Let the Concert Begin!

I’m sure you have spent months planning the 2008 growing season — what plants will be grown, how many of each, what sizes and types of containers and when your potential customers will want them.

You also may have a marketing plan. Most companies do. Just as you look at production plans and check the plants to make sure they are on schedule, you must also check your sales plans. How many orders do you have? How many plants will be needed to fill these orders and when do they need to be available to your customers? The bottom line is you need to know everything about what you are doing.

I have often said in my columns that horticulture is the art and science of producing and selling plants. While I always thought the art part was in the plants and their creative use, I recently read a quote by artist Andy Warhol that moves the art to a higher level in a way I had never considered before. Warhol said, "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art – making money is an art and working is art and good business is the best art."

If you accept Warhol’s logic, then we have many more artists in horticulture than I had considered. Perhaps you will agree with him that running a horticultural business does not require only a scientist, an accountant, a good marketing manager or a good businessman, but it requires someone who can put all of these elements plus many others together to be successful.

If you are an owner or manager, you have to think of yourself as a conductor of an orchestra. You have a production section, a marketing section, a business section, a development section and a planning section.

Each section must know its part. The sections have to work and play together to perform or execute the plan for 2008 just as all the sections of the orchestra have to follow the conductor to perform the musical score written for them.

If all the sections of the orchestra play their parts, there will be beautiful music and the orchestra will be successful. Similarly, if you keep all the sections of your business working and playing together, you will make the "music" necessary to keep your business humming. These examples may prove Warhol’s theory that good business is the best art.

Every orchestra needs a conductor, just as every horticultural business needs someone with the responsibility for making certain that everyone works together to accomplish its goals.

I think it would be worthwhile to review nine proven habits of winning leaders to make sure you, as an owner and/or manager, are sensitive to these points, especially in the very busy spring season. You need to develop these habits to be successful.

1. Make sure everyone’s talking.
All employees need to know what their jobs entail – what their objectives and responsibilities are – and how they need to work with other areas of the company.

2. Lead rather than manage.
In most businesses, it is impossible to manage everything, although it might work if you are a small family business. Once you can no longer handle all the details yourself, you need to delegate responsibility to others and then lead them so they can be successful. If you give them responsibility, you must also give them authority. You can’t delegate one without giving the other.

3. Keep everyone on the same page.
A good conductor not only keeps his orchestra on the same page, but on the same line and the same note. The conductor is the leader and everyone in the group understands the conductor’s role – keeping them together. The same techniques need to be used by a successful business.

4. Put good work ahead of money.
If you merely look for money and produce a poor product, you will never succeed. Great concerts with great conductors make millions of dollars. Likewise, great plants produced by great companies make great profits. Making money is the result of good work and a good leader!

5. Always think of the core customer.
Who are your major customers? What do they want and when do they want it? Make certain you keep the customers who buy the plants that you produce. True, your product line may change, but don’t lose the plants your core customers like and want. It’s similar to the orchestra conductors. They may try new music, but they still perform the classics their customers love.

6. Don’t try to go it alone.
You have to build an orchestra one musician at a time. The musicians need to work together and learn how to perform together. Likewise, you need to build your business one employee at a time. Your employees need to learn to work as a group with all parts of your business. Remember, you are the conductor, not the tuba player!

7. Earn credibility every day.
The conductor knows every part of every instrument in every piece of music that the orchestra plays. The musicians respect him or her. Every time the orchestra practices, the conductor can stop the music, make corrections and then continue. The same should be true with the leader of a horticultural business. He or she should know all aspects of the business and be able to identify problems and make decisions to correct them.

8. Never rest on your laurels.
At the end of a season, the conductor may be given many awards, financial rewards and the great appreciation of the audiences. While these accolades are appreciated, most conductors are already thinking of the next season and what needs to be done to improve the orchestra. Likewise, if you conduct a horticultural business, you can also receive recognition and financial rewards, but don’t rest on your laurels. Remember, if you are on the right track and stop to rest, someone will run over you.

9. Embrace the power of humility.
At the end of each concert, the conductor bows to the audience and then turns and has the whole orchestra stand to be recognized. He is acknowledging that the music could not be performed and enjoyed if all the musicians did not do their parts. While he conducted the group of musicians, he was not the only person who orchestrated the work. This technique is very seldom used in horticultural businesses. Yet, the power of humility can be used to great advantage with your employees and with your customers.

I hope this column sheds some light and provides some musical accompaniment to the art of horticultural business.

You have done all the planning and the practicing for your 2008 concert. Now you need all your sections to play their parts and make it happen.

Good luck, conductors! I hope you all have great 2008 concerts! Let us know how the concert ends. All the best this spring.

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