Welcome to the first post in a series called ‘A Permaculture Business Plan.’ I want to use this feature to talk about what I am learning about designing a business using Permaculture.
One of the reasons for running scythe courses was that I wanted to work outside more and to practice and teach ‘real’ skills. What I am finding (which I am sure anyone running a similar business could have told me) is that I am spending around 20% of my time actually teaching and the other 80% sitting in front of a computer. At a guess, I would say I was spending around 30% of my time doing administration – answering course queries, filling in risk assessments etc, and the other 50% of my time marketing.
(Actually, I’m really finding marketing interesting but don’t tell anyone)
How to design this out? Well, I have come up with several strategies:
Strategy #1: Get someone else to do it
Part of my original scything business design involved targeting organisations who were already running courses and becoming a jobbing tutor for them.
Plus: All of the administration is done by someone else
Minus: The course costs more to the participants because they’re also paying the organisation, I often still have to do marketing…
Interesting: On a separate but connected note, I have come to the conclusion that my (and many other people’s) dream of an smallholding based ‘education centre’ would in reality mean many hours in front of a computer answering emails and not many hours smiling at lambs and whittling. Glad to have worked this out now…
Strategy #2: Target already formed groups
Last year I targeted organisations like The National Trust and Wildlife Groups. I would turn up and teach a group of colleagues, or volunteers. Then I would go home. No further marketing needed.
Plus: Easy peasy – once the class is set up, I don’t need to do anything else
Minus: You can’t teach a group more than once so not a strategy that’s designed to run with little future input.
Interesting: After doing the marketing course I am once again looking more favourably at this strategy. Why only offer one thing… I could offer other courses to these groups, such as improver’s courses.
Strategy #3: Develop such a reputation that people are hammering at my door asking me to run courses and I am able to waft fragrantly in, do my stuff and waft out again
Plus: No boring bits, lots of kudos.
Minus: How do you develop that kind of a reputation? Also, this is probably a fantasy…
Interesting: It might be interesting to do a bit of a survey of people that I consider to work like this to see how much behind-the-scenes administration they actually do.
Conclusions? This is the 80:20 principle at work. A good permaculture design should mean doing 80% of the work at the beginning in terms of putting down infrastructure so that the system can then be maintained with just 20% input. Alas, that does actually mean doing quite a lot of work at the beginning stage – which I am currently in. Head down, Beth. Head down.
Any thoughts on this? How have you designed your own businesses?