The natural seasons of business

When I was a bookseller, the month of October always meant Christmas because that was when the Christmas new releases arrived. It was a time when our stock level doubled (if not tripled) and the whole build up to the end-of-year busy season began.

The weird thing was, the books that made the bestseller lists at Christmas were being ordered in July or August, so you had to predict what was going to sell four or five months beforehand. Fortunately, in bookselling there are many publishers, distributors, and agents who are quite happy to tell you what’s going to be big in six months time. So the industry had its seasons, sometimes determined by customer need and sometimes driven by the suppliers’ marketing machine.

I was reminded of this ‘forward thinking’ this week when I suddenly found myself in March and wondered, what do I usually do this time of year? What season am I in?

For me, March means getting things up and running for April starts (for the 90 day cycle that takes us to the end of the financial year in June). However, working with people around the world means working with different cycles. For example, in some parts of the world the end of financial year is this month, so that brings all those questions forward.

Jeanette and I have recently been looking at how business can be enhanced from a permaculture framework. (Permaculture is an organic, systems-based approach to living and is usually applied to gardens). As with the season’s influence on when one plants, harvests, stores, and celebrates, I think we have natural seasons in business.

  • When is your time to plant in your business? When do your seeds get sown?
  • When do your seeds produce a yield?
  • Are there times where you have resources in store? Do you have dry (lean) or rainy (abundant) seasons that influence how you work?
  • When do you light the metaphorical bonfire and celebrate your yearly harvest?

Okay, the growing metaphors do sound a bit over the top, but, being aware of the cycles in how you work (especially those that you have little or no control over) means that you can look at how to work with the seasons. For example, you can:

  • stop beating yourself up for not having much work at the moment when it may be a natural market cycle of your industry
  • take advantage the slow times to ‘prepare the soil’
  • use your knowledge of the seasons to prepare for foreseeable obstacles and opportunities
  • celebrate the harvest – even if it’s not a bumper crop.

So what are your seasons? What season are you in now and how can you use this knowledge to help your business thrive this year?

This article first appeared in Design Notes, the newsletter of the Work/Life Design Program.