Hardening Of The Mind And Heart

Everyone seems to be interested in physical health. I’ve spent the last month taking people to the doctor and, in my case, to the dentist because of a broken tooth.

Once a month I get together with a group for choir practice, really a friendly game of poker. The oldest member is 92 years old, the others are 85, 78 and 73, and I’m the youngster. The major topic of conversation is our health and how to maintain our quality of life.

At the last meeting of the group, one of the members announced that he had to have an operation on his prostate. The others shared their comments and advice, consoled him and offered to be of help to him and his family.

I’ve been thinking about our industry and not only physical maladies but mental ones as well. With all the changes we are seeing and the need to capture the big box sales, I’m convinced our industry is suffering from hardening of the mind and heart.

We have only to turn on TV and watch "The Apprentice" to see the techniques Donald Trump uses to get one employee – spend 16 weeks and go through 20 people to see who will survive. Big industry thrives on making big bucks and pays CEOs millions while they lay off 1,000 people.

In our industry, there have been attempts to acquire companies and put them into large corporations. However, most of these attempts have failed. Also there have been many small growing operations that have gone out of business. While many of them were good growers, they lacked the business and marketing skills to survive.

In the past, our industry looked great. It was easy to get into and didn’t require a lot of money. You could learn the business while you grew the plants. You built your own greenhouse on 10 acres you already owned. You grew plants as a part-time job while you worked on the farm to make the money you needed to build your greenhouse business.

I know hundreds of families that started this way and now have children and grandchildren either in business with them or operating their own greenhouses. However, there are people who tried this venture and failed within the first three to five years.

The difference between these two groups is that the successful growers had a vision and worked to make it happen. The unsuccessful group got caught up in the physical stages and were usually unsure about what their goals were. Their vision was never properly developed.

If we look at our industry as a whole, we could be classified as a mature industry. Our sales have leveled off or increased only slightly. About 47 to 50 percent of our product is marketed through fewer than 10 big box stores, and thus is forced into being a commodity rather than individual plants or products. 

What’s Ailing Us

I believe our industry is suffering from psychicsclerosis and cardiosclerosis – hardening of the mind and heart.

Psychicsclerosis: We have let our minds go into a resting state. We have convinced ourselves that we either have to get bigger or perish and that small or middle-sized growers either have to sell to the bigger companies or go out of business. Our only options are get bigger, sell to a larger grower or quit the business.

Suggested Treatment: Don’t hang around with negative people. Don’t say negative things. Don’t talk about bad weather conditions. Don’t tell people the plants won’t sell, times are hard, employees are poor workers and the buyer is a dummy. Negative statements and thoughts attract negative people, negative actions and negative results.

Be positive. Always tell people about your great business, the great people you have working with you, the great job your salespeople do selling and how successful your customers are using your product.

Don’t use the weather as an excuse. The weather changes, but people still love plants. If they don’t buy them now, they will buy them when the sun shines. Records over the last years show that sales trends may vary by a week or two, but the end results are very similar.

You may need a shot of enthusiasm (the word means "God within us"). You must have faith in what you do. You must have faith in the people who work with you, your growers, your salespeople, your buyers, and most of all your customers. Also, you must have faith in yourself. Remember that the last four letters of enthusiasm stand for "I Am Sold Myself."

You can worry about everything, but only 10 percent of what you worry about will actually happen. The other 90 percent can be cured by faith. Believe that you, your people and your customers will solve the problem.

Cardiosclerosis: If we don’t have our heart in our business, we will suffer from cardiac arrest. I’ve seen all types of personalities in our industry. I’ve met funny people, strict people, introverts, extroverts and people of every race and creed. Most of them have been excellent owners and CEOs. However, I have never seen a successful business with an absentee owner.

If the person who founded and developed the business thinks it is possible to give it to the children or sell it to a third party and walk away with a profit, the business is usually doomed.

Suggested Treatment: Very few businesses last three generations unless those in leadership roles have a sense of the history and values of the business. There is a greater chance of success if the owner or family member has been active in the business and remains the figurehead of the operation.

When I first came to Kalamazoo in 1966 to talk to growers about converting from vegetables to bedding plants, I met the patriarch of a greenhouse business. At the time he must have been between 65 and 70 years old. His son was learning the ropes and was actively involved in the change from field to greenhouse growing. The son and his wife had several children. Everyone knew the history of the business, and the patriarch was there to make sure they never lost sight of its vision and values.

He worked every day of his life in the field or the greenhouses. On his last day, he worked in the morning, went home for lunch and a nap and said he would come to dinner that night with his son and daughter-in-law. He didn’t make it to dinner, but passed away in his sleep that afternoon.

Dedication is essential to a successful business. Your heart has to be in it. Some businesses today don’t have a heart. The owners want to take the money and leave.

The secret of success in business and in life is to realize that you must be positive, surround yourself with positive people who are smarter than you are and who know and believe in the goals and vision of your company. These are the secrets of businesses that survive for generations.

The greatest joy of an entrepreneur is to have a business and family that survives and does well after he or she is gone! If you are successful with your family and your business, I’m sure that you will be at the top!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
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