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Pruning to Make Way for Business Growth

When my friend purchased her new home, it was obvious that the property had been carefully landscaped at one time. Unfortunately, it had been left to grow wild. In the flower bed, the lilies had crowded out the hens and chicks. The lamb’s ear had jumped the boundaries and spread into the grass. The bushes had grown so high that you couldn’t see the front windows. The dogwood tree had branches that blocked the view of the intersection. My friend could tell there was potential for growth on the property. The plants just needed some pruning. My friend got out her pruning shears and cut away dead branches and the tops of the bushes. She snipped out the overgrown flowers. It seems counterintuitive to cut and remove in order to enhance growth. But pruning focuses and concentrates the energy of the plants resulting in beautiful and healthy gardens.


In the business world, pruning applies both to cutting away existing aspects of your firm and saying “no” to new opportunities that come your way.


The leader is the one who can make a plan for pruning and can lead the team to execute the pruning. Dr. Henry Cloud in his book Boundaries for Leaders gives leaders encouragement and instruction on setting up boundaries in your firm to help you discern when to say no and when to prune.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did in the struggling company was to reduce their product offerings by 70 percent. He reduced Apple down to four products: two desktops and two portable computers. That pruning move was one of the biggest factors in the rebirth of Apple’s success. The pruning allowed the company to focus their energies. It also pruned the options that the end consumer had to sift through which led to more purchases made.


Here are some examples of how some firms have pruned in order to make way for focused success:

One firm owner realized that as her business attracted larger clients who required more advisory services, her smaller bookkeeping-only clients were no longer profitable. She had grown to the point of having a waiting list consisting of larger clients. She decided to prune the smaller, less profitable clients so that she could accept the business of the larger clients. Some of the clients she “pruned” were not happy about being let go, but she referred them to colleagues who would be a good match to show that she still had their best interest at heart.
A firm opened an office in a nearby city. Why?  Because they assumed that was the smart way to grow. Over time being geographically spread out made effective growth difficult. It was hard to keep focused when the firm owner was spread so thin. The firm made the decision to close the new branch and set up more structured remote meetings with team members and clients.  Not only was overhead reduced, but the added flexibility allowed the firm to attract even higher quality talent.
Another firm decided to prune their personal income tax return clients to focus more on the more profitable (and in their words “fun”) business clients.  The firm “pruned” over 40 personal tax return clients in one season and within a few months had signed on two business advisory clients that more than made up for the others.


What can be pruned in order to make way for focused growth? It’s up to you, the leader, to create an insightful, strategic plan and to lead your people through the changes.

If you need a sounding board or advice about what to prune and how to do it, contact me. I can help you step back from the landscaping and identify where pruning needs to take place.

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