Is Your Business Sterile or Fertile?

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Six weeks ago my husband and I bought a 75-acre farm. The land here had been overworked. Too many cattle have left it exhausted. In some places the soil is very compacted. We’ve been learning all about permaculture, building soil fertility and observing how nature recovers when it has a chance to rest.

One of my reasons for moving onto the land was to explore an ecosystem from the inside and bring what I learn into my work on money. This morning I recognised the connection between what we’re doing with our land and how we can support our business.

It seems to me that the old approach to business is leaving people, businesses and the planet increasingly exhausted. You can hear it in the language: lead generation, funnel building, prospects and clients, sales targets, margins and profits. There’s an energy in this approach that feels sterile to me. It is very clinical. It’s like maximising production by getting rid of every weed, applying chemical inputs in highly targeted interventions and stripping the life out of the land.

How does it look different if we think about building fertility into a business and economy? If we create an environment where a rich variety of life forms thrive and flourish, not only a single dominant species?

How would we think differently? Plan differently? Act differently?

When I look through this lens, I’m surprised how much old, sterile thinking I still have, even though I know it doesn’t work well for me. We live in a culture that has a strange obsession with sterility. Just imagine how differently we would have responded to covid-19 if our fundamental approach was to support people to be healthy and thriving so they can easily prevent or recover from disease. We would only isolate and sterilise very vulnerable or weak people in that situation. It’s a kind of madness to suppress the health of entire populations in order to control disease. 

If you apply this thinking to your business what will change?

On our farm, the first thing we’re doing is looking at how water flows through the land and adjusting that to optimise water retention. This will help to nourish the soil and prevent runoff, flooding, erosion and the need for a lot of irrigation. 

If you think of money in your business as the equivalent of water on the land, how well is your system working?

Are your financial flows set up to nourish and support the entire business (including you) or do you experience regular droughts and floods? Does it flood in one area whilst running away in another area? How could you think about your business as a living ecosystem in which every part has its natural place and supports every other part? How can you grow a truly fertile environment where you can plant whatever you choose and it will grow? How can you produce a natural surplus whilst also feeding and nourishing the entire ecosystem generously?

That’s nature’s way and it clearly could be our natural way as well. I’m going to reflect more on this and make some changes in the way I do business as I grow in my experience of being part of an ecosystem. I’d love to hear your thoughts on your own business and how sterile or fertile it is.

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