Thursday, July 31, 2008

Business as usual?

I've been away. Not having had a huge readership to encourage me to keep pouring out my deepest heartfelt emotions and troubles, it would seem that summer has been much more important. The gardens needed tending. After taking some time to just simply watch plants and lilies grow, though, it is time to start thinking about business again. Re-focus would seem to be the key here.

Everyone needs some time away, even if it is only mental. I haven't taken any actual vacations during the past month but I have definitely allowed my attention to wander a bit while I just did the day-to-day stuff that needs to be done as a person involved in a small business is required to do. The rest of the work, the program and marketing development, the lead generation, the efficiency improvements, the continuing development of our operations manual and the analysis of production have all sat here on my desk while I stared out the window. And tended my gardens (gonna be on tours next year in case you're nearby). And pretty much just mentally vacated the premises.

My youngest daughter brought me back, though. We have a rather odd relationship, but I am finally getting to know her a little bit after about eighteen years of our living in separate locales. And she is eighteen at the moment. Should give you a clue as to the way life sometimes happens.

Anyway, she was walking with me in the yard and out popped the question of the day... "Dad, how come you like to garden?"

I thought about it for a minute and, being rather verbose, I'll just paraphrase the answer. Because it is constantly new. A garden varies not only from year to year, but also daily. There is always something to plant, to move, to weed out, to thing, to transplant or water or just plain enjoy. Every single aspect of it evolves and it is a small environment that is exciting at nearly every single point in a year, even if it is covered in snow.

This, of course, caused me to consider my business. Even though we have established some patterns of sales over the years, we are changing daily as well. Last night, I upgraded our accounting system. It is designed to save time but requires work. We are constantly working to focus our sales efforts and to target customers where we can, to manage our employees and provide them with better benefits. Daily, each individual has a slightly different outlook, a different attitude and even a slightly changed view of the quality and timeliness in orders. Our costs change. Sometimes it feels like trying to pick up the ocean in one hand.

That is the aspect of business that fascinates me. How do we grow steadily, how do we maintain at least a semblance of profitability when we are never entirely in control of our surrounding influences? And why do we keep plugging away at it after all of these years.

The answer, I think, lies in the gardens.