While doing my regular evening runs, I noticed how sudden changes in weather can trigger the blooming of flowers.
Adorned in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, blue, and other spectacular tints and hues, these blossoms were a sight to behold.
I was also greeted by a wonderfully sweet fragrance—a heady and intoxicating cocktail of natural floral scents.
Now why would shifts in sunlight and temperature activate flowering?
A trained botanist, I learned that stressful environmental conditions trigger the reproductive responses of plants.
This stimulates the emergence of flower buds, which would then open up into male, female, or bi-sexual flowers.
These flowers would ensure the continuity of their own kind by releasing scents, pollen, and sweet nectar.
Attracting bees, butterflies, and birds foraging for food, the plants would enlist the help of these creatures to pollinate flowers, or release pollen to be carried by the wind to fertilize their female floral counterparts.
Having observed the unique systems of plants at work, I reflected upon some business lessons any PR leader can draw from nature.
In Good Weather, Grow
Do you know how plants make food?
Also known as photosynthesis, it is the process whereby green leaves of plants convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into sugars.
These sugars are then transported to the “non-productive” parts of the plants (such as the roots and flowers) to sustain them.
Like a plant, you should invest in growth strategies and tactics when you bring a new customer into your organization.
Scale up your production capability (aka the “leaves” that produce food), increase your sales force, and optimize your processes.
Aim for business excellence, improve performance, and invest in market expansion when the conditions are ripe.
Or as the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines!
When Under Siege, Adapt
In an economic downturn, or when conditions become less favorable, you may wish to reallocate your investments and consolidate your resources.
Like a deciduous plant during autumn, consider “shedding” your “leaves.”
In a business context, this may mean trimming your operating expenses or downsizing so you can survive and thrive during a longer season.
This does not mean you should go out and retrench your staff.
Instead, you can tap on technology to ease bottlenecks, reduce your staff’s work hours, or adopt flexi-time practices, and shift resources towards longer-term areas such as product development, research, and innovation.
To Ensure Survival, Diversify Risks
Although plants may not be as physically agile as animals, they can reduce calamities by spreading their risks.
Wherever possible, plants would seek agents to help them spread and disperse their seeds across a wide variety of spaces so there is less competition amongst themselves.
This also lowers their risk of extinction.
Similarly, as a PR leader, you can reduce your business risks by exploring untapped niches.
Send out feelers to new markets, business areas, and customer groups.
Check out emerging opportunities and trends, and evaluate how these could fit into your growing business.
Plan Ahead for Different Scenarios
The reason many species of plants are still around after millions of years is credited to their ability to survive and thrive during the long-term.
Plants are always “thinking” ahead.
From pollination and dispersion, the storage of food reserves in their roots, stems, and leaves, to the shedding of leaves to conserve water during the cold dry winter.
Likewise, consider the short-, medium-, and long-term plans for your business.
Every PR leader should ask themselves the following questions:
- Does your business have sufficient funds and reserves to tide over dry seasons?
- Do you have a leadership succession plan for executives and managers alike?
- Have you built up sufficient skills and capabilities in your employees?
- Are you investing in future technologies and innovations?
- Are your business systems agile and flexible?
- What would your business do if an upstart attempts to disrupt your industry?
Trees welcome birds and mammals to live on and around their branches.
They provide food and shelter.
In return, animals help in dispersing seeds for the plant, protect them from predators, or help pollinate their flowers.
Notice how plants are often the “pioneers,” the necessary agents that help to prepare the ground by giving first.
Only after the trees, shrubs, and grasses have established themselves in a habitat do we see faunal life forms.
In similar fashion, seek to create partnerships with the people and organizations around you.
They may be industry partners, customers, vendors, suppliers, distributors, government regulators, or other stakeholders in your business.
The key here is to give value first, rather than try to obtain a benefit from the onset.
Choose the Right Season
Plants do not rush from phase to phase.
They don’t rush to grow just for growth’s sake.
Rather, they are constantly monitoring, adjusting, and adapting their morphology and physiology to suit their environment.
As a PR leader, don’t rush from one activity to the next.
Build in time for reflection and consolidation.
As John Maxwell once wrote, “Reflective thinking takes a good experience and makes it a valuable experience.”
It takes time and stillness to be able to discern the season your business is in, and the right direction / growth pathway to focus resources on.
Give Back to the PR Leader Community
Beyond individual “transactions” in nature, plants are also sensitive to the needs to their respective communities.
Entire ecosystems of plants, animals, and micro-organisms make their homes around huge sprawling trees.
There is no waste in nature, and every part of a plant and an animal has a function in the bigger circle of life.
Likewise, consider what you can do to integrate yourself with your respective communities.
How can you add value to the lives of those whose livelihoods depend on you?
What can you do to give more value to your partners and stakeholders around you?
Are there also ways to weave yourself into the fabric of your society?
How can observing Mother Nature at work make you a better PR leader?