For Or With, That Is The Question

Over the past three months, I have asked more than 20 people, "How many jobs have you had since you started working?" Their answers ranged from 1 to 35 jobs. I then asked them, "With whom did you work?" Nineteen of the 20 responded that they worked "for" the companies. Only one said that he worked "with" them.

While you may think the difference in the two words is just semantics, I contend it means much more than that. In fact, I believe the difference is worth millions of dollars to the individual and the company.

When I finished questioning, most people asked me how many people I have worked for. I responded, "None." I said I always felt I was working "with" the companies and universities I tried to help.

If an owner of a business or a corporation can develop an environment of working together, employees will feel they are working "with" the company and not "for" the company.

I’ve seen many cases, especially in agriculture, where the employees are so tightly controlled that they are allowed to do only what they are instructed to do. As a result, when they finish one job, they must wait to be told what the next job is. If the boss isn’t there, they just sit and wait for instructions as to what their next task will be.

On the other hand, those workers who are free to make their own decisions feel they are making a significant contribution to the company. They enjoy their work and are much more productive both for the company and themselves. They also are happier and more satisfied with their working time.

In fact, many people who work "with" their companies commit more time to projects than just 40 hours a week. Some invest 60 or even 80 hours a week because they feel their work is important and they are making a significant contribution to the company.

Of course, this can go to the extreme so that they get so wrapped up in their work they sacrifice other areas of their lives, such as family, leisure and sometimes even health. This can also cause the employee and the company difficulties. 

Good Management

How do you manage a company in order to take advantage of the secrets of handling employees?

I knew a CEO in the horticultural printing business who was hired as a graphic artist with the business. He worked day and night and got to know everyone at work. There were probably 20 employees at that time. He knew how to work with people. He would remember their names, spouses’ names, children’s names, birthdays and what they liked to do in their leisure time. He learned everything about the company. Because of this, he became the plant manager and the plant grew to employ 100 people.

He still knew every person by name and the facts about each one. This continued for over 40 years until the company employed several hundred people and he became the president and chairman of the board. When he arrived, the company did less than $1 million in sales a year. When he retired, it did over $50 million annually.

His secret was he knew everyone, everyone liked him and they loved to work "with" him. He treated everyone, from the professional designers and printers to the people who cleaned the building, with equal respect and opportunities.

Another one of his secrets was that he always said, "We have accomplished this. We need to improve this. We have these goals for next year." The company held regular meetings so everyone could share ideas on how to improve their jobs and what needed to be done to make the company better.

He never used the pronoun I because I is a lonely word. I immediately indicates that people are working "for" you. If that is true, then you have just lost the team spirit. You have to make all the decisions yourself, and people will wait for your next instruction. They will be afraid to make decisions themselves. Thus, the "I" approach is a very costly one. It will cost millions of dollars in lost productivity and low employee morale, and it will also reduce the potential growth of the company.

I Versus We

An article in the 2004 Harvard Business Review cited the famous management guru Peter Drucker. Drucker surveyed many CEOs and found they had different types of personalities. They ranged from extroverts to almost recluses, but they all followed eight basic practices that made them successful.

Here are those eight practices:
1. Ask what needs to be done.
2. Ask what is right for the business.
3. Develop action plans.
4. Take responsibility for decisions.
5. Take responsibility for communicating.
6. Focus on opportunities, not problems.
7. Run productive meetings.
8. Think and say "we" rather than "I."

These steps provided them with the knowledge they needed and converted that knowledge to actions. They made the whole organization feel responsible and accountable.

Show me a well-run and profitable greenhouse business and I’ll show you a strong leader who practices these basic principles. The fact that the leaders of successful companies may have varied personalities does not make that great a difference if they follow sound basic management practices.

I believe this is the greatest problem of the small greenhouse operation. While most small operators learn the basics of growing plants and know how to produce them commercially, they don’t have or take the time to master the basics of good management. As our industry matures, we can see many small growers going out of business. I would venture to say the "I factor" is a major part of the problem.

There are levels one can reach with a sole proprietorship or partnership or small corporation where the strong boss approach works. Usually that approach can work until sales reach $1 million and then the business starts to "shake," becoming difficult to maintain or handle. At that point, some sort of organizational structure and professional management are needed. If this isn’t done, the boss approach may still work until the company reaches sales of $3 to $5 million. Then it will shake again, this time more violently. It may even start to fall apart. Beyond this point, the "I" will die and the "we" will survive.

People who start their own businesses and make them survive and grow almost always want to keep control. They have made all the decisions that made the business successful to this point, and they are afraid someone else will never be able to handle it.

Most of these folks have never understood the basics of management and do not know how to work "with" other people in a non-threatening way. They have not learned the simple difference between "for" and "with" and that can cost them their business. I hope you enjoy working "with" people.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know About Aquaponics

Are you curious about expanding into aquaponics? From pest control to equipment, Bob and Jesse Kilgore of Brogue Hydroponics offer 10 factors you need to consider.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

Aquaponics Is Making A Splash At Brogue Hydroponics

The owners of Brogue Hydroponics explain why they expanded into aquaponics, and how the shift has helped them uncover a new market opportunity.

Read More
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Latest Stories
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More
Andy Higgins

February 3, 2015

MasterTag Names Andy Higgins As Its New President

Former CEO and president of Ecke Ranch, Andy Higgins, joins MasterTag as its new president. He brings more than two decades of industry experience to the position.

Read More
Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Lead Role

January 28, 2015

Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Le…

Ronald Valentin has been appointed technical lead for Syngenta Bioline, effective January 2015. He will be responsible for technical support of Bioline biological control agents and will be instrumental in helping growers develop integrated pest management (IPM) solutions.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Give Equal Time To The Number Crunchers

Before investing in a new business opportunity, check in with the financial gurus of your organization to make certain you have the cash flow to back up your efforts.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 20, 2015

Bailey Nurseries’ Purchase Of Plant Introductions Inc. …

When Bailey Nurseries purchased its long-time breeding partner, Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), in early January 2015, it freed the PII team to concentrate on what they do best: develop new plants. Bailey Nurseries will take on the business management side of the partnership, but otherwise the relationship it has enjoyed with PII for years will be largely unchanged.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 13, 2015

Bailey Nurseries Acquires Plant Introductions

Bailey Nurseries has acquired Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), effective January 1, 2015. PII has developed numerous innovative new varieties that have been marketed worldwide, many introduced by Bailey Nurseries.

Read More

January 7, 2015

How Inflation Affects Your Business And Why You Can’t I…

Awareness of the true increase in costs after inflation is a necessary part of good financial management for greenhouse operations.

Read More

December 4, 2014

New Developments In Shipping/Logistics Software

Improved shipping and logistics software from Picas Software and MapMechanics makes it easier for growers to plan loads efficiently and automate day-to-day distribution planning.

Read More