Business Gardener

August 20, 2019 by
Business Gardiner

Gardening is a great metaphor to mix with business, particularly when you’re tending a business like Wandering Cooks.

I didn’t follow traditional business models when I created this place the first time round, and we won’t in its next incarnation either, so please excuse the tangle of gardening and business as I make my point grow.

Gardening like we do creates an untethered kind of beauty. But also loads of death.

And sometimes death goes unnoticed for awhile.

I was showing a prospective investor (in our next incarnation) around the warehouse the other day and HOLY MOLY. I had no idea just how many plants would shame me with their inability to thrive through my complete neglect.

Well, no time to wallow in the facts. I hauled my humility out of the weeds and made plans for a comprehensive repotting. We have 23 months left in this place. Let’s make them green.

First step? buy in new soil and get ready to move it out of the way, fast. Second step? Extricate the plants that won’t make it. This takes judiciousness because a plant can look dead but be revived (my pelergoniums), or contain signs of life but never thrive again (my peppermint). So I Marie Kondo-ed the fuck out of the plant walls. Joy is as good a judge as any of future viability.

Next? I find meaning from death in the form of compost. Dumping withering stems, soggy bottoms and dried out soil into a big pile in our front garden bed (oh what a mess!!), I sacrifice all to the mulberry trees and promise the street my return to make pretty once I’m done.

No, I haven’t forgotten the metaphor in play. All this garden dissection and resurrection is still about my business. A staff member may have been mismanaged, a non-viable revenue stream kept alive too long, and we could definitely have done better by that dissatisfied customer… all are reflected upon during this gardening time, as is the endless tumult of possibilities that loom ahead as I plan our next steps after Fish Lane is gone.

While gardening, I attempt to back away from my business while still being physically there. I take stock from the perspective of the plants, take responsibility, and repot.

And after two solid days of determined work removing the dead from our concrete garden, today, I plan for more joy. There are now empty pots aplenty to house new growth, and time spent with each one to consider our next steps forward. And as I repot, I make commitments that, although there may still be death, it will not be from my neglect. No way. Not this time.

Sure there are less elaborate ways of making good out of mistakes in business. I could hire someone to tend my garden. An expert consultant perhaps? But then, would it feel untethered? And if it didn’t feel untethered, would it feel like us? And if it doesn’t feel like us, what’s the point? I ask these questions to interrogate our next home, as I plant another marigold. Not only do we need a garden but we need to be allowed to do business our way. With ample room for the untethered experiments of a business gardener.

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