant or business, you first need to grow one. To do so, there are some basics that must be in place:
1. You need a seed
If you want an apple tree, you’ve got to plant an apple seed. You can’t plant a carrot seed and expect an apple tree to turn up in its place.
If you want a successful business, you need to create the right product to get you there. One that attracts a certain type of customer, stands out, is profitable, etc.
You can’t create a product with no demand or low profits and expect a business that pays your bills.
2. You need a support system
To plant your seed and give it everything it needs to grow, you need the basics; soil, water, and sunlight.
If you have water without sunlight or soil, or water and sunlight but no soil, that seed won’t grow.
Your product won’t help grow a successful business if you don’t create a support system for it. You need:
- A way to make people aware of your product (marketing)
- A way for people to buy your product (sales channel such as Etsy or craft shows)
- To encourage people to buy your product (USP, sales pitch, etc.)
If you have a great product but don’t put effort into marketing and selling, your business can’t grow.
3. You need to give constant attention
In the beginning stages of growing a seed, you need to keep a close eye on it and be sure it’s getting enough water, but not too much. You may also need to move your pot around or provide shade so it gets more or less sunlight during the day. As it starts to break through the ground, it may need a protective net to be sure the birds don’t get at it.
Your business also requires constant attention and adjusting in the beginning stages. You can’t simply create a product, put it out there, and expect sales to continuously roll in.
*If you need help ensuring the basics of your business are covered and organized, check out THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
Once you’ve planted a seed/product and grown it into a fruit tree/business, it’s time to do some pruning so it stays healthy, manageable, and continues to produce fruit/money.
WHY YOU MUST PRUNE
In gardening, it’s not just cutting away the dead stems, it’s cutting back healthy ones too, which can seem counterproductive. But taking that one step back allows you to jump two steps forward.
There are undoubtedly areas of your business that aren’t necessarily holding you back or bringing you down but may not be helping you grow, or helping you grow efficiently.
By giving those areas attention, even if it’s just a little, it’s taking time and money away from tasks that are more beneficial.
For example, those old products that never sold. It may not take a lot of effort to bring them to a craft show and set them at the end of your table, however, they may be taking up precious display space that could produce more sales if new exciting products were housed there instead.
The same idea may apply to that third, fourth, or fifth social media account you maintain.
Or, the craft show you keep saying yes to because you know the organizer, have been doing it for years, and walk away with some money. The time spent preparing for and selling at that event may be better spent focusing on your online store or a craft show that produces 10 times the profits.
Or, that customer who always asks for alterations and is never 100% happy with their purchase. Yes, it’s a sale, but putting policies in place (e.g. no alterations or alterations cost extra), will help eliminate those customers who try to squeeze a little more out of you for no extra cost. Then you make room for customers who value your work…as is.
Pruning in gardening requires you to be a little ruthless. That’s the same mindset you sometimes need in business to be profitable.
The following are 5 reasons you prune in gardening, the benefits, and how you can apply the same concepts to your business for maximum business health and growth.
PRUNING REASON #1 – KEEP IT HEALTHY
If you don’t cut off diseased or insect-infested parts of the plant, it can spread to the rest of the plant, and eventually, there will be no saving it.
A healthy business is a profitable one. Anything that’s not producing profits or giving you a return on investment (ROI) should be considered “diseased”.
You need to cut it off to stop it from spreading (in the form of taking up more of your time and money and taking it away from other parts of your business).
There will be some tasks that require your attention even though they don’t produce an ROI or produce profits, such as filing and paying your taxes. You must keep those on your to-do list.
Products that aren’t profitable
You’re spending time and money to create them, as well as market and attempt to sell them. If a product isn’t profitable, it’s got to be cut. The alternative is to find a way to make it profitable; lower your costs or increase your prices.
Marketing efforts that don’t give you an ROI
If you’re spending 5 hours a week posting to Facebook but not seeing a single sale because of it; it’s time to stop Facebook marketing (or change the way you market on Facebook). Those hours are precious to a small business and should be spent on marketing tasks that produce results.
