Small businesses – high impact

compostCOMPOST is what is needed to make things grow. It is a mixture of materials fed to plants and trees to help them grow strong and healthy.

Our businesses need ‘compost’ – things that will help the business grow. Business ‘compost’ is likely to include money, materials and equipment, buildings, transport, technology, people, advice, skills and ideas.

It is hard to grow a business without these things.

Effective business growth rarely happens by accident – it is usually a process of planning, commitment, creative decision making and action and sometimes a little bit of luck! Just like growing plants and trees – we can feed them and nurture them but we still need the weather to be kind!

There is a lot of research that tells us that it takes three to five years to get a new business established and all that time we need to be applying compost. We must think about ways in which we can make the business more attractive to customers; how can we develop and train our staff; how can we improve our building; how can we use technology to help us grow.

Applying the right compost to our business at the right time in the right amount starts with thinking and planning. What sort of business do we want; what do we want our customers to think; what do we want our staff to do; how are we going to be different to our competitors?

20160426154606-business-planFor example, if we are going to run a small shop what are we going to sell, what do we want it to look like, who do we want to sell to, how do we want to attract customers? Do we just want to be another tree in a whole forest of trees that all look the same or do we want to stand out in the crowd? It takes effort to stand out – there are a lot of things to think about – but the rewards are great.

Compost does not need to be expensive – it might be something as simple as clearing up the rubbish so we make the business an attractive place for our customers or providing our staff with smart uniforms that look cool and professional.

If you have a small team then use the opportunity to think about these things together – what can we do to make our tree stand out and be noticed? Brainstorm and explore ideas together and have fun doing it.

One of the best sources of information sbout our businesses is our customers – ask them what they think about doing business with you and how the experience could be improved. Customers are a major source of business growth – after all, without them there would be no business.  Let them know that you want to hear from them; reward and thank them for giving you feedback; tell them when you act on it; enlist them to help your tree stand out in the forest!  Ask them and be prepared to listen – you may get some free advice which is worth its weight in gold.

To create a beautiful garden or display of flowers it takes time, effort and commitment. Running a business is no different – if we don’t water our plants they shrivel up and die.  We don’t want that to happen to our businesses!


Coming next – small businesses – high impact part nine – our roots – planning, systems and processes.

Chris Elphick is Director of Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon’s and other Pacific countries. He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with Small & Medium Enterprises.  Learnfast Pacific works in close association with business support organisations including Chambers of Commerce and Industry throughout the Pacific.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on or you want copies of other articles please contact him at