This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.
There’s been a plant-pocalypse in Middle Tennessee.
It’s hard to remember with all the summer heat, but it all started a few days before Christmas when a flash freeze caused Nashville’s temperature to drop from 52 to below 0 in a matter of hours. It was an historic arctic blast that caused havoc in a city where grocery stores are emptied out at the first sign of a flurry.
Fortunately for us, our pipes and pets were fine. But it wasn’t until this spring when, like most Nashvillians, we realized our landscaping wasn’t so lucky.
Granted, with no green thumbs in our house, the shrubberies in our yard were never well-cared for. Aside from weeding every once in a while, it seemed like the greenery and flora we had planted 12 years ago pretty much took care of themselves.
But with the sudden freeze that happened months ago, our poor plants were now suffering. Our boxwoods were polka dotted green and brown, our magnolia tree seemed to be missing half its leaves, and even our normally out of control monkey grass didn’t look very happy.
And apparently, judging by the scarcity of available landscapers to come to the rescue, our plants were not alone. Driving around town, I noticed that almost everyone’s yard was facing similar struggles.
Ever the penny pincher (my wife’s term is cheapskate), I decided I could save my leafy brethren all on my own. With YouTube, Google, and ChatGPT as my landscaping crew, I learned that there were a few options to rescue our yard.
Although I had zero experience in horticulture, the challenges that lay ahead of me felt very familiar.
In business, our own versions of arctic blasts happen as well. Losing a big client, being hit with an unexpected expense, suffering through a recession, facing a global pandemic. Just like our plants experienced, life can be unpredictable.
When faced with an existential threat, a company must analyze and choose between options, which are often limited by circumstance. When a disaster occurs, good managers like good botanists usually have a few approaches they can take:
- Downsize by pruning. To help a plant survive, you sometimes have to trim the branches that are struggling in order to help the healthy ones flourish. To help a struggling company survive you sometimes must trim expenses to put all your efforts into the most profitable areas.
- Cut your losses and move on. If a plant is too far gone, re-investing in it can be futile. It can be hard to tell if a seemingly dead plant will rise again, but just like in business, understanding when to start over is a key to long-term success.
- Buy some time. My parents came up with a genius idea for their damaged landscaping. After a bit of research, they decided to spray-paint the brown leaves green, enjoy the look of their landscaping for the rest of the summer, and buy some time to see if their struggling plants could recover. It sounds funny, but in business, buying time to live to fight another day is often the best choice.
- Call an expert for help. Taking care of plants or companies can be complex. In either case, it’s good to know when to ask for help.
In the end, after carefully considering the options for our sad yard, we decided that we needed to call an expert for help, and we lucked out finding a great one available. (But I can’t help wondering whether that shrub spray paint would have worked).