I’d like to explain a little more about the Small-Business Tree. If you are a small-business owner, this post is for you. Particularly if you are a sole proprietor (I’m one too, so that’s the model I’m working with).
If you are the creator and owner of a small business, the business is probably an important part of your life. You want to be “professional” and you strive for “work-life balance.”
Yet have you ever considered that as your unique creation, your business is in fact alive? That you can nurture it (or poison it) just as you could a living organism? And that true work-life balance might come not from drawing lines of separation, but from fully integrating your core personal values and practices into your business life?
This is the core concept: Your business is alive, just like you. In fact, it is you (or at least a part of you). The metaphor of a tree is helpful in explaining different parts of your business, how they relate to each other, and how best to nurture the whole living organism.
Our small-business tree has three main parts (each of which will get a full discussion in future posts):
- The roots are the life-support system of the business. They may be invisible to an outsider (just as a tree’s roots are underground), but they are crucial. Roots are everything that sustains and motivates you as a business owner, including your reason for owning your own business.
- The trunk is two central ideas that support all your business activities: Your USP, or unique selling proposition, and your ideal customer (marketers like to use the phrase “target market,” but I’m not so big with the hunting and war metaphors). USP is just a fancy way of saying “your products or services,” and your ideal customer is the person who is thrilled to pay you for these products/services.
- The branches are the ways your business reaches out to the world and makes itself visible. I believe that everything your business does is marketing (see everything Seth Godin’s ever written for more on this concept), so I would characterize the branches, twigs and leaves of your tree as various types of marketing. Your website is a branch. So is your business card. So is your email signature (and so is how quickly you answer your email).
Just like a tree, your business draws internal nourishment from its roots: A real tree draws water and minerals into its roots, up its trunk, and into the branches to keep the leaves from wilting. In your business, each leaf (marketing effort, website copy, product packaging) flourishes when it is connected directly to the tree’s roots. So discovering your business roots and consciously nourishing them is a crucially important activity.
Also like a real tree, your business needs external nourishment from an outside energy source. Green leaves drink in energy from the sun, and for most businesses, the outside energy flows in in the form of…yes…money!
All plants (and therefore all life) need the sun to survive. And money does make the world go ’round (even nonprofits have to pay their staff, and most volunteers don’t do it full-time). Your business needs cash flow to survive. And the beautiful fresh green leaves of your business tree should be designed to maximize their sun/money exposure.
With an inflow of money to the “top” of the business, you can strengthen your roots and trunk, which can then support more branches, more leaves…are you getting the picture? It’s the ciiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiife…
Whoops. Sorry, I’m done channeling Sir Elton. I’ll try not to let it happen again, but you never know with these wacky creative types like me.
Whether you’re ready to map the small-business tree onto your own business, or need some more time to ruminate, there’ll be more in-depth discussion of the whole tree idea here. And comment here to let us know how what you think! Does thinking of your business as a tree help you? What questions does this metaphor raise?