5/22/12

The Underground

Everything's in Bloom (Part 10)


In every garden and company there is always a lot going on underground.  No matter how much we have done to provide the right environment, there will be natural and subversive elements ready to undermine our efforts.

We work hard to stimulate roots that are important for long term health and production by making sure that we provide the right growth medium and feed to fortify the new growth.  We nurture by weeding and aerate sometimes even adding supporting staff – earthworms for the garden – coaches, trainers and managers in the company.  Still there are forces at work, some we can work to control and others that are acts of nature.

Floods and Droughts – Too much or too little of anything will present challenges.  Floods and droughts are always driven by outside forces that we do not control.  We are forced to deal with the effects.  Since these tend to occur in cycles, we usually do not deal with both at once but may see a compounding effect.  The damage is usually greatest underground.  A great example of the flood and drought effect can be seen in the real estate business. 

During the period from about 2001 through 2006 real estate sales hit high volume and revenue numbers outpacing norms significantly.  Additionally the number of people selling real estate grew.  Supply was up in every way possible and spending was abundant including an all-time rise in the percentage of commission paid to sales people.  While most knew that the good times could not continue to roll at the pace achieved during those times, few were prepared for the bursting of the bubble and its effect.  Sellers, many hamstrung and seriously under water from the pricing rise and fall found few buyers willing to buy due to prices and buyer confidence.  Brokerage companies had long term contracts that could not be quickly modified to adjust to the reduced revenue stream including the crop of agents, many of whom had never really known lower commission splits.  The flood perched business high and dry when the drought came. 

At first people thought that the drought would be one or two years, few saw the long term coming or the impact that it would have to everything that in some way touched or was touched by real estate.  The drought starved the businesses allowing the roots to become severely weakened especially in areas where the abundance and resulting rise was greatest.   The strongest in the most favorable places and those that could adapt to the new realities quickest weathered the flood and the drought best.

Grubbs, Moles and Cutworms often attack gardens from underground but precautions and management give better control of the results.  The grubs are larvae waiting to hatch; in the meantime they wreak havoc on plants they feed on but also the predators that they bring to the garden – moles which feed on the grubs and the beetles they become.

It is not unusual in any business population to have grubs which silently munch on the roots of the business taking what they want and leaving a path of waste.  They are often the discontents in a company and whether it was their plan or not, they feed information to moles.  The moles are quite disruptive, digging into the company building feeding tubes right into the company.  They use the grubs and destroy everything in their wake.

If the grubs and the moles were not destructive enough underground the cutworms certainly make short work of the new and tender, cutting the roots from the plant and leaving behind a wilting stump that only when you look at the roots do you see the problem.  The cutworms attacking companies may be long term, living within the company but making it very difficult for anyone new to get established.  They may also be outsiders who plant doubt and suspicion as primary acts of subversion.  The cutworms also bring in unwanted guests – stinging wasps and annoying flies who love to nest where decay is found.

The gardener knows that they have to prepare for the things that they cannot control and manage what they can.  They have to look underground as the view of the surface never shows the extent of the problems until it is too late.  The same is true for your business.


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