How To Grow Your Business By Pruning

My intuitive way to grow my coaching training organization was to add programs and locations. As a result, our revenue increased, but our expenses outpaced it. After wearing ourselves out trying to grow by expanding, I discovered how to grow by pruning. 

Learning From Fruit Tree Farmers

Organizations grow like fruit trees. We plant a product or service that grows into an organization. Before long we see some fruit on the larger branches.

As time goes on, more branches grow. These branches produce fruit, but they also pull nutrients away from the large branches. The fruit we get on the large branches isn’t quite as healthy as before.

Some new branches look great, but don’t produce fruit at all. These are called “suckers” because they suck the tree’s energy without giving anything back.

Farmers know the solution to this situation. By pruning away a large number of branches from their fruit trees, the remaining branches will produce the highest quality fruit.

The principle is “grow by pruning.” We need to do the same in our organizations.

Pruning Your Organization

Looking at my coaching training organization as a tree, I examined the variety of programs that we had expanded into. Some programs looked great but others, like “sucker” branches, didn’t produce fruit.

Here’s what we did and what you can do too to prune your organization to keep it healthy and productive.

  1. Prune back to your primary audience. I believed our services applied to everyone, so I didn’t want to focus on a primary audience. I wanted to have several primary audiences (which is a contradiction of terms!). As a result, I changed our services to meet the needs of different audiences. Here’s the problem: as I speak to the needs of one audience, my other audience don’t hear me speaking to their needs. It’s better to prune away secondary audiences. You’ll be left with a primary audience and see better results. It may feel counter-intuitive, but it works.
  2. Prune back to your core business. Now that you’ve identified our primary audience, take a look at the products and services you offer. Which are focused on them? Which are most fruitful? One program stood out that produced the greatest impact and income from our primary audience. With them in mind, I reworked it to better serve their needs. We relaunched it as The Coaching Mastery Certificate Program. A second program also served that audience well but in a different way. So, we reworked and relaunched The Coaching Workshop for Christian Leaders.
  3. Prune the “suckers.” As organizations grow, they tend to expand their auxiliary products and services. These decisions make sense at the time. It feels like diversification. We expect these products and services will be a new source of customers. Instead, many become “suckers” that divert resources and don’t produce much. As I looked at our organization, I found a few beloved programs that didn’t produce much. We pruned them.
  4. Prune your expenses. In a downturn, cash is usually an issue. The easiest way to make your numbers healthier is to cut expenses. Cutting the wrong expenses will hamper your ability to build your core business. Like pruning a tree, you must know which areas to cut so that you leave the tree healthy and full of fruit. Cut outside your primary customer and core business, and leave the expenses in place that that will serve these two areas. It’s very possible to prune too much and to the wrong branches, killing your organization’s capacity to grow.

After Pruning, Nurture And Harvest The Fruit

While pruning is essential, you can’t cut your way to real growth. You need one more thing.

The solution to grow to your business is pruning followed by nurturing and harvesting the fruit. With your capacity increased by pruning away “sucker” activities, you can shift your energy and resources to delivering value to your primary customer in your core business.

  • Meet with your primary customer.
  • Listen to their needs.
  • (Re)develop solutions to meet their needs.
  • Deliver these solutions with excellence.

It’s these crucial activities that get crowded out as an organization grows. Prune so that you can focus on meeting your primary customer’s needs. This is how you grow your business.

Question: What would be possible if you pruned your organization to focus on your primary audience and their needs? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    7 thoughts on “How To Grow Your Business By Pruning

    1. For a visionary with many ideas, it is a temptation for me to try to do it all. Focus allows a leader to get more done and get the right things done without over extending resources and energy. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Another great post, Keith! I love your consistent quality work. A book that I found to be helpful in this area was Book Yourself Solid my Michael Port. One of my clients coaches NBA basketball players and after our discussion on this made the decision to “prune” and no longer work with rookies. Thanks Keith!

    3. So cool Keith. Slicing and dicing and editing like one does to print copy, what a brilliant but hugely simple concept. You’re so good at pointing out those things that we all miss (out blind spots). Thanks for that. Oh, and the metaphor is to die for. WURD!