A Permaculture Business plan: Designing myself out of the office and into the field…

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?


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2 thoughts on “A Permaculture Business plan: Designing myself out of the office and into the field…

  1. Dear Beth, Immediately I thought of those who are creating awesome success: Daily Acts has a great seasonal long list of courses and community building events and educational gatherings in Northern California I take great inspiration from, and I wish I knew how they do it! They also have a beautiful newsletter/little magazine & postcard of events with dates, all facilitated by Trathen Heckman.

    I love your expression and idea of “fragrantly wafting in.” Yes, I can totally align with that fantasy, and my experience is it has become a fantasy for me, because when, in reality, I wafted in and taught my self-created 10-week Permaculture Design & Earth Art & Architecture course in clay models to students (age 4-16) of a Creativity school in Santa Barbara, California, the owner of the school was $90,000. US in debt, and struggling. I was paid $50/hour. That was 2004. I wafted in while she waned and worried, hardly my idea of holistic or fair.

    I too wonder how to apply Permaculture to my flourishing, and I am enjoying your action learning journal. Thank you!

    I have spoken to Jenny Pell of Permaculture Now! and she finds clients for Permaculture Design by offering to speak for free and this allows her to reach a wider audience and create connections.

    I was talking with a dear friend yesterday about finding someone else to do her computer work for her photography business, and so it seems there are many of us who would pass that work on. Sounds like a dreadful world to have so many people doing computer work, with the benefits of being more engaged and enlivened by being in relationship to the earth, and each other. Since I have been a writer and executive personal assistant for many of my 32 working years, I can say that the steady pay has been a blessing even with my Soul feeling like a dehydrating persimmon slice. Thank you for your courage and persevering in this direction of regenerative wise livelihooding. This is a great time of transition for us all, and I am grateful to read about and cheer on your progress here. Aloha, Claire

    • betheatslocal says:

      I think behind everyone who is doing something really well there is a long, slow learning process. I also think that the people who do well are the people who have systems in place to help them to learn from their challenges (I was going to write ‘mistakes’, but I don’t think they are mistakes) and move forward. And it’s also about how you define success, isn’t it? I now define success as being able to support myself with what I love doing. That means computer stuff too. It’s just about finding a balance. The payoff for sitting in front of a computer now probably won’t come for a few years, but when it does, I’ll be glad that I put the time in.

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