You’ve heard the saying that money doesn’t grow on trees. But what if it did? What would you say if I told you that you could raise a tree that grew cash money instead of leaves? Of course I don’t mean this in the literal sense, but growing a tree is a lot like starting a successful Internet business that when done right can create a huge flow of cash. What do I mean?

Believe it or not, the biggest of trees, up to fifty feet tall, start off as tiny seeds. With proper care and the right conditions, the seeds develop into enormous plants with deep roots and unshakable foundations. The trees generate countless leaves and fruit season after season. In the same way, every online business starts off with a single idea and an entrepreneur with a drive to succeed. The going may be tough in the beginning, but with the right conditions, luck, and motivation, the idea turns into a solid business that consistently generates revenue. See the parallels? Cultivating a successful online business isn’t easy, but money may grow on “trees” after all.

In the following sections, I’ll further develop the tree/business analogy and show you what it takes to develop your online business – from seed to behemoth.

Plant the seed – take action with your business ideas

tree seedsEvery seed has the potential to become a gigantic tree. However, unless it’s actually planted in good soil, it will always just be a seed. Similarly, you may have a ton of ideas for starting a business online. You might want to start a membership site, develop an information product, write a blog, or sell products through an e-commerce site. Whatever your idea may be, it’s useless if you don’t take action. Every idea has the potential to make you money but unless you take action, an idea will continue to be “just another idea”.

Protect the sprout – carefully plan your new start up

tree sproutOnce a seed is planted in soil and watered for a few weeks, a tiny plant will sprout up. This is a critical stage because the plant is extremely vulnerable to small threats and outside circumstances like humans, lawn mowers, and dry weather. The sprout can easily be killed off if it doesn’t receive the proper care and attention it needs. Likewise, a startup business is extremely unstable and insecure. You need to meticulously plan every small detail and spend every penny wisely. Just because Internet businesses require little startup costs doesn’t mean you should take them lightly. The initial launch phase is very important and will decide whether or not your online business makes money and survives for the next stages.

Guide the trunk & roots – perfect your business model & selling points

tree supportOnce a tree survives the sprout stage and becomes more solid and secure, its trunk and roots need to be guided to grow straight and thick. You’ll often see gardeners use splints to guide trees in the developmental process. In the same way, if you’re starting an online business and have had success with the initial launch and startup phase, you need to focus on the values and goals of your business (the tree trunk and roots). What are your core competencies and unique selling propositions? Why should people use your site and products instead of the competition? What will set you apart and make you money? Instead of trying a bunch of different things, focus on what you do best and spend all of your energy and time developing your business foundation. Once you have this down you’ll be able to branch out and diversify in later stages.

Grow, grow, grow

tree growth modelEven with good care and conditions, it still takes years for a tree to develop and grow to massive proportions. The same applies to business. Time is a key ingredient to achieving success. Be patient and stay consistent with your efforts. In other words, don’t give up. As long as you persevere and keep striving for aggressive growth, you’ll increase your chances of seeing success. It’s just a matter of time.

Branch out – diversify your business

tree branchesAfter a tree solidifies its trunk and digs down deep with its roots, it’s pretty much stable and secure. It doesn’t have much upward growth left and it would take a lot to bring the tree down. So what’s the next step? The tree extends itself by growing branches sideways and outward. In the same way, a mature online business earns good money and has its core competencies figured out. Although it can still grow, the biggest opportunities lie in branching out, diversifying with additional business models and experimenting with new income streams. For example, a successful site selling SEO information products might add software and tools, a forum community, and consulting services. Diversification is a great way to increase revenue for established businesses, but is detrimental for businesses just getting started.

Rake it in

tree rake moneyTrees grow leaves on its branches, sometimes even fruit and nuts depending on the type of tree. Once the fall season rolls around, the leaves fall and people “rake it in”. Similarly, if you own a business that you’ve established and grown over the years, you’re sure to rake in the money and the fruits of your labor. There are always ways to grow and get bigger, but sometimes it’s helpful to step back and look at all of your accomplishments. Plant a “tree” (business) and help it grow. Who says money can’t grow on trees? As I’ve outlined in this post, the growth model of a tree is a lot like that of a business. Go for it and keep at it.

What do you think about the tree / business analogy? How does it apply to your entrepreneurial efforts? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.