Sales channels and techniques that don’t give you an ROI
If you don’t see many, or any, sales come through your Etsy shop, it’s eating away at your time and money without giving you any money back. Perhaps it’s time to focus on your own website, craft shows, or wholesale orders and cut Etsy off.
Or maybe there’s a certain type of customer you keep trying to sell to but they’re just not a fit for your business. Stop putting effort towards them and find the right type of person to sell to.
*More on calculating profits, tracking ROI, assessing which tasks should stay and which should go, etc. found in THE SUCCESS PLANNER
PRUNING REASON #2 – QUALITY
A plant’s fruits or flowers become smaller as it produces more. The more fruits/flowers there are, the more the plant must divide its energy.
Cutting off some of the stems that produce fruits/flowers allows the plant to divert energy towards the remaining fruits or flowers; growing them much bigger.
The more you try to fit into your business the thinner you spread yourself, ultimately lowering the quality of your results.
Take a look at the quality of your:
Do you make a few high-quality products or offer several products that are mediocre?
The more you cut back on the number of products you offer, the more energy you can put towards creating only amazing, bestselling ones. You can find your signature style, create cohesive and well thought out product lines, refine product features, etc.
This is the most common mistake I see small businesses make; trying to serve everyone.
If you don’t cut back on the types of customers you serve, you wind up trying to please everyone, including “low-quality” customers.
There are some customers that are downright rude, but in more cases, “low quality” simply refers to people who aren’t a fit for your products.
You want to attract and sell to customers who love everything you create, are repeat customers, and rave about you; those are high-quality customers. But it’s hard to attract them when your business and products are only partially for them while trying to appeal to several other types of customers.
Let’s be honest…you have a favorite way to market right? I do. I love Pinterest and email marketing but hate any form of media marketing.
Although I’ve heard from almost every “leader”, “guru”, or “coach” in my field, I need to do podcast interviews, webinars, Facebook live videos, etc. to be successful, I’ve built a successful business without following their marketing advice.
I also fell into the trap of thinking I needed to be promoting my handmade products on local news stations, participating in radio interviews for craft shows I was vending at, get interviewed for local papers and magazines, etc. I did all of those things and still wasn’t ahead of my competitors.
It’s not to say those aren’t great marketing opportunities and should be turned down, but they weren’t the right fit for me. They didn’t produce long-lasting results or bring me quality customers. I found that other marketing methods were “better quality” for my business and produced better results.
Are there any marketing tasks you do, mostly because someone else says it’s a “must” for any business?
I’ll admit, I do suggest email marketing and sending a regular newsletter is a must for every business…but I also always state that you know your business best and ultimately must follow your gut, which won’t always align with my advice.
Focusing on your favorite marketing channels and methods, and cutting back on ones you don’t enjoy, will allow you to produce more quality marketing content.
Shops and sales techniques
If you’ve joined craft show after craft show and online marketplace after online marketplace, thinking maybe this one will give you the results you’re after, it’s probably time to cut back on some sales channels.
You can’t run multiple shops on your own and keep each one high quality.
Consider if it would be beneficial for you to focus on one sales channel (e.g. craft shows, or your Etsy shop, or selling wholesale, but not all three) or focus on fewer craft shows, online shops, or wholesale accounts, so the ones you do focus on, are amazing.
Quality over quantity.
When it comes to sales techniques, the same idea as marketing applies. If you don’t enjoy it or feel comfortable with the technique, it won’t be effective.
I share lots of selling techniques in THE SUCCESSFUL INTROVERT for those who feel truly uncomfortable selling. Your techniques become more effective as you find your way of selling.
Whether it’s selling to someone at a craft show, writing product descriptions, or trying to gain new wholesale accounts, find your way.
You may let signage do the talking for you at craft shows, write your product descriptions in the form of a little story, or mail retailers lookbooks and line sheets instead of cold calling or knocking on retail doors.
PRUNING REASON #3 – STOP OVERGROWTH
When we moved into our first home it had some type of ivy growing up the side and back of the house. I loved the look of it but I had no idea how to keep it under control. It was taking over our house, blocking light coming in through the windows, and becoming home to thousands of aphids.
