Finally, after four years, my fruit trees have produced results! It’s as if the recession that hit the economy had also walloped my orchard. Now, with a wonderfully abundant crop of fruit, I have been able to restock my freezer, share with my neighbors, and eat to my heart’s content. Way better than the four apples and eight peaches I harvested the year before!

Now I must prune.

Here is the conundrum in business and in life. After a time of fruitfulness, results, and profitability, you must prune. And it hurts.

Prior to this year, I never bothered to prune my fruit trees. I just cut down the “suckers” and cut off the “runners” and walked away. Now that I have seen what they can do, I want more. What will it take to have more fruit next year?

The same question can apply to your business. If you want better results in 2013, you need to re-evaluate operations now. The question is, how?

The Down Side of Bush Whacking

Yes, pruning can be painful. But it’s essential to future growth. Here’s what I’ve discovered. To get the results I want, I have to invest. My time, money, and energy.

The worst thing you can do is to just cut to cut because that’s what your peers are doing. To hack away at the PNL because you have to produce profit now! You’ll end up doing what I did on Saturday. Not good.

There was an overgrown bush in my flower garden. I got in there just to thin it out a bit. Well, I had no vision, and I certainly didn’t seek counsel, except in a veiled self-reassuring question to my mom, “Don’t you think I should trim that overgrown bush down a bit?” So with my long green pruner in hand, I started “trimming” and I whacked off one wrong branch too quickly. Long story short, I had to cut the entire bush down to the base. I just hope I didn’t kill it and it will come back in the spring.

That’s what happens without vision and expertise.

If you’re dealing with something that’s valuable, you can’t be an amateur about it. My fruit producers are precious to me. So I need to hire someone who knows and loves trees so much that they have vision for their future. Someone who with knowledge, wisdom and experience can make each cut confidently and carefully in the spirit of long-term growth, sustainability, and, yes, fruitful results.

Now, I am not saying every budget line should NOT be evaluated. In fact as we roll into Q4 I would recommend it! What I am saying is you need vision first.

Yet as leaders we Google how to “prune” and off we go. And of course, we are either too cheap to get help (that’s me), or we are to prideful and think we can figure it out (that’s me too).

What’s the price of this strategy? Unlike my bush whacking, the cuts you make affect people — a lot of them. And nine months from now, you get only half the fruit you could have gotten had you invested.

The Core of the Issue

No doubt about it. The season of pruning, whether in our personal and business worlds, is awkward, isn’t it? Most of us avoid it. But if you don’t intentionally prune, then life and circumstances will force you to do it. Then when we do end up doing it, we make a mess of things when we try to do it alone.

Where to start? It’s been my experience that you need to start in an area most leaders are weak at. You have to celebrate (and taste if you will) the fruit of your labors. Then you will have more courage to contemplate the VISION for the upcoming year.

To give you a sample of where to start pruning, begin to ask yourself a series of questions. (If you’re reading this for your personal life, just change the wording!)

  • What is the core purpose and value of this business?
  • What unique value does it add to the customer?
  • In your company, what/who produces the best results and why ?
  • Where are you not getting maximum ROI?
  • What areas are you settling for good vs. going for great?
  • What are three things that worked for you in the past that need to be re-examined for the future?

How do you prune? Get back to the core of who you are and why you are here. Revisit your values and strategic life plan. Mostly, you need to ask for help from your team, your family and your coach. What are your blinds pots? Where are you settling for a few dozen peaches when there are hundreds available to you.

This is the time to invest in your leadership, your team and your business. It’s time to evaluate, prune, and plan for 2013. Most of you know that pruning is stage 5 in our coaching process. Putting The Process into book form has been on my to-do list forever — as I continue to prune my own life, I will get the dang book written one day.

In the meanwhile, I would love to help you in any way I can. Let me know how I can serve you and your team as you prepare for the fruitfulness of 2013.

Your Coach,