Gardening Business Answers systems

How vegetable gardening can help you understand business systems – and yourself

If you’re reading this article because the title made you look twice, and wonder… what??? You wouldn’t be the first. I was the first person to do that. As I have grappled with the concept of coaching how to Permaculture Your Business, taking 3 very separate things to blend them into one, I gave myself a challenge to find the connection between them. My premise is that it’s not only possible, it’s incredibly beneficial. 

Permaculture provides a love of vegetable gardening. Business provides a dedication to systems and processes. Coaching provides encouragement to pursue personal development. Can I blend these into 1 coherent concept? I would really love your feedback to see if I have achieved this.

Gardening Business Answers systems

I grew up with a vegetable garden. My parents have been wonderful examples of self sufficiency, and still continue to nurture a thriving vegetable garden in their senior years. As a child, I still remember experiencing such joy in that moment when a seed sprouted. As the plant continues to grow, you lovingly tend to it, realising that this is a living being with a potential and a destiny all of its own and it loves you back when it produces a vegetable that ripens and then you have food. How good does that food taste! To receive nutrition from the earth is accepting that love in return.

If we break down the process of a vegetable garden, we can start to draw parallels to the other branches of this idea. There are systems that exist in the garden. A plant will grow according to the seed it’s come from in a very predictable way. I realise there are lots of variables, but if you plant a pumpkin seed, you will get a pumpkin, not a radish or a cauliflower. The plant has a prescribed process for what the plant will look like, how the stalks and leaves grow and what they look like, and then as the fruit or vegetable grows, there is a period of time when it’s ripe and ready for picking, and in the case of annuals, not perennials, after the fruit has been harvested, the plant will come to its natural conclusion, it’s destiny and purpose having been fulfilled. This cycle is a system. It’s a process that will repeat time and time again. If we zoom out a little, there are other systems in the garden, such as the way the worms feed the soil, and the cause-and-effect of receiving not enough, just enough, or too much nutrients, sun and water.

In a business – any business – a system will exist. There are  infinite varieties of businesses, but a few things are common in all of them. There would be a product or a service – a reason for exchanging money in return for something, and there would be a customer or end user, someone who benefits from the product or service. This exists from the smallest little side-hustle through to the largest corporation. There is a system in the delivery of that product or service, in receiving the compensation, and in finding the customer in the first place. 

A system is a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole. Can you see how a garden operates as a system? And a business?

There are many small-scale business owners who would argue that they don’t have a system. Their work is incredibly bespoke and no two clients are the same. Or, an artist might suggest that they can’t be bound by a system or a routine because they need to allow their creativity to flow when it comes to them, which could be at 3am or at 3pm. But I would contest that even in these extreme cases, a system still does exist.  Even in the midst of disorder and spontaneity, a system can be found that is predictable and reliable. It may just take a little exploration.

So if we look at a more typical type of business – let’s say a retailer – a small owner-operator sole trader retail shop. There is a system with the opening hours. There is a system with the purchase of goods from the wholesaler. There is a system for the layout of the shop. There is a system for the exchange of money for the goods sold. There is a system for the attraction and then interaction with the customers. 

The strength of a business is directly connected to the strength of these systems. If you want to understand these systems in the business, let’s compare them with the systems in the garden.

If you were to water a plant a little each day, and then something happens and you don’t water it for a couple of days, that would have an impact on the growth of the plant. It may or may not die the first time, but it would have an impact, and depending on how frequently this happens, it could eventually be fatal. If a shop has regular opening hours, and then it’s shut for a week, it would probably bounce back after it reopens, but if the opening hours continue to be interfered with, if that system is frequently disrupted, it could eventually be fatal for the business as the customers become frustrated with its unreliability.

When you’re raising a plant, the plant will be very specific with what it needs. You don’t get to tell the plant that you can only water it whenever you think of it and expect it to live, and you can’t tell it to grow a certain way that suits you better. It has specific needs, and will produce a mostly predictable result. Your business is a business, and it has needs. You can’t argue or negotiate with certain things. There are plenty of ways to express your own individuality through your business, but you need to recognise the things that are not negotiable.

Just as systems exist in a garden, you need to honour, support, and strengthen the systems in your business.

As we now bring in the third branch of this topic, how does this relate to personal development? For the very many people who have recognised the benefit that self improvement has brought to their lives, I’m going to suggest that they did it by following some kind of system. As I raised my children, I always appreciated the benefit of a routine in getting them up and ready for school. That predictability helped them to stay on track and out the door on time. As adults, that benefit of a routine still exists. It can take different forms and allows for a lot of flexibility, but at its essence, it’s a tool that can support growth and forward progress. As we try to be better, develop our potential and achieve greater fulfilment, certain habits need to be established. Those habits take a bit of self discipline to get going, but it’s the same thing happening here as it is in the garden and in the business. A system exists, and if the end result is going to be realised, it will be the result of that system being supported and strengthened. 

When you introduce a new way of doing something – it could be doing exercise, or reading self-help books, or following a healthier process of nutrition – there will be resistance from within, the part of you that doesn’t want to change, or give that thing up. Growth does not occur in your comfort zone, you need to get uncomfortable to expand into the growth, and then after you’ve done that you can enjoy the benefits of achieving that growth. The way you make this new action into a habit is by repeating it over and over again – developing a system. If a system is a set of actions or processes, that helps us to realise that developing a new habit is not an individual stand-alone thing. There’s what happens before you do that action, and after. How you prepare mentally and physically, and the impact it has afterwards. Identify the elements of your system, and then you know what needs to be supported and strengthened in order to achieve the installation of this new habit and the growth and personal development attached to that.

There are countless benefits to growing a vegetable garden, the nutrition received from it is just the most obvious. Getting up close and personal with nature is soul-healing and therapeutic, and it’s accessible to just about everyone. Even an apartment dweller can have a little pot of herbs on the window sill. If you have the land, I highly recommend growing as much as you are able to. 

There are also countless benefits of running a business. I will accept that it’s not for everyone, but if you are driven by being your own boss, expressing yourself through what you love doing, then anything other than running your own business can be a bit soul-destroying. You need to have that deep passion to be able to get through the hard work and stress of getting this business going, and to be able to appreciate the fulfilment as you do it.

When it comes to personal development, everyone on earth can benefit. I’ve often attested that, in my opinion, every person on the planet should have a coach, for the benefit it brings to reaching your own personal and professional potential. Life is about taking what we have been given, and making it into the best we can, and that is definitely an individual and unique thing for each and every person.

Being able to see the correlation between vegetable gardening and business systems and personal development may help you improve one or all of these branches, and I hope it’s provided a new perspective to consider.

To find out more about this blend of Permaculture and Business and Coaching, try out one of our following services.