I tried for years to get rid of the aphids and trim back what I could reach, but the vine grew so high, we didn’t have a ladder high enough to get to all of it. We realized the easiest and cheapest option was to take the entire vine down.
Not only did the overgrowth cause us to lose the entire plant (because we didn’t know how to manage it), it also caused damage to our home. Not significant damage but the little roots had wrapped around our stucco and when we pulled the vine down, a lot of our stucco came with it.
Although you want to grow your business, you want it to be controlled growth. Many companies have gone under because they grew too fast.
Not to mention, you don’t want to cause damage to other areas of your life because of your business growing into something you can’t handle.
I had to forgo many dinners, gatherings, and trips because I was trying to fulfill a big wholesale order or get ready for a craft show.
As your business starts to grow, you’ll be presented with more and more opportunities. It can feel wrong to turn some down but not every opportunity will be right. It’s up to you to determine which aren’t a fit and say “no” to them.
That may include:
Saying “no” to making a certain type of product
Just because a potential customer asks if you can make it doesn’t mean you need to. I used to say “yes” to every customer. I eventually became resentful because custom orders had me making extra trips to the fabric store, spending extra time perfecting patterns, and left me with fabric and patterns that weren’t really a fit for my brand. Although it was turning down a sale, I started saying “no” to custom orders and last minute requests at Christmas time for out of stock items.
Saying “no” to marketing opportunities
In the beginning, I said “yes” to every opportunity to: give away my product in swag bags, advertise in someone’s local paper, jump on the latest social media platform, etc. I realized just because something worked for another business, didn’t mean it would work for mine. I also realized that other businesses are trying to sell just like I am. They want to sell me ad space, so of course, my products were a perfect fit for their audience. I had to assess every marketing opportunity so that my marketing expenses didn’t become too big.
Saying “no” to selling opportunities
There are many ways to sell your products, but not all will be right for you. If you take on too much, you may not be able to keep up. I said yes to every craft show and retail account I was presented with. I also thought I needed my own website, and to join online marketplaces. I eventually realized that although I was technically growing by selling at more craft shows and through more retailers, it wasn’t the right growth. I couldn’t keep up. I was selling more product but I wasn’t as profitable as I could be.
PRUNING REASON #4 – CONTROL DIRECTION
When you prune a plant it stops the growth of it in that direction. So if you want a plant to grow up rather than out, you’d cut off the branches or stems sprouting from the sides.
You should know the direction you want to grow your business, because it can’t grow in all directions.
Especially when you’re a small business. You must choose the direction that makes the most sense for you, is the most profitable, and easiest to handle.
What type of products do you want to offer?
Do you want to be known as the business that offers the best turquoise jewelry or amazing custom quilts? It can’t be both.
What type of customer do you want to cater to?
Do you want to create jewelry and a brand for brides and bridesmaids or the working woman? It can’t be both.
Which marketing channel do you want to grow?
Do you want to grow Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook? It can’t be all…at least not at the same time.
Which sales channels do you want to grow?
Do you want to grow the online side of your business, selling direct to consumers? Or do you want to grow offline through wholesale orders? You can’t grow the craft show side of your business, your Etsy shop, your website, and your wholesale accounts all at once.
PRUNING REASON #5 – IMPROVE VIEWS
When a tree or plant starts to become overgrown, it can block beautiful views (just like the vine closing in on my windows). Pruning opens them back up.
I’ve often felt this way in business; I have so much going on, so many directions I could take, and so many things I “should” do or that others want me to do, that I lose sight of my business’ purpose and the goals I want to achieve.
Cut out some of the noise by cutting back on projects, ideas, collaborations, etc. that don’t align with the purpose of your business.
Why did you start your business?
Which products do you enjoy making?
Which people do you want to reach and connect with through social media or in-person events such as craft shows or networking events?
How do you envision reaching your goals? Growing your online shop and selling to people around the world? Focusing on the local aspect and selling at craft shows until you can open your own store? Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of seeing your products in retailers around the country.
Take a moment to think about the bigger purpose behind your business, the goals you have for it, and how you envision reaching those goals. Cut back on anything that doesn’t align so you can keep a clear vision and clear views of the finish line.
Which areas do you need to cut back on in your business?