I love to cook, and if you do too, you know that having fresh herbs makes all the difference. But I don’t have a sunny window in my kitchen, and I’ve tried and failed many times to keep herbs growing. Enter the Aerogarden – an ingenious little invention about the size of a toaster that not only provides an everlasting abundance of fresh herbs, but also holds some very simple lessons that you can use to help your business grow and thrive too.

The 5 Lessons

1. Start with “Guaranteed to Succeed” Seeds.  Most gardeners start with a seed packet and soil. They combine the two, then cross their fingers. The Aerogarden removes this first point of failure, with pre-planted pods in a special mix. All you have to do is drop them in water and go! Best of all, if they don’t sprout, there’s an easy 1-800 number to call and obtain a free replacement.

The Lesson:  Customer retention and employee engagement are two big drivers of profitability, but most companies don’t have the kind of on-boarding processes to set themselves up for success. We plunk a new employee down in front of a computer and say, “go for it.” We ship products to a new customer and if we don’t hear back, we assume it’s all good, rather than making a courtesy follow up call. Don’t just mix seeds and soil… create the right environment for employees and customers to thrive, and always have a great guarantee that’s easy for an unhappy customer to access.

How would you rate your guarantee?

2. One Size Doesn’t Fit All. Every cook has their own favourite herbs and spices. There’s a huge selection of seed pods available online so that you can easily create your preferred mix.

The Lesson:  I recently wrote a blog post looking at where the Good to Great companies are at today… and almost 100% of them are significantly under-performing their peers. Unfortunately, millions of readers feverishly adopted the book’s prescriptions for success in an attempt to make their own business great. We all need to learn from others, but the lost art of critical thinking is more beneficial than the copy-cat approach.

How do you carefully evaluate and select only the strategies and tactics that are a good fit for your unique culture?

3. Water and Aerate Constantly. A tiny pump recirculates the water to provide oxygen to the growing plants, which stimulates growth.  When the water level drops, an easily visible light flashes green to prompt a top up to the reservoir.

The Lesson:  What delivers fresh oxygen aka inspired thinking to your people on a regular basis?  It’s been shown that companies that invest in professional development on an ongoing basis are more successful and profitable than those that don’t, as exposure to new thinking stimulates their creativity at work.

What ‘prompts’ do you have in place to indicate when it’s time for a refill?

4. Fertilize Regularly. That same little light changes to flashing red every 21 days when it’s time to add liquid fertilizer – conveniently provided along with the seed pods. I always forget to fertilize my house plants… but I never forget to fertilize my Aerogarden!

The Lesson: The most successful businesses have frequent performance-oriented rhythms that have nothing to do with just sending out a set of financial reports, and everything to do with engaging employees in wanting to be part of growth. Clear goals, individual feedback, relevant reward systems, and meaningful and regular status updates and course corrections are all part of a keeping your business fertilized for growth.

What’s your proven fertilizer?

5. Provide Lots of Light. No sunny window required! The Aerogarden’s height-adjustable bright light times itself to go on and off for proper growing exposure, from germination to harvest.

The Lesson:  Your bright lights are your people and your customers – but unlike the Aerogarden, making sure they shine brightly doesn’t happen automatically.

What systems and processes do you have in place to keep them “turned on” and shining on your business to create growth?

The Aerogarden reflects a product design process that identifies all the stumbling blocks to a successful outcome, and then removes them one by one to create a failure-free system that delivers the desired results. Is it time to rethink whether or not your business is still at the “seeds and soil” level of success, or whether it’s deliberately designed in a simple, consistent, focused way that invariably creates exactly the outcomes you were looking for? Just a few of the lessons are illustrated above. You may want to take this blog to your next management meeting and play with the analogy of the different ingredients yourselves to see what’s working well, and where you need to improve. Enjoy!

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her #1 Best selling book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Roadmap to do it.  Connect with Anne on LinkedIn.