Removing the Fallen Trees From Your Growth Path

Yesterday, as Magnus and I were biking in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a huge, rotted spruce pine fell across Lighthouse Road, a main thoroughfare. The tree fall caused traffic snafus, and forced us to change our route.

Within two minutes, a cacophonous local emergency crew arrived on the scene and began clearing the debris. And within two hours, peace and normalcy were restored to the Sea Pines hamlet.

Tree across the street

How often do we expect a beautiful, mature tree to rot and die?

Few of us could ever predict when the rotting tree in our company is going to collapse. To make matters worse, even fewer of us know where the rotting trees are located. As a result, sales stagnate, clients leave, and innovation halts.

Today's successful, innovative companies know how to assess which trees are about to expire. Here are eight places they typically look:

1. A product that has lived past its prime, and is now considered a commodity—yet commands over 60% of their time and energy.

2.An executive team who continues to play "chief rainmaker" and are frequently used as the cleanup crew in contentious sales situations.

3. An employee that is brilliant at their craft, but is poorly equipped or incapable of marketing or sales - yet still remains in a customer-facing role.

4. A marketing strategy that incorporates few or no social or online interactions with customers and prospects.

5. Tolerating a "client from Hades" that pays slowly, refuses to be a reference, and expects miracles.

6. Continuously blaming the volatile, credit-challenged economy for a company's growth problems.

7. Heavy aversion to risk. This attitude often surfaces as the common practice of favoring team members who protect status quo.

8. Tolerance of poor client communication standards. I continue to receive emails with no signature lines (containing contact information), static Web sites with outdated content, and so-called "professionals" who do not return phone calls.

Where are the rotting trees in your business development systems? Do you have firm (e.g. written) plans in place to address a delay in revenues, or will you be forced to call in the emergency crews?

When a tree falls across your main highway, how soon will you remove it?

Copyright 2010, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

Lisa Nirell is the Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth®. She is one of the only marketing experts with 27 years' experience advising and working exclusively with B2B growth companies. Lisa helps her clients improve their top line revenues and attract more ideal clients. Lisa has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, as well as BMC Software, Sony, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and IBM. She is also the author of EnergizeGrowth® NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company. Visit and today to download free educational resources and join the Energize News community.

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  • Christine Maingard

    Interesting metaphor! That’s why it’s important for (business development) leaders to have ‘helicopter vision’ (aka bird’s eye view, satellite vision, etc). Otherwise too much energy is spent on holding up a tree that is ready to fall, or worse, getting lost in all the messy detail of having to clear the path for growth. Helicopter vision is having the ability of recognizing sick or ailing trees and knowing where they are, long before they become a problem. Such a vision is vital in order to (1) redirect energy towards those areas that are important, (2) identify potential problem areas (ppp = people, products, processes) and deal with them swiftly before they have a chance to impact negatively, (3) make informed choices – short- and long-term – because only when we see the broader perspective of things and how they might impact on each other can we formulate (business development) drivers that will shape the future.

    If a tree does fall, removal has to happen as swiftly as you observed the emergency team clearing the debris. A dead tree can’t be revived, but that’s exactly what happens all-too-often in the business world. So much energy is being wasted on reviving what should be buried quickly and before it starts to rot and smell and harms the environment. Well, this is where the tree metaphor should end, because a tree does make good mulch and provides nourishment for the forest.

    Christine Maingard, Author of "Think Less, Be More" - http://www.mindfulstrategies.c...

  • Lisa Nirell

    Hello Christine,
    OK, let's put the tree metaphor aside in a moment..

    Business development and executive teams are often very adept at planting new trees but forget to thin the forest.

    As the end of year approaches, this is a great time to organize your executive teams and make some tough decisions about what to stop funding and doing. I encourage my community to do this every quarter, not annually. By then the tree may have contracted a disease.

    Thank you for contributing, Christine.