Bob Dolibois, GROW And Change For The Better [Opinion]

Richard Jones

When we came up with the plan for Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Summit in the summer of 2011, American Nursery & Landscape Association Executive Vice President Bob Dolibois was one of the first people we invited. And he was the first to accept.

The mission of the GROW Summit — generating actionable ideas to help get the greenhouse business growing again — is right up Dolibois’ alley. After two decades as the head of one of the industry’s leading trade organizations, he’s seen just about everything. More importantly, he’s not shy about asking a question when it needs to be asked or expressing an opinion when it needs to be expressed.

A little more than a year later, we’re talking with Dolibois again, this time for December’s cover story. The time seemed right for a couple of reasons.

For one, Greenhouse Grower is wrapping up a successful first year of GROW. We are building on the ideas from Dolibois and the other GROW Summit participants to take the program to another level with our GROW Partners program. You’ll read about that, along with many of 2012’s highlights in our first GROW Annual Report in this issue.

The bigger reason, however, is timing. Dolibois is retiring at the end of December, coinciding with the upcoming consolidation of ANLA and OFA. Our discussion was an excellent opportunity to step back and reflect on what has been a meaningful career serving our industry.

But we also wanted to tap into those 21 years of experience at ANLA. The focus of our interview was his perspective on what it will take to guide floriculture toward a more profitable future.

Many of the points Dolibois discusses in this month’s cover story were also important topics at the GROW Summit:

• The need to acknowledge that the world has changed around us and that we need to be changing along with it.

• Focusing less on shaving costs and more on creating value for our products.

• And the necessity for the different segments in our industry — large growers, small growers, big box retailers, independent garden centers, suppliers, and yes, trade associations — to see ourselves less as independent, competing factions. Our collective goal should be to raise the value of floriculture in the minds of the consumer.

The merger of two of our biggest trade associations is a logical and necessary next step in that direction. It will lead to a more efficient use of resources, both in stimulating the market for plants and in serving as an even stronger advocate for the grower. And it serves as an example of how organizations can work together to benefit everyone.

Take a few minutes and read Dolibois’ thoughts on the future of our industry. You may not agree with everything he has to say. But it’s hard to deny that our industry isn’t better off when people are asking the questions that need to be asked and expressing the opinions that need to be expressed.

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