For the past few weeks I have been helping a friend with a beautifully landscaped, if slightly overgrown, yard. From building raised garden beds to planting peas and seemingly endless pruning…two “gardening gals” weekends in a row has produced a beautiful transformation. I can’t remember the last time gardening was so much fun!

After the third day in a row spent elbow-deep in brambly bushes, I noted that the perils of neglecting your rose bushes are similar to what happens when you don’t prune your business regularly. (You had to know I would find a business metaphor in gardening. I can find a business metaphor in anything!)

So how does pruning impact your profitability?

Left unchecked, most shrubs will grow into a tight, tangled mess. Branches weigh down the plant and cut off the growth trajectory of other shoots. The overgrown parts of the plant block critical light and nutrients from getting through, ultimately sabotaging its own ability to thrive. And when they’re really overgrown, sometimes you have to pare them back in the extreme in order to allow them to recover. And no rose bush looks good with a crew cut!

But the beautiful thing about nature is its regenerative quality. Even overgrown plants can bounce back with a good pruning. Once they are allowed to drop deadweight and lighten their load, there’s no stopping their renewed growth. Fortunately, the same applies to your business.

Complexity will grow into your business the same way it will strangle your favorite rose bush if you’re not paying attention. After taking the past six months to reflect on my business, refine my business model, and evaluate my marketing strategy, I can assure you that even when you think you’re keeping your business model tight and simple…you may be kidding yourself.

One of the things I did during my recent sabbatical was to evaluate my business performance, looking both for complexities I could prune out, as well as improvements I could factor in. If you start looking at the areas of your business that are causing you stress, you usually don’t have to look far.

But isn’t complexity SUPPOSED to be part of my business growth?

Well, yes and no. It’s a natural side effect of business growth, sure. For example, the more clients you have, the more efficiently you need to serve them. Enter the need for better systems and processes.

But sometimes complexity grows simply from adding things to your plate, like new programs and additional marketing strategies. And sometimes it’s the right time and the right move to do that. But often, those are the things that – surprisingly – can turn into the deadwood that weighs your business down.

More clients and business growth is not always a signal to do more stuff or offer more stuff. Sometimes an increase in quality (market better, not more; provide the same services only deliver them better) over quantity of your business activities is a smarter, more sustainable, and more profitable move.

How do you know when it’s the right time to prune your business?

There are many signs that it might be time to whittle down the complexity in your business. If your client load has increased to a certain level, you may be finding it more challenging to manage the back office of your business. If your marketing channels (how you reach people) or your product offerings have multiplied (requiring more complex marketing activity), then you might be at a tipping point of either simplifying or having to hire help.

Make sure you’re regularly measuring your business outcomes, and always looking for ways to refocus your business to maintain a sustainable level of simplicity. Has your business become harder to manage? Is it taking more time or costing more money, without proportionally better outcomes or income? If so, it may be time to get out the pruning shears and search for hidden deadweight.

So get pruning. Your clients will thank you. So will your bank account. (And your sanity!)

For a quick and dirty guide, click here to access The 5 Signs You Need to Simplify Your Business. (My gift to you!)