Reflections on PRA’s autumn harvest
All the end-of-summer rituals are now memories – the first day of school for my daughters, the first day of classes at Vanderbilt, the official first day of fall. In decorating my front steps with pumpkins this week, I officially traded beach days in Maine for the harvest in Tennessee.
This analogy is about more than returning to Nashville after 2 months in Maine, where my daughters and I are lucky enough to spend our summers. I intentionally slowed down in July and August. For the second summer in a row, I didn’t take on any new clients, I pressed pause on business development activities, and I dedicated time to leisure and family. As Founder of a young and growing company I couldn’t disconnect completely, but I blocked Tuesdays and Thursdays. And at times it was hard – harder than it would have been to take out my laptop and get to work.
And yet – also for the second summer in a row – the business blossomed. The increase in volume (as I write this note, PRA revenues for 2021 are more than 2.5x what they were for all of 2020, which more than doubled over 2019) has created both challenges and opportunities.
As I find myself in this season of harvest reflecting on my restful summer, I’m keenly aware of 3 key truths of nature that seem to apply to growing a business as aptly as to tending a garden:
- We never know which seeds will sprout. Not all prospects will convert to clients, and those that do are on their own timeline. We need to plant copiously and tend the soil, and continue to feed and water the spots where a green shoot has yet to peek through the earth.
- We can’t do more than tend the soil – patiently. Once we have made the pitch or submitted the proposal, we need to be patient and tend the relationship, almost a trust fall that with food, sunshine and fresh air, the garden will grow. Even if we hear a “no”, in our minds we must always remember that the “no” is right now, but not forever. Anyone with a garden knows the experience of a surprise tomato growing on a vine at the end of the season, or – in the case of my friend Julie – a discarded pumpkin seed from last Halloween germinating this summer and creating a festival-worthy pumpkin patch in her front yard. We never know where opportunity will grow.
- Growth begets growth. Living things are designed to reproduce, and it often feels like work is no different. Work done well leads to more of it, much as one tomato has multiple seeds. But none of these processes can be rushed, an insight which leads me to conclude that a critical part of the growth cycle is rest.
I’m loving this season of harvest. My team and I are working on a myriad of interesting projects that support PRA’s vision of bringing out the best in people and teams. The pace sometimes feels breakneck, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. And I take comfort in knowing that I can look forward to a pause in Summer 2022.