The house is a bit of a hulk. 5,500 square feet of living space looming three stories above sidewalks that border its corner lot. Built in 1856, the “Second Empire” mansard-roofed forest green walls cast long shadows beyond their square foundation.
An aerial view of the property shows a landscaping design likely established almost 150 years ago. One can almost see the house in the late 1800s, a large diamond set in proportionately scaled landscaping, trimmed and manicured to show the house at its best.
Now, two large, shapeless rhododendrons flank the steps to the front door, almost occluding the path from the street to the steps. At each corner of the house, a large fir tree has wrapped itself around the corner. Large, rambling arbor vitae trees, long left unattended, sit just inside a wall bordering the sidewalk on one side of the house, blocking it from view. Along the other sidewalk, more fir trees, unattended arbor vitae, and rambled-down rhododendrons.
Some people love to look at boats. For other people, it’s cars. I’m particularly fond of houses built between 1850 and 1920 – Second Empire, multiple Victorian styles, Craftsman, and others.
When I see a particularly nice example, I stop for a few minutes to take it all in – turrets, roof lines, shingles, clapboards, porches, paint colors, the works. When I see a house that’s been left begging for maintenance, I feel a bit sad. “With just a bit of work,” I think, “this could be so much more.”
And I feel particular disappointment when sloppy trees; rambled rhododendrons; and shrubs planted as complements are allowed to obscure or overpower the houses they were meant to frame.
So….[sorry, a bit of a leap here…] whether the subject is landscaping or our books of business, periodically excising dead wood, trimming unproductive branches, and pruning overgrowth reveal the core value, concentrate our attention on the most productive elements, and expand room for new growth.
Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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