The Best Time to Plant a Tree

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.

— Chinese proverb

Regardless of your belief system, these are confusing and difficult times. Social change is sweeping the world and continued economic uncertainty will certainly prevail. Many people are asking, “what now?” and “how do we go forward?” but the answers are complicated and different for every single person.

The risk of paralysis by analysis is at an all-time high. There are countless words currently being written to address the reasons for, the impacts of and the reactions to the dramatic political events unfolding in Europe and the US. The risk of feeling helpless, without direction or hope, not only affects the sphere of your personal reality; it also affects the long-term success of every small business. As an entrepreneur, it’s likely you’re facing more uncertainty than you’re comfortable with and it’s keeping you up at night. Some will see this as an opportunity to cash in on the chaos, others will recognize the opportunity to solidify and build on the values that drive their business and the people who support that business (the #StopFundingHate campaign has only just begun). And still others are waiting to find the confidence and clarity they need to get started.

There are many articles to help you decide the right time to start a business. In 2013 Alec Lynch (founder and CEO of Australian-based DesignCrowd)  wrote an article listing ten reasons why the best time to start a business is during a downturn. His points are valid and useful, focused on how to take advantage of economic uncertainty. There is a ton of practical and strategic advice out there if you take the time to look for it and some of it is worth reading. There are also countless small business guides and checklists issued by your local government authority to help you get started. Checklists and business plans will help you tackle the what and how, all of which are incredibly important, some of which are crucial. For example, I would never advise anyone to start a business or project without a solid financial plan to map their way forward. If you can afford it, please consider hiring professional help with the areas of your business outside of your expertise.

But here’s the thing. None of this matters unless you make some time to seriously consider why this is important to you. If you haven’t already, get really familiar with Simon Sinek’s concept of The Golden Circle and roll in the deep with your core values. You need to fully understand and start with WHY before you start planning how and when. Entrepreneurs need sustainable enthusiasm and energy, not passion that fizzles out when things get rough. The values that give life to your project should give you the curiosity and stamina you need to keep going. It’s my hope that this will give you the courage to say no to business if it contradicts with the values your business was created to promote.

So take your carefully chosen seed and plant your tree with a secure understanding of why you want this tree to grow. Yes, you need a plan and you’ll need to make lots (and lots) of time for that. But what you don’t need to know right now is every name and schedule of every gardener for the inevitable orchard that will follow.

(Photo courtesy of Mark Crockett Photography)

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