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Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (983 Articles), RINGS - GENERAL (944 Articles), GOLD JEWELLERY (686 Articles)

Bonsai Buddhism and the art of business

Are there similarities between bonsai gardening and jewellery? Coleby Nicholson thinks so.

I was a little angry a couple of months ago because two of my bonsai plants died. I thought I’d done everything right: I cut the roots back in mid winter; I re-potted when they were dormant; I placed them in the full sun for spring.

I have so many bonsais that it’s a big job even though each one is small – my 'collection' has unexpectedly increased to more than 40, not unlike the coat-hangers in my wardrobe!

Anyway, all of my bonsais came alive in spring with beautiful new foliage. All except two, that is. I was angry for a few days because one of them was my favourite. It was a beautiful Victorian Ash, which isn’t an easy tree to bonsai.

I think I know how it died; I hurried one aspect.

My friends never understand why I like bonsai gardening. In fact, most laugh because I am not known for patience. It is for that reason, however, that I took it up: you need lots of patience.

Bonsai gardening is the complete opposite of the deadline-driven world of magazine publishing, where every page, paragraph, sentence and word is controlled. To produce a magazine like Jeweller, each week, day and hour has its own deadline, but bonsai trees work to their own schedule, doing whatever they want whenever they want.

Bonsais are my counterbalance; patience, as they say, is a virtue.

Maybe now you will understand why I was so unhappy when a tree that I had crafted for many years suddenly died. On a long drive over the Christmas break, I was pondering the matter and my mind shifted from bonsais to business.

Business and gardening have a lot in common. In fact, many years ago, I was advised never to go into business with a person who hates gardening.

At the time, it didn’t make much sense to me but it does now, especially after a failed business relationship with a man who hated gardening. But that’s a story for another day.

During my drive, I decided that I had too many bonsais and that was why two died. I couldn’t devote enough quality time to more than 40 trees. I concluded that it was time to rationalise. I could get someone else to do the work, but it’s my hobby so that was not an option.

I could devote more time to it, but when I stood back and looked at my collection, there were quite a few not up to scratch and, when I really analysed it, I knew these plants would never become great bonsais.

They were nice trees, but they weren’t artistic and bonsai is a form of art just as much as gardening.

I decided to spend my time on the quality trees, the ones that had the potential to become exceptional examples of bonsai. Spreading my time too thin and not doing things properly would probably mean that I would lose more plants.

This whole experience made me realise that businesses can always be improved by spending more time on the important things. Maybe now that Christmas is over and a new year has begun – and a new decade – you can learn from my harsh lesson.

If you’re a retailer, do you have too many suppliers? Are you concentrating on dealing with only the superb suppliers rather than the ordinary ones? Is some of your stock sick and, like my bonsais, you don’t realise it?

If you’re a supplier how’s your customer service? Are you dealing with too many retailers? After all, your aim should be to nurture and grow your retailers to be exceptional and they can’t all be exceptional.

As much as it pains me, I have now decided that I need to reduce my collection by at least 10 trees. The upside is that the remaining 30 will be better off and will have a greater chance of attaining perfection. I can then focus on my strengths.

I will leave you with one last observation: why is it that the most precious possessions always seem to be the ones you lose?

Focus and consider pruning before that happens. I wish I had!

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

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