Communication: Are You Listening?

Richard Jones

Every issue of Greenhouse Grower is built around a theme (or two, or three). They’re usually pretty easy to spot — this month, for example, we’re focusing on shipping logistics, software programs and fall crops.

Sometimes, when we dive into actually putting the magazine together, however, other recurring concepts begin to emerge. This month, the theme I kept seeing again and again as we wrote and edited features was communication. Communication between people, between tools, between departments, between businesses.

You’ll see it in this month’s Perspective Q&A where it’s the positioned as the driver behind making changes in a greenhouse operation. And it shows up in different places too, including digital tools that help tie together software or reporting or equipment and make them work more effectively.

You’ll see it most clearly in this month’s cover story on Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses. The folks at Engelmann continually come up with great ideas for plants or containers or categories that seem to speak to the needs of their customers and the desires of consumers. But it’s not magic — those ideas are the product of communication. They work closely with their retailer customers to understand their businesses. They go beyond the retailers and start a dialog with gardeners, homeowners and gift buyers, learning about their lives and their desires and uncovering ways to fulfill their needs. And then they share what they learned to help their retail customers be more successful, too.

But as inspiring as these examples are, the consequences of not communicating effectively are equally as dire for your operation.

Lack of communication is an impediment to your business. It can lead to expensive mistakes, obviously — a pest problem that is overlooked until it’s too late, or the wrong product arriving on a customer’s dock.

But it can also lead to missed opportunities. Most businesses could take a page from the Hermann Engelmann playbook and spend a little more time talking with the people who buy our products to find out where we’re hitting the mark and where we’re not. But there’s also opportunity in talking with suppliers and other growers (dare I say possibly even your competitors?) to find out more about what’s happening with them and where there might be a chance for both sides to benefit from working together.

It’s painfully common in any kind of business that jobs and departments become siloized — each of us has our responsibilities and targets and expectations to meet. Those can easily become our sole focus. But imagine the benefits to your business if sales and growing and production and management all knew what was really happening  across the whole business and out in the market — where you’re short or long, what’s running late or coming in ahead of schedule, where there are shortages with a customer you may just be able to fill.

If you’re really talking — and more important, really listening — that communication will turn into dollars.

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