July 27, 2011

Control Your Destiny

At the OFA Short Course last month, we tried something new and hosted a panel discussion called, “Boost Your Bottom Line.” This was an open conversation with the owners and top management from our four finalists for Operation of the Year – Bob’s Market & Greenhouses in West Virginia, Emerald Coast Growers in Florida, James Greenhouses in Georgia and Rocket Farms in California. We figured, if we are to look for ways to improve, start with growers who have a proven track record and aren’t standing still. Boosting your bottom line means addressing both sides of the equation – costs and revenue. The three big cost centers for wholesale growers are labor, transportation and energy. Prime strategies for tackling labor issues include investing in automation, cultivating labor pools and getting more productivity out of the employees you have with lean practices. Growers who are most active addressing energy costs are […]

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July 27, 2011

Lean Flow For The Green Industry Workshop In August

Flow Vision is hosting a Lean Flow In The Green Industry Workshop at Kraft Gardens, Fort Pierce, Fla., August 30-31. Lean manufacturing is a production method that looks at efficiency and eliminating waste. Some of the reasons FlowVision says Lean processes make sense in the greenhouses are:  • Products require direct-labor touches, and most touches add only cost, not value • Sell-through—when your products are at maximum cost and represent potential revenue—is low, and may comprise your most significant lost opportunity • Facilities are enormous and your product mix is broad, so non-value-adding workforce "travel time" is costly • Products and processes are highly seasonal and unpredictable, generating long hours, long days, air freight and product damage • Living products that don’t sell when expected require more touches, only to be sold at a discount or dumped at full cost For more information or to register, contact Gary Cortes at […]

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July 25, 2011

Fredriks Nursery: Nice Guys Finish First

David Fredriks takes the old recipe for success in business, find a need and fill it, to a new level. As the owner of Fredriks Nursery in Ripon, Calif., about a two-hour drive east of San Francisco, Fredriks tries to anticipate people’s needs and fill them before they feel, well, needy. Take his customers’ products, for example. Fredriks is a wholesale grower who supplies independent retail nurseries within a 100-mile radius of his operation, which consists of approximately 140,000 square feet of greenhouses and more than 12 acres of shade house area. “I have to keep them happy,” he says, “and to be happy they need to have things that are different than the chain stores.” Fredriks says he’s always sold to the independent stores, and they’ve been really good to him. So he made a commitment years ago not to sell to the big box stores. “I have nothing […]

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July 14, 2011

Young’s Plant Farm Wins Innovation Award

Young’s Plant Farm of Auburn, Ala., won first place in the Innovation category for the 2011 Sage Customer Awards. Young’s teamed with Practical Software Solutions to add Scan By Cart capabilities to Sage ERP MAS 500 Grower Vertical.   The Innovation Award recognizes the extraordinary achievement of a customer that adopted Sage applications as an enterprise-class solution for its industry. "We’re honored that Sage recognized the Grower Vertical module for a second time," says Vince Stamey, Chief Executive Officer of Practical Software Solutions. "Grower Vertical is a credit to how flexible Sage ERP MAS 500 is and how businesses can have it tailored to meet the needs of their customers. We congratulate Young’s Plant Farm for winning this highly coveted award." Scan By Cart was developed after one of Young’s Plant Farm’s big box retailers changed its UPC system to give unique codes for every plant variety and color. Instead […]

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July 13, 2011

QR Codes Are Everywhere At Short Course

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Of all the marketing trends we saw at this year’s OFA Short Course, probably the most pervasive was the use of 2D Codes. Although it’s still a relatively new technology – barcodes designed for smart phone readers have really only been around for a couple of years, and only a handful were evident at last year’s Short Course – the codes were popping up everywhere in the convention center in 2011. The technology clearly has resonated with the industry as a quick and easy way to deliver information to customers, whether they are growers, retailers or consumers. Check out this slideshow with just a few of the creative ways the ornamentals industry is getting into 2D Codes.

