When we started out, we didn’t have a shovel.

Or land.

Or the knowledge of how to grow things.

Or sell them.

(Note: This is not the best way to launch a business.)

Although not a traditional route, the farm was my path to learning business from the inside out.  And there was much to learn.  Financial and sales forecasts.  Efficiency and Scale.  Vendors.  Employees.  Capital.  The list was long.  Production was a tremendous challenge, and it wholly determined marketing and sales: Could we grow and produce a superior cut flower, consistently, that would ensure supply for our clients and market share for our business?  To this day, that is probably one of the most difficult questions I’ve had to answer.  The variables were many and the mistakes costly.

But that little farm eventually produced a lot of lilies, all grown in computer controlled greenhouses that monitored everything from ventilation to temperature.  We became known for the highest quality cut flowers available on the market.  Bar none.  Whole Foods was one of the first clients I landed.

Although I’m no longer a flower farmer, the teachings of the farm remain.  Below are some.

  1. Grit and determination and desire are equally as important as knowledge.
  2. Knowledge combined with experience is exponentially powerful. Acquiring knowledge and experience costs time and money.
  3. Hire right or don’t hire. A band aid will end up becoming a tourniquet.
  4. If you don’t rest at least one day a week, you will lose the joy that brought you to the work (credit goes to Wendell Berry for that one, I can’t recall which of his books).
  5. Joy matters. So does meaning.
  6. Leadership is modeled through action. And promises kept.  Empathy and fairness are cornerstones of leadership.
  7. As are high expectations. A high bar is a good thing.  For everyone.  You, your customers, and your team members.
  8. Learning is at the heart of success. Ego has no place in learning.
  9. Asking a team member “What do you think?” is one of the most motivating questions for them and one of the most important for you.
  10. Don’t get distracted by fear of the competition. Put your head down, do the good work, and let it ripple out.
  11. Someone can steal your ideas and your information but not the brains and heart that created them.
  12. The value in sitting down with your clients in person, once a year, to genuinely ask what you can do differently cannot be overstated. Those conversations will yield their weight in gold.
  13. Efficiency makes a difference in just about everything, particularly scale.
  14. When hiring, look for someone who is eager to learn.
  15. If you’re running a company, there will likely always be too much to do, your plate overflowing. Learning how to manage that full plate — both in how you think about it and how your prioritize what’s on it, rather than trying to clear everything from it — is key.
  16. Someone else has likely figured out what you’re trying to figure out. At least part of it.  Find them.  And learn from them.
  17. The right deputy makes all the difference and is worth investing in and prioritizing.
  18. Be excellent, provide outstanding service, and price becomes secondary.
  19. Praise in the specific, not the general.
  20. There is nothing like the sweet joy that comes from taking a loop around your farm at the end of a cold winter’s day with your beloved German shepherd, light fading, thinking not at all about work but simply connecting with the land.


For more on working with me directly: sarah@sarah-levitt.com