Human connection is the foundation of every great business. Employees, leaders, and service providers all rely on relationships with others to further their objectives. Relationships are like fruit trees in that they require tremendous care from planting to harvest.  No two relationships are the same, and each benefit from thoughtful care at every stage of their development.

Planting Conditions

Fruit trees grow best in well-drained soil with lots of nutrients. They also have deep root systems that require at least three feet of topsoil to thrive. Heavy and rocky soils are not conducive to long-term health. Fruit trees also do well in soil with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0-6.5.

You must love yourself before you can love others. An ability to deliver value to your contacts is fully dependent on having something to offer. This comes down to education, physical and mental health, and deep experience in your field.

Relationships take root when they’re ready. They won’t grow well if the conditions are not ideal.

Take the time to amend your skill set and overall well-being. Further, it may be more valuable to the long-term health of a relationship to abandon or pause if it’s clear that you aren’t ready to contribute in a meaningful way.

Opportunity comes from being in the right place at the right time. Be present in all corners of the market and prepared to accept that opportunity when it comes.

Maturation

Citrus trees bear fruit after 2-3 years, olives after 4-5 years, and apples can take up to eight years to bear fruit. All the while, the farmer’s job focuses on continually testing and amending the soil, pruning wild branches, and protecting the tree from pests. This is all done with little to no tangible rewards.

The time it takes to develop is the clearest way relationships are like fruit trees. There’s no rushing this process.

A healthy orchard, like a healthy business, has trees in various stages of maturity and fruiting.

Each tree in your orchard produces fruit on its own timeline. An apple tree planted a season later than her neighbor may bear fruit first. Still, you care for the lagging sibling with the same attention as everyone else.

Your time and that of your prospects is valuable. Engage the best strategy for each prospect, and don’t use one relationship as a benchmark for others. Meet the individual needs and desires of each person in your network.

Overlapping interests allow you to broadcast a universal message. Marketing messages benefit all prospects, like water for your trees, whereas phone calls and meetings are unique experiences, like pruning.

Production and Harvest

Flowers on your fruit tree are the first sign of fruiting. Surrounding trees must pollinate them to transform into fruit. The blossom falls off, once fertilized, and a fruit begins to grow.

A growing season is long and demanding. The hard work that brought you to this point will continue. Pay extra attention to those trees with a potential harvest.

Constant attention throughout the growing season is another way relationships are like fruit trees. Budget season and new year excitement are opportune times to be a person of value. The middle of the year is a good time to convert that fledgling business into sales.

Timing is essential. Vigilance as harvest approaches will make clear the readiness of each relationship to bear business. Go in too early, and you’ll end up with a sour, unappetizing experience. Approach too late, and the opportunity may be long gone or rotten.

Test your relationships often with value-oriented calls. Your prospect will let you know when the time is right so long as you’ve been adding value through the growing season.

Sharing

Cross-pollination is essential for a healthy orchard. Similarly, good relationships, like fruit trees, yield more business than the farmer can take on by herself. Consequently, sharing is critical to the long-term health of the farmer and the orchard.

Share the wealth of your relationships with others in your network.

Look for complementary connections throughout your network to enhance everyone’s business. These may even come from competitors. The value you provide as an impresario will come back in spades.

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