I played the Beatrix Kiddo character, codename “Black Mamba” aka The Orchardist recently. I strategically swept through my cigarden, and with the swift and mighty fury of my decisive mind, slashed cigars from their repose leaving an edgy mess that no doubt would be a disturbing sight to any manufacturer or brand owner.
Why? Why do I obtain a brand and then shear it from its “perch?” Let me try to explain.
Harken back to the China of 700 AD. It was during this epoch that the pun-tsai (or tray planting) form of plant cultivation began to, excuse the pun, take root. “Originally only the elite of the society practiced pun-tsai with native-collected specimens and the trees were spread throughout China as luxurious gifts. During the Kamakura period (1185-1392), the time in which Japan adopted most of China’s cultural trademarks, the art of growing trees in containers was introduced into Japan. Bonsai is (the) Japanese art form using trees grown in containers.” (Bonsai Empire) The miniature sapling can expect to live as long as its larger versions, some up to 5000 years.
Old-fashioned pruning, on the other hand, is trimming (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. It can also mean to “reduce the extent of (something) by removing superfluous or unwanted parts.” Know that the full reason to prune is to allow growth – height, width, and girth. This growth requires space. Without room, a plant cannot flourish. And what is life without some form of development?
And what is a business without some form of change? Some types of change can be likened to the bonsai tree embedded deliberately in earth and resting delicately within its exquisite ceramic bowl, its branches cut and snipped and watched over like a Japanese cow or wagyu, thus producing a unique and venerable Lilliputian version of what God intended.
Business, especially the cigar business, specifically the independent cigar broker business can be likened to a Bonsai tree. It can change and grow but to proportions that are measured and confined. It can last seemingly forever, but its maturation is stifled and put on display. It has not grown in size – only in years.
Pruning can also be compared to the cigar broker business and is also a delicate process, but the end result is far different than what the Chinese or Japanese envisioned to mark and exhibit a tree’s beauty. This end result is lush, tall, vibrant and dominating. It can be seen for miles and its beauty is taken in by more than those who wish to see a peculiarity of manipulated nature.
So need I go on? It is simple. I want a cigar business that is abundant, Brobdingnagian, noticeable, manageable, and vibrant. What leaves change color to the gasps of the masses? Those of the Bald-Cypress, the Sugar Maple, and the Black Tupelo. They are the trees when being cultivated from cuttings for planting, are cared for by the masters of the craft of pruning and shall result in a strong and enduring force to behold.
Yes, the Bonsai is a beautiful and long-lasting miniature tree that has all the characteristics of its larger species. And it can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years if taken care of properly. But its reach is limited.
By pruning a tree, man and beast alike can enjoy its splendor throughout the tree’s lifetime and revel in its complement to nature and to the world by offering up its yearning branches to the heavens and saying in its own way – I am here. I am a force to be reckoned with.