Make the plan then work the plan. How many times have you been given this advice? Planning is good and executing your plans is even better. But what do you do when nothing seems to be moving in the right direction? If you’re looking to shake things up in your business and try new things in the new year, then I’d like to make a small addition to the adage — one that has always worked for me. Make the plan, work the plan, then change the plan.

Change is the name of the game of course in today’s marketplace. Not much stands still for long anymore but changing how you do business can be scary. The fear that making a big business change can illicit paralyzes many from making any changes at all. No doubt, there is always risk in making changes and trying new things, whether it’s in our personal or professional life. My question always is, though, what are you really risking by not trying or making a change? (See my Greenhouse Management July 2017 column - Flip your script on fear for more.)

Risks don’t come with guarantees. When you take a risk and try something new, you do so with the understanding that you can’t predict the outcome. Good planning certainly helps you make the most of the risks you take, but even good planning won’t always prevent bumps in the road. If you demand certainty and success from all your decisions, you are probably severely limiting your potential and that of your business. Knowing your personal risk tolerance is important when you’re weighing important decisions that create significant change. That said, acknowledging your fears about change and risk that hold you back is equally important. Finding a good balance between the two is the trick.

In order to mitigate anxiety around risks, it’s important to instill confidence behind new changes or ideas.

Taking a risk does not mean you are going to be successful. With every risk you take comes the risk of failure. Part of developing a healthy risk tolerance is being able to prepare for and shake off risks that didn’t pay off. Know that you will learn valuable things through failure that usually help you figure out how to take the next step successfully. Trying something new isn’t always about the outcome, but rather the process. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

How can I get fired this week? This is my personal approach, in case you wondered, to risk-taking and professional progress. Pushing boundaries, bucking convention and making up new rules is my comfort zone. Friction drives creativity and ingenuity, and unless you’re willing to turn up the heat, you may never see the change you wish to create. But my eagerness for change and risk-taking can make people around me uncomfortable. I’ve been accused of being over-confident and even arrogant. Rejection is often a reality of risk-taking. Sometimes it’s the personal rejection you’ll face when you change or take a risk that ends up being the biggest risk of all. So be it.

Clearly, many of you are not going to take my approach to risk taking. That’s OK. But like it or not, taking risks and trying new things does require you to be confident. Often it requires you to be overconfident. Being overconfident does seem to be a common trait amongst entrepreneurs. I’d argue, however, that for most of us confidence is a choice. Entrepreneurs and risk-takers have the same fears, insecurities and anxieties as anyone else. We regularly face rejection and judgement, and battle imposter syndrome. Getting past fears and anxiety about life and business decisions requires determination and decisions. It doesn’t just happen. Sometimes you simply need to act confident so you can better manage your own emotions. Fake it till you make it, if need be.

Getting outside your comfort zone in your business could mean investing significant monies to modernize your infrastructure. It could mean letting go of a long-term staff member who just is not the right fit any longer. Maybe it means getting in front of the camera more often to help market your business. Trying new concierge services or embracing online sales may be your next big step. The IGC industry tends to be change-averse when it comes to embracing new technology, so that is one area where you may need to push through your fear.


The change and risk we see facing many family-owned businesses these days is that of letting go completely of an existing business model or brand identity. Do you hang on to a legacy even if that legacy might be limiting your business viability or growth? Or do you change your business or brand to better appeal to and serve a changing customer demographic? Rebranding is exactly what many green industry businesses I work with need in order to grow and thrive. Success is never static.

Sometimes though, trying new things and taking risks on a much smaller scale can help you reap big rewards. For those of you who own your business, one of the scariest things might just be taking a day off now and then or delegating tasks to new people.

What will happen if I’m not there? How will my staff survive? Trust me, taking some personal time off now and then to take care of yourself might just be the best risk you take for your business and your staff. So, let’s go ahead and get those spa days on your 2020 calendar, now.

Change and risk can be terrifying, but can also be energizing and rewarding. As you’re planning for the new year, now is a great time to identify both big and small changes — and risks — you can make and take to energize your efforts.

Trying new things is the best way to keep learning and growing as a person and as a business.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies.