[EXCERPT 1 – Be more tree]

We’ve been talking about the organic growth of your business. You know what else grows organically?

Trees. And we could learn a thing or two from them: about growing – about networks – about sharing.

Forests are remarkable: somewhere between an ecosystem and an organism. They are individual things that also form intricate, regenerative networks of goodness, sharing resources sometimes over thousands of years. Individual trees come and go – mostly, though some don’t seem to. But the roots, the system, the networks they generate and of which they are a part? They go on living, thriving, evolving, changing.

Sharing. Deep underground.

If our businesses are trees, we spend most of our time thinking about the bit we can see. The growth we think about is clearly visible growth upwards. Growth that yields fruit in immediately obvious ways.

But we shouldn’t. We should think about the roots, about the networks they form.

Consider this. Businesses started by older people have a disproportionately high success rate. This is likely down to any number of factors – experience, for one. But I promise you it’s also because of the larger and more developed root system of which older entrepreneurs are a part. Because of – with the good ones, the truly smart ones – decades spent cultivating and building reciprocal relationships of non-transactional support.

Support given not because it directly benefits the giver or leaves the recipient indebted to them.

Support given simply because it is needed and can be supplied.

These kinds of support relationships are the best investment you can make in your business. Because once again: the right kind of growth doesn’t result from a focus on expansion, but from doing things because they are worthwhile things of general benefit, which then create the conditions of your own success as an incidental effect.

Invest in roots.

[EXCERPT 2 – Small things change better]

The Brighton to London train was deserted. The station had been too, and outside the window lone cars looked isolated on roads that usually teemed with them.

But the eeriness really hit with the cold, empty silence of London Bridge. With the high-rises outside that seemed to have been stunned into muteness.

April 2020, and the world looked as if it might never be the same again.

The pandemic’s impact went far beyond just its effects on our businesses. Of course. And of course for some of us no amount of preparation, no degree of creativeness and agility, would have made a difference. Even the smartest travel-agencies were going to have a rough time.

Nevertheless, what it made crystal clear for me was something I’d long known but of which I’d perhaps never quite grasped the magnitude.

Big, unadaptable things that had prioritised growth as their guiding principle were grinding to a bewildered halt. (By and large.)

They’d achieved magnitude, sure. But it was out of proportion to their maneuverability and tensile strength.

Small, adaptable things were better able to rethink. To tack into the wind. To pivot into new approaches to what they did best. To find traction on unfamiliar ground.

They were better at changing.

There are a lot of lessons here. But for me? For me the most important was that change should be embraced – pursued. And not just in moments of seismic upheaval. The ability to embrace change – to let go of the old when it has outlived its usefulness, or become unviable – may help in those moments. But the deeper truth is that change is the principle to which we should adhere all the time.