[This is the second installment in a 12-week series exploring Business Through the Lens of Permaculture. Using the principles of permaculture, a design framework that brings greater connection and understanding of the way elements within a system work together, we will undergo a study about how each of these principles can be applied to the systems of business. This series will focus specifically on small business, where an owner’s way of working impacts every facet of the business.]

Last week, we explored the first permaculture principle, Observe & Interact. It is the foundational principle. When you design a system, the design must be based on understanding how the system needs to function to be an effective support. In business, this means understanding how you (as the business owner) work, how energy flows through the system (in money, time, effort, support from yourself and other people), and what are all the existing factors that need to be taken into consideration (customers, information, ways of operating, technology, etc.).

The second principle is to Catch and Store Energy.

The idea here is that when you exert energy and effort, it is being used for multiple purposes.

One of the philosophies in permaculture is called “stacking functions,” which means that anything present in a system plays multiple roles. Something is useful and important for multiple reasons.

When we think about Catching and Storing Energy, we think about many types of energy – your energy, the energy of money, the energy of effort harvested over time, the energy of momentum, and the energy that comes back into the system as insight or feedback.

Let’s explore a few tangible examples of catching and storing energy in your business.

A good first to think about is having backend protection. I’m talking about backups. You’ve spent a lot of time creating what you have for your business, whether it’s workshops, graphics, marketing and sales copy, materials for your clients, audios, videos… so much creation! If your computer or the devices you use for your business get stolen, broken, have water spilled in them, you’re going to want to make sure all that time and effort you’ve put in is secured.

Backups are the answer here. Whether you’re using a backup hard drive, a cloud backup service, or ideally both, this mechanism captures and stores the energy you’ve exerted over the lifetime of your work. What a valuable thing to have stored for the benefit of yourself and those you serve!

A lot of small business owners struggle with the feast and famine cycle in business. If you save in the months of flush cash and budget in a smart way, you can tuck that extra cash away for lean months, taxes, and emergencies. Catching and storing money energy in this way gives you leverage in a lot of ways. You can walk into a sales meeting and not be thirsty for the sale because you know you have the money you need. You can show up in a generative and open way – in service of their needs and not your own.

You can catch and store energy in how you create content. By batching content up front and allowing that to serve over time, you pool and focus your energetic resources to be in the flow of creation and then allow that energy to flow out in a sustained way over time. When you’re delivering content, you can record it for later use and repurposing. A webinar can become a recording and becomes the inspiration for a workshop or a talk. The webinar can be turned into social media posts and into a series of blogs. Or it can flow the other way, a series of blogs can be turned into a workshop or a program. You can always start with whatever content medium gives you the most energy and then take that and turn it into different forms later.

From a personal energy perspective, you can catch and store your own energy. This might look like feeding yourself well, getting enough sleep, and moving your body in the ways it likes and brings energy reserves to you. In this way, you support yourself to serve from a full well. You can also watch how your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day or the year and align your workflow with your energy flow.

Do you work most productively in the early morning? Plan your most important work then. Need to nap in the afternoon? Do that. Don’t try to schedule key meetings or work sessions when your energy dips. Know you have bursts of energy that come in March, June, September, and October? Use that knowledge to plan for your high energetic investments in those months. Know you need to take the summer off? Do that. This isn’t about being on all the time, it’s about honoring your own needs and structuring your work to align with those needs. If you know May is a tough month for you and you also know you need to have a big energetic output in that month, what kind of support do you need to sustain you through that?

Beyond the scope of your business itself, you can invest in communities and causes you believe in by donating money or volunteering your time and expertise. This is about storing energy in the larger flows of life that support the collective. You can catch and store energy in communities by investing in the structures and support systems that allow communities to thrive through education, food production, health and care of all community members. This is about investing energy in the areas that sustain and nurture life.

“By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.”

— Permaculture Principle #2

Think about making investments in a soil base – putting nutrients into the soil to help it become a more robust ecosystem. That will serve not only all the microorganisms that live in the soil, the creatures that rely on the food grown in the soil, and will serve whatever is grown in the soil to support the humans living off of it. This will create benefits over many years, not just during the time the soil is being supported, nurtured and fortified. It is the same in your business.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • What are the areas of your business where you expend energy, investments, and effort?
  • How can you catch and store that energy?
  • Where can you set up simple systems that will allow you to receive more back from the effort exerted over a longer period of time?
  • Where do you feel like you are currently leaking energy into your business?
  • Are there some simple ways you can plug those leaks and maximize the energy being invested in the business?

It is my intention that understanding the application of permaculture principles to business will create better-designed businesses that work harmoniously within the business itself, but also in how the business engages with the world at large.

I hope you’ll think about the connections between these principles and the way businesses operate, so you can draw new parallels and your own connections to the framework.

This is a topic in its nascent stages, so we are on the edge of creating a new understanding. It’s an exciting place to be in and there is much to discover. Let’s do it together.