The Simple Small Business Seed Planting Ratio

Regardless of what simple small business you are in, you MUST be a seed planter! Planting seeds is basically laying the groundwork for future business. EVERY business must do this. Most of the time the seeds that you are planting today will not bring any fruit until six months or a year from now. So you must be continuously planting seeds.

There are two common problems that simple small businesses have with seed planting. First, when you are planting seeds you are not bringing in any income to pay the bills. Cash flow is the blood that keeps a small business alive. Oftentimes, a simple business is a one or two person operation. The second problem is just the reverse of the first. If the entrepreneur is busy generating income, then they are not planting seeds.

This is the catch 22 that destroys most small businesses and the worst thing is, like a silent deadly disease, the entrepreneur never even knows that it is at work in the organization until it is too late.

For example, you could have a simple house painting business. You have so much work that you are painting from early morning to sundown, seven days a week. Emotionally you are flying high because the money is steadily coming in and you have three customers on the waiting list. After three weeks of running yourself ragged, the work is done and you feel that you have earned a day or two off. The morning that you awake with a clear schedule is the morning that you realize that you are out of work and with no prospects in the near future. Panic starts to set in. Instead of relaxing and enjoying your well deserved Sabbatical, you are tense and frantic to start marketing and generating more work. And so, the cycle is never ending.

If you are a small business owner, then I am sure that this scenario sounds unfortunately too familiar. It is a revolving wheel that sometimes seems impossible to get off.

The solution is obvious, but the implementation is not so. You know that you need to both plant the seeds and harvest the crop, but how do you split your time?

Every business is different and so the time allocated for each process is different. If you are lucky enough to have a business that is so in demand that word of mouth brings you all the business that you can handle, then you are set. Most entrepreneurs are not so lucky. In many cases the owner must literally designate a ratio to be spent on both operations. I am speaking in general terms here, but most entrepreneurs should have an eventual goal to spend 100% of their time planting seeds. This seed planting can include, marketing, setting up systems, designing new products, and strategic planning. Ultimately the actual implementing of the work should be carried out by employees, freeing your time to grow your small business.

I have owned or operated businesses that had an 80/20 rule, where 20% of our resources were allocated to planting seeds or R&D. However, this did not take into consideration the fees incurred by management who were basically spending all of their time planting seeds, but they did not even realize it.

I currently co-own a business where the other owner and I decide to allocate 60% of all labor (including management) to planting seeds. This required a sacrifice of immediate profits and income in hopes of more than recouping the investment in the future.

Think of it in these terms. You live on less today, buying a smaller house, driving a used car, not eating out, and put the savings in an account that offers compounded interest. In ten years your investment will buy much more than had you been spending it all along. You sacrificed the short-term reward for the long-term payoff. Planting seeds is exactly that. You are investing in your own simple small business rather than in the stock market.

So take today to decide on a ratio. Come up with a ratio in which you are comfortable, but stick to it. When you plan your to do list for the days work, divide your list, making sure that you have your harvesting and planting activities proportioned according to your company ratio. The most difficult thing for you will be to stick to your designated ratios. If you fail one day to maintain your ratio, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just try a little harder the next day. What you are doing is trying to generate a new habit and discipline, which is also an investment in yourself and your business.

David Tower

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