Coastal Redwood

I have started to view my vacations not so much as a way to escape thinking about work but rather as an opportunity to view it from a different angle. Case in point: This month’s trip to Eureka, Calif., where I stayed at a new bed and breakfast that I had picked based on its Internet page. It turns out the proprietor, Renee Chappelle, had just turned to B&B life following several decades as a full-service residential remodeler and commercial contractor. And when we explored her 1930s home, built and trimmed entirely with old-growth redwood, we both were in awe that there wasn’t a knot in any piece of wood anywhere in the place.

Work thoughts continued a few days later as I walked through Founders Grove, part of a California state park featuring some of the tallest and oldest redwoods in the world—and by tall and old, we’re talking here about a species that can live 2,000 years and top out over 300 feet. Yes, they’re beautiful. But I also thought about how they got that way, and what made them special.

Redwoods may be long-lived, but that’s in part because they have to start out fast if they hope to get their share of precious sunlight. Trees can grow several feet in a year and typically have passed 100 feet in height in just 50 years. As with any species, the early days are a fight for survival.

Their bark can be up to a foot thick, protecting it from forest fires, and is rich in tannins, thus helping prevent insect damage. Even when fire destroys part of the trunk, the rest of the tree remains standing.

Redwoods also are adaptable. They can survive for a time on less sunshine than other species, and because they are so tall their treetop needles are different than the ones on lower branches to accommodate for differences in moisture and light. Coast redwoods love the rain, but they also can create their own rain by capturing fog on their leaves, producing water droplets that’s absorbed by needles and drips to the ground.

Finally, redwoods work together. Their shallow root systems extend several dozen yards from their base and often link up with other redwood roots. As a result, each has a better chance of standing up to winds and floods. Ironically, the climate change that leads humans to worry about our survival appears to be good for redwoods; they’re growing faster now than they have in the past century.

Of course, there’s a reason why you only see coastal redwoods in a narrow strip of Pacific Coast from southern Oregon to central California. These redwoods have adapted to thrive, but only if they are in their element. Still, the ways they’ve adapted provide lessons for remodelers no matter where you live.

Start fast. Redwood saplings race each other to get to the sunlight. Your race is to financial solvency. Strive to grow as fast as you can to a point where you’re not one sprained wrist away from going out of business.

Disaster-proof your business. Create systems that protect you from money-sapping predators such as misplaced orders, low estimates, and poorly timed payment schedules. Build cash reserves to help you get through business droughts.

Rely on others. Communities like Remodelers Advantage can give you the educational and emotional support you need to survive and thrive. So to, we hope, can the advice from our columnists and “How-To” articles as well as events such as the Remodeling Show and Remodeling Leadership Conference.

Want to build a business that lasts? Think like a redwood.