When I started my landscape business in the late 1980s, I was knowledgeable about business, reasonably confident with horticulture, but completely ignorant about how this industry works.
Nevertheless, I discovered the advantage of not knowing much about an industry is that it enables you to look at everything with fresh eyes. Sometimes being a little ignorant of the right or best way to accomplish an objective forces you to innovate and develop better solutions.
My suggested change for moving the green industry forward during these challenging times, or any other, is the same as that for virtually every other industry of small businesses – be a little ignorant once in a while. Let me explain what that means.
Get outside of the green industry. One of the ways to make your business stronger and more sustainable is to occasionally get outside of your comfort zone to network and learn from others. Do you attend the same conferences every year and find your returns are diminishing?
Then shake up your approach to those events.
I'm attending the annual convention of the National Speakers Association for the eighth consecutive year, so I'm trying something new to make the most of my investment. I've gone through the entire list of 2,000 attendees and highlighted all of those I want to meet and why, so that I am prepared when I see them in the hallways.
Have you considered attending new events outside of the green industry? Later this year, I'll be attending The Blogworld Expo. The attendees will range from marketing agencies and technology geeks to mommy bloggers. Other than a mutual interest in blogging, we'll be fairly ignorant of our respective industries.
And that's exactly why I'm attending. Ask yourself what your business most needs right now and find an event where you can learn new skills, expand your circle of friends and develop fresh perspectives to share with your team.
Seek better than best practices. Business consultants love to talk about best practices, and indeed if you follow them you may well succeed. Though there are risks. When you blindly adopt industry best practices, you may be taking on methods that may soon be outdated and also not particularly relevant to your unique business circumstances.
Be a little ignorant – trust your intuition. Challenge those best practices with what has been working for you.
When my landscape business was young and I was still naïve about the green industry, we managed to do quite well. Then somewhere along the line I began to follow the crowd – and soon became one of them. As a result, we lost our edge with our customers. When things got especially tough after Sept. 11, 2001, we reverted back to practices that had served us well from the beginning.
The renewed focus turned our company around.
A little ignorance never hurt anyone. In fact, it may be just what your business and this industry needs right now.