Me, my business and lessons learned from trees


Lessons learned from treesTrees have always been important to me.

They have provided me with entertainment, interest, security, solace, comfort and more recently part of my income.

Growing up in a rambling old stone house surrounded by large beech and horse chestnut trees, my childhood was spent climbing trees (and occasionally falling out of them), swinging from ropes, collecting shiny conkers, roasting chestnuts on the fire, learning about the wildlife that made my beloved trees their home and building tree houses. And on wild winter’s nights, I loved nothing more than to be in my bed, snug under the covers listening to the mighty beech boughs swaying and crashing in the wind outside my window – the thought still brings me comfort now.

And later while at university and during my working life, trees and woods have provided me with space to think and a place to be, whether that was lunchtime spent wandering in a city park with its limes, plane trees and ornamental cherries, the solitude of a Northumberland moor with its stunted, lichen-covered hawthorn or walking with my dog in a fragrant commercial larch forest.

And for the last few years, trees have helped me to pay my bills and put food on the table. Firstly, working as Office Manager for a tree surgery company and arboricultural consultancy and now supporting a tree and woodland consultant on a freelance basis with tree condition surveys, woodland management plans and tree-related documents for planning applications and legal cases, as well as building and maintaining his website and any other necessary little tasks that keep his business moving forward. Working in the tree world has not only enabled me to learn so much more about the biology of trees, but it’s also allowed me to see another viewpoint – many people see trees as a nuisance or inconvenience. They can grow in the wrong place, drop their leaves, hinder planning applications, creep into drains or cause subsidence among others things.

But whatever your feelings about trees, we need them; we need a lot of them. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They are vital for human life.

But I believe that trees can also teach us some important business lessons.

A few years ago a travelling storyteller travelled from Wales to a nearby village. After fascinating her audience in her soft Welsh lilt for a couple of hours recounting myths, legends and country lore, she handed everyone a card. And this is what was written on that card:

Lessons learned from trees

Stand tall and proud
Be content with your natural beauty
Go out on a limb – reach for the sky – but remember your roots
Drink plenty of water
Enjoy the view

So simple, but so true – and in business too.

That card has been pinned on my notice board ever since…

Stand tall and proud:

A lofty ash standing tall and proud seems to me to be exuding confidence. For many small business owners, confidence can be an elusive trait – Imposter Syndrome may strike at any time or we have our own personal mind monkey sitting on our shoulder chattering into our ear and undermining any confidence we may have. However, when we have a vision and know our purpose, the why of our business, we can set attainable goals that are aligned with our non-negotiable values to take our business forward. When we know where we’re going and what the next step is in getting there, we can be speak confidently at networking events (after all we now know why we’re there!) and we can be sure that whatever path we eventually take, we’re heading in the right direction. We can hold our head up high and move forward.

Be content with your natural beauty:

To me, in business this means that we should be authentic. Authenticity has become somewhat of a cliché nowadays but I believe that we should be true to our values and perhaps as importantly our clients’ values must be aligned with our own for us to feel satisfaction and fulfilment within our businesses.

Go out on a limb – reach for the sky – but remember your roots:

Whatever you do, there’s likely to be plenty of competition so to get noticed it’s essential to stand out from the crowd. What can you do differently in your business that your competitors don’t do? Can you package your products or services differently? But do you know what? There is one thing in your business that no other business in your sector has. And that’s you. But ‘remember your roots’ and be yourself. Whatever you think, there’s no need trying to be someone you’re not. After all, running a business is hard enough work without the added ‘chore’ of keeping up a pretence or maintaining an illusion. That’s just exhausting! With your uniqueness and your focus on achieving your goals little by little, the sky’s the limit, so reach for it.

Drink plenty of water:

As a sole trader or small business owner, there’s often no boundary between work and life so it’s easy to look after everyone else – your clients, your family, your children – and forget about yourself. Obviously, keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of water is essential for your brain to function effectively, but to maintain your resilience and be able to cope well with challenging situations you also need to make sure you eat healthily, get enough sleep and take regular exercise – maybe a walk in the park at lunchtime or a run through the woods after work. And don’t forget to take some time out – the sky won’t fall down if you switch your emails off for the weekend!

Enjoy the view:

And last but not least, celebrate your achievements. It’s so easy to focus on the future and dismiss how far you’ve come. Every few months, it’s a great idea to look back and review your business. What went well? What did you achieve? Were there other things that didn’t quite go to plan? What would you do next time to turn these ‘not quite successes’ into successes?

Maybe my thoughts are a bit ‘woo woo’ but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

For generations our ancestors have followed the seasons, especially in the sectors where I live and work – the rural and wellbeing sectors. So as a final thought, it’s worth remembering that spring always follows winter. However hard things become in your business, spring will return. There will be light at the end of the tunnel, new opportunities will present themselves, things will get better, new ideas will germinate but you have to be open minded, present, receptive to change and focused on your goals and what you want to achieve to be able to take advantage of everything this metaphorical spring has to offer.