Growth celebrates change in both nature and the marketplace

The gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, a nine-acre, cultural and creative haven that celebrates the relationship between nature, architecture and art, are in a continual state of evolution. And I don’t just mean that all members of the plant kingdom are growing.

It’s been 10 years since Cornerstone Sonoma was founded. One of its features is that some gardens are on display for a year or so, only to be replaced by new ones.

If that sounds a little like the business principle of continuous improvement, that’s right.

Cornerstone Sonoma, the subject of this month’s “Uniquely Northern California” feature, obviously knows how important it is to avoid complacency. Last year, more than 100,000 people visited the gardens, a fact that speaks volumes as to the popularity of the site.

“It’s really a gem of Sonoma Valley,” Cornerstone spokesperson Melissa Mueller says. “It’s an opportunity for people to wander through and be inspired by that space.”

To keep offering inspiration it takes effort. It just doesn’t happen on its own and keep on happening.

It is easy to settle for the status quo. By that goes against the grain of continuous improvement practices. Consider these thoughts from a senior leader I interviewed recently about the topic of continuous improvement.

First off, if your business is going well, there is an impulse to take it easy and coast.

“The more difficult thing is if business is doing well, and you have had some success during those periods, it is very easy to take your eye off the ball or do things in your business that may not be right for long term,” he says.

“It’s easy to get careless at times so it is important that you don’t lose the discipline on costs, investments, or accountability of your team to execute the plan. During those periods, it takes a great amount of leadership to have constraint.”

Another CEO I interviewed echoed those sentiments with a focus on being proactive.

“In this day and age, you’ve got to be proactive; being reactionary can be fatal,”

he says.

Think ahead. Look ahead.

“And never, ever, ever, ever be satisfied with the status quo,” he says. “One of two things happen in life: you grow or you die. The same thing happens in business. You either grow or you die.

“Business is continually evolving, especially in this fast-paced society that we have today. I think once you sit back and try to rest on your laurels, you are going to get your head handed to you because there is somebody always looking to take your market from you.

“Certainly it would be nice to be able to sit back and catch your breath, but I think business today is just so competitive that if you back off, you become vulnerable.”

What he is saying is that all employees and their company should be continually seeking ways to improve their performance and thus be different among competitors — in the field, be it a garden or the marketplace.