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Edition 243 – The Expensive Gardener

It’s funny some of the things family business owners put themselves through in their business life. Sometimes daily. Often sporadically. None of it actually that productive or strategic.

Recently, I caught up with a former client and we discussed a whole bunch of things about family business, the world, COVID 19’s impact on Australia as a whole. I love our conversations as this gentleman is very knowledgeable and incredibly intellectual.Part way through our conversation, he shows me a photograph on his phone. It turns out that he’d spent a half day at the business premises, on a Saturday, tidying up a corner of the garden that had often been overlooked. By the way, this business actually engages a gardener to look at the general bits and pieces.

When I asked my learned friend why he did it himself, on a Saturday morning, he proceeded to explain that it was a patch that had once had dead tree branches on it and had been allowed to overgrow. The branches had long been removed, however the regular gardener must have continued to assume that the overgrown patch remained full of branches.

That wasn’t the why I was looking for!

I then posited to him that, perhaps, his time may have been better spent on a Saturday morning doing a bunch of other things. Taking his wife out for coffee. Sitting in his own garden and reading a book. Finding a quiet spot to think about and plan the future direction of the business.

Now, I love gardening and only recently, have spent time on the weekend myself at home tidying up some loose ends. However, that was to spruce up what was already looking pretty good and meant that, before too long, the cantilever umbrella will be up, the sunbed laid out and relaxing by the pool will be on the cards.

Sometimes in family business, owners really do waste their time on inane stuff for various reasons including:

  1. No one else is doing something about it, so I should.
  2. No one else can do anything about it, so I should.
  3. I forgot to delegate that role and, as I’m here, I’d better get onto it.
  4. I haven’t developed my staff to the level where they spot these things before I do.
  5. By doing this, I’m hiding from the really important stuff that is hard – like determining our strategic direction or developing new products and services.
  6. I’m running away from home!

As family business owners and managers, if we’re putting in so much, and sacrificing all of it, to build a business, then why don’t we give ourselves the liberty of saying “I’m not doing that and someone else will be?” Isn’t our time more valuable, even if it involves doing nothing?

All of this is why I’m an advocate for business owners taking time out of their week, putting their feet up on the desk, and just letting their mind wander. It’s actually why most people return from holidays with lots of good ideas and energy about their businesses, for they’ve simply taken the time to empty their heads of the day-to-day and in the process, allowed creativity to take hold.

Don’t focus on the cost of engaging people to undertake tasks for you. Focus on the value it brings you and what that may mean in terms of new ideas, products and services…..and time!