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July 10, 2011

Succeed By Setting Expectations For Your Staff

We’d like to think everyone on our staff has the same stake in the success of the business as we do. “We all want the people who work for us to act like owners,” says Eric Beck, with Total Integration LLC. That’s easier said than done of course. Whether it’s because an employee doesn’t understand what they’re expected to do, doesn’t have the training or skills to do it correctly, or there are other communication problems, issues invariably arise. An assignment isn’t completed or it’s done wrong and you or another staff member end up spending time correcting the problem. Many times, Beck says, the owner or manager reacts by getting angry and showing everybody who’s boss. But that can be counterproductive too. “Power works but it doesn’t solve everything. If you’re the general all the time, it won’t work for long. If your staff is scared of you, they […]

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July 9, 2011

Find Ways To Beat Stress

You can often get a good feel for the way things are going in the industry by the types of educational topics you see at events like Short Course. So it’s probably not surprising that a couple of the first sessions out of the gate on Saturday covered dealing with stress in the workplace. It probably seems like today we’re all busier and busier just trying to keep up and that’s true for many of us. Short Course speaker Joyce Weiss told a roomful of growers and retailers that doing more with less is the new normal for all of us these days, and while we’re all getting a lot done, we’re feeling the effects. “Finding a work/life balance is important,” she says. “We can’t have a productive work environment if employees are stretched to the max in their work or home life.” Companies need to find ways to help […]

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June 24, 2011

Higham: One Transportation Solution

Dedicated Contract Carriage is one of the fastest growing segments of the trucking and distribution industry. Companies like Walmart, Target, Kroger and a host of name brand distributors use Dedicated Contract Carriage as a way to reduce costs, increase truck capacity and transfer liability and headaches. In fact, many major corporations that need a truck fleet are moving away from ownership (including leasing) and toward Dedicated Contract Carriage for some or all of their trucking operations. Generally, you have four options when moving your material to your customer locations. The first three of these options are relatively common–and 99 percent of growers fall into one of these three categories. First, you can buy your own trucks (and I include leasing or renting trucks in this category). Second, you can outsource the entire job to a third party (a third party logistics provider, 3PL or a broker). Third, you can try to […]

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June 15, 2011

5 Steps To Improving Your Financial Performance

With the onset of the real estate recession and significant changes in the dynamics of the nursery market, growers have faced severe financial difficulties. Fifteen percent of nursery, greenhouse and floriculture crop production companies in the United States have recently filed for bankruptcy or ended up liquidating. Companies that continue to operate have struggled with cash flow, fought with funding sources and worried they may not have sufficient liquidity to satisfy customer needs. In view of these challenges, this article offers five steps to take to improve the performance for financially-strapped growers. Step 1: Get Some Breathing Room With Your Lender When companies get short on cash, it results in them tripping financial performance covenants with their lenders that typically need to be maintained and exceeded to be in compliance with lending requirements. When financial covenants are broken, lenders worry whether or not the company will be able to support […]

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June 15, 2011

Oil, Onions & Other Tidbits

This spring season was a mixed bag. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, Mother Nature was either very kind or very temperamental. For the most part, growers reported sales were especially good during the good weather and surprisingly strong otherwise. The same could be said about the country economically, as well. Some areas of the country continue to recover from the economic downturn nicely and others are progressing slowly, if at all. Some improvements in the labor and housing markets have been experienced this year, but not as quickly as some had hoped. Much attention has been placed on oil prices and their supposed influence on consumer purchases. However, a recent study debunked this notion, finding that consumer purchases of other discretionary items are less influenced by gasoline prices than originally thought. Instead, they tend to substitute regular gasoline for premium when prices rise above their tipping […]

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June 6, 2011

Silver Vase Debuts Updated Web Site

Silver Vase has redesigned its web site with a fully searchable integrated online database and plant care tips. Users can quickly find what they need by searching for product, color or keyword. “With this new site we focused on enhancing the user experience for the fastest product access,” says Silver Vase CEO Andrew Bartha. “We’ve built an intuitive, content-rich database that makes it easy to build a successful orchid or bromeliad program.” The new SilverVase.com features an interactive product database with detailed information plus full color close-up and full length photography for the company’s orchids, bromeliads and gardens. Silver Vase has also expanded the site’s content to include decor and display ideas, company and production information and news updates. See the redesigned site at www.silvervase.com.  

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May 27, 2011

Study Shows Regional Trends In Horticulture

Three professors at Texas A&M University recently published an updated study of U.S. nursery industry sales and marketing practices, which shows an industry heavy on small businesses. More than 3,000 firms answered questions from professors Charlie Hall, Alan Hodges and Marco Palma about their green industry businesses. The results show more than 50 percent of those who responded were firms with less than $250,000 in annual sales. Only 17 percent had sales of $1 million or greater, including 2.2 percent of firms with sales totaling between $10 million and $49 million. All told, respondents reported a collective total of $4.45 billion in sales for 2008, or an average of $1.73 million per firm. They collectively employed more than 48,800 permanent and temporary workers. Based on an adjusted population of validated active firms, total U.S. nursery industry sales (representing all facets of nursery from supplier to retail) was estimated at $27 […]

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