This weekend I’ve tackled a job I’ve been putting off for ages. I have a number of mature hedges in my garden. They are taller than me and are made of beech, hawthorn and another thing with little leaves that I don’t know the name of. Underneath them is some of the most vigorous ivy I’ve ever known. All of it has grown like mad in the warm, wet weather we’ve had so far this year. I am the proud owner of a hedge-trimmer, which for 99% of the year resides in the garage. This weekend I’ve had it out and actually used it to tame the hedges. While I was going, I found myself contemplating this massive amount of ivy underneath and the business lessons I can learn from it.

Start Small, But Start

When I moved into this house 4+ years ago, the ivy was limited to a small patch of glossy green leaves, tumbling across one end of a stone wall. The ivy was pretty and I liked it. It didn’t care that it was tiny, it just got busy doing its thing.

The plant simply added another leaf or two to its collection every day.

The ivy didn’t whinge that it was too small, that no one would take it seriously and it certainly didn’t worry about what others thought of it.

Keep Going, Even When It Seems Tough

This small patch of ivy added to itself every day. I have a ‘natural patch’ (or so I call it!) at the front of my garden. It has ground elder, cow parsley and all sort of other ‘not usually seen in the ‘nice’ garden’ plants in it. A gardener mate told me that nothing ‘proper’ could grow there unless I sorted out this wild patch, but I quite like it, so I left it.

In December 2015, Storm Desmond hit Cumbria and the river across the lane from my house decided to get out of its bed. It surrounded my house with dirty, brown, smelly water. Once the water subsided, the garden was left dirty, brown and smelly.

The ivy took stock of its situation and it extracted the very best of a bad job and used the nutrients in the sludge to grow. It didn’t suddenly add 100 leaves a day to its total, it just kept adding a leaf or two, but now it added new branches. Each branch got a new leaf or two too.

If You Start Today, You Won’t Believe Where You Are In A Year (or 4!)

The reason I’m even waxing lyrical about this ivy is that it has grown from this tiny, shiny little plant to a huge, sprawling thing that I’ve been yanking out in handfuls and cutting back wildly (not with the trimmers though, because the bloody thing is on the floor!).

It is the sheer size of it, that has happened without me noticing, that made me think of that Eddie Cantor quote ‘It takes 20 years to become an overnight success’. That in turn, made me think of how many small business owners I’ve known who have given up, because it’s too hard. Women who stop trying because they feel insignificant, without status and they don’t see the magic of compound effort.

I’m going to leave you with a (slightly amended in light of the female nature of this blog!) quote from Einstein. He was talking about compound interest, but compound effort works in exactly the same way:

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it; earns it. He who doesn’t; pays it.