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Contemplating the Caterpillar: Lesson in Small Business Growth

By Tiffany A. Dedeaux

Insects are opportunists, enduring, and possess uncanny wisdom for doing what humans do, but more efficiently, according to Ted Andrews in Animal Speak. What is the message to me? I grew so hot in the unsavory spring heat, that I opened my office window. Once, when I turned to look outside, I noticed a golden-flecked caterpillar crawling on the window screen. ‘Huh,’ I thought. ‘How’d he get inside?’ All windows and doors had been closed, and all screens were intact.

Is it possible that the caterpillar is telling me to go, inch-by-inch, along this row that’s been so tough to hoe? I have asked other business owners what it takes to succeed and, once all ideas are exhausted as ones that I’ve tried, I have been told to wait.

“Many people fail at life because they try to accomplish the great all at once, rather than building and doing a little at a time so that it becomes great over time.”

The secret is time. ‘But how long?’ I finally asked, frustrated. ‘Weeks? Months? Years?’ Years. On average reports are that businesses take 3-5 years to establish a foothold or fail. I am not sure why I forgot this fact. Perhaps it is easier to do the back-breaking work when your head is down and you’re not looking at the long row of time ahead.

Next time I looked at the window screen, a white material draped from the corner to the caterpillar. ‘Maybe he’s weaving a cocoon,’ I thought, going back to work with the slight hope that I could witness his metamorphosis.

It is the struggle that makes your wings strong enough to fly!

If the egg is the idea and the caterpillar is the workI am creating a business, trying to manifest a utopia of satisfied workers. Interestingly, this is the second stage of metamorphosis, the second incarnation of my business, and the second time I’m doing all the things I think I’m supposed to do…

When next I looked at the window screen, a spider was charging toward the caterpillar. ‘That’s not a cocoon, it’s a web!’ The caterpillar broke free and continued to roam around the window screen as the spider and the web disappeared. ‘He’s too strong for the web,’ I thought, in reference to the caterpillar.

As I contemplate what it means to wait, someone astutely points out that all the people who told me to not give up are the ones who never quit. I have moved locations at least once, and that’s had me thinking I stepped far out in front of my vision. Perhaps I am being told to do a little at a time…

The people who told me not to give up are the ones who didn’t quit.

The last time I saw the caterpillar he was crawling on the rug on the floor. I scooped him up in a piece of paper and set him out on the front porch next to the garden.

My idea is this new carnation of my business as a Career Coach. I’ve been asked about being a video editor and I’ve had to explain that technology is such that everyone thinks they can edit. It doesn’t matter that I spent more than a decade training my eye, with an Emmy on my mantle to remind me of my work. This is not the Age of Expertise, as some career trend reports said would be the case. This is a time of doing for yourself… having your own experience…of creating with your own hands.

“Change ensures growth. We have to shed the old before we can come into the new.”

I have been asking other business owners, what have I been missing? The last time I focused on my business it took off on the wings of one contract with one large company. I knew that was not the way for sustained flight. This time the building of my company is more deliberate, more an expression of my way in the world and not the art that would enliven it. More like the steady, slow movement of a caterpillar: full of promise and slow with definite answers.

When I conceived of this version of my business, a ladybug stopped me and compelled me to consider this path of awareness. She appeared periodically in my locked office, at just the right time for me to know that ‘yes, I had a good moment,’ and ‘yes, coaching is the path for me.’ Now I have this visit from a caterpillar. What am I to think? Andrews would have me know that the caterpillar, with the spinning of its cocoon, ‘works to strengthen itself and achieve its foundation.’ I, as is evidenced by my visitor, am beyond the idea stage. I am in what I’ve referred to as the opportunity stage where, as an idea, things ‘need to be worked with, shaped, formed, developed, and honed.’ I am in the building and strengthening stage, creating the foundation of this enterprise. When I am done, the Age of Chrysalis can begin.

 Will you journey with me?

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