Friday, November 20, 2009

The Bonzai Business

When I arrived to my current assignment (unsupported setup of a solo law practice), I was surprised to find a plant withering away in the corner near my desk. It was simply a gnarled mess of dry leaves and vines, pining for water and light.

I'm no horticulturist, I barely manage a garden when landlords allow. But even I knew lack of N-P-K management was the least of this plant's troubles. It needed the basics. Water and Light.

Several weeks of water, scissor-snips and a move to be exposed to the morning sun later, the plant was a bright green, leafy center of the office.

Later, the attorney would say to me "You bonzai'd it. Gave it the daily dose of care it needed, however little. You removed what was dead and put it in a position to succeed. Just like my practice!" Yeah, I guess so!

That comment got me to thinking about what makes a truly healthy business. Often as "outside consultant" I have to lead my clients away from the misguided "growth for growth's sake" mantra and toward "change, with reason".

Small business should not be considered to be the quaint childhood version of some future megalithic structure. SB should be fully viable, complete with all powers and access the dinosaur corporate model provides, with the added benefit of minimal bureaucracy and scalable adaptability.

Smart-grown businesses don't need to double staff to handle double the orders, they work to understand the essentials of what their clients are requesting and implement the 3 Rules to manage the business two times better.

I'm often challenged to accept the term "low overhead" - well, yes and no. "Low" is a relative term and must be compared. Low compared to the Excess Overhead most operations feel they need to operate? Sure. "Low" in that we carve into any and all factors of safety, greatly risking our brand for the sake of minimal savings reward? Absolutely not.

Bonzai businesses are not simply planted, but planned. They are cultivated with purpose and direction. As a result, they don't sacrifice quality or value, and negate or even reverse the size factor hampering so many organizations in so many different ways. HR, IT, Accounting, Marketing, Legal, and all other unprofitables eat space, resources and energy. The notion that these departments are needed internally is a myth that keeps an organization from evolving at the rate of its chosen expertise.

Final note: Don't grow, Cultivate. Focus on the essentials of what's needed. It's not how big you are, but how much volume can you manage effectively.

1 comment:

  1. First blog entry that I can hear your original ideas coming forth in. Brilliant and well-written. Even if I'm cast in an unfavorable plant-abusing light.