The King’s Fruit is Rotting (and other business lessons)

This original piece of art was created for this blog by my friend Doug Marshall. Visit his incredible work at

Have you heard the expression “low-hanging fruit”? It refers to something that’s valuable and easy to get. If you’re just starting out as an RSA, your uncle with a bad back who sleeps on a futon would be considered “low-hanging fruit.” He’s an easy target. Look around your company. Do you have branches bending that are full of easy wins? What happens if you don’t harvest that fruit? Have you given that much thought?

Here are some lessons on what can happen when a tree is filled with wonderful fruit and it remains untouched:

  1. There’s a town where trees are filled with rotten fruit. All the apples and pears hanging from these select branches belong to the King. Passersby are thrown in jail if they take fruit from the King’s trees. All of that luscious fruit is within reach, but the peasants are not allowed to eat it. Do you think the Spaniards have ever suggested changing that rule? Probably so. But after many years, the law remains the same and people still walk to work each day passing the rotting fruit. What happens when people in your company walk around and wonder why in the world the company has not done something about THAT – whatever THAT is. Do they lose confidence in management? Are YOU the king who lets the fruit rot on the branch? Change the law. Let the people pick the fruit. Their walk to work will be better and they’ll be happier.
  2. If that low-hanging fruit dangles there long enough, it will rot and then just fall off and die. Imagine a person in your company that continually tries to improve something, but is consistently met with resistance. At some point, do they stop trying?
  3. Have you ever had somebody STEAL an idea from you and then get great results? If that low fruit hangs in the sunshine for too long, someone else can walk along, pluck it off, and enjoy it for him or herself. It has happened when others have implemented my ideas and it is frustrating. But at the end of the day, had I ran with the idea to begin with, I could have been the one enjoying the fruits of my labor.
  4. Finally, if you don’t harvest that low-hanging fruit, it could be costing you money. Think about it like this: You can eat the fruit that’s right in front of you, which is easy to grab, or pay someone else to grow that fruit and serve it up in a restaurant or store for a much higher price. You can create ideas and foster an environment of innovation. You can spend time and resources on products and service development, or outsource that thinking and pay someone a nice consulting fee to help get you where you need to be. Either way, it has to get done.

Don’t be the king who forbids people to take the fruit. During your next company meeting, try posing the following questions: What is one example of low-hanging fruit in your area of expertise and what will it take to pluck that fruit? What is the downside of not grabbing the ripe apple that’s right in front of your face? What is the upside? What is the low-hanging fruit in our industry? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.

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