June 16, 2008

Shifting Supply

Last month the news about Myers Industries acquiring Canadian container manufacturer ITML for $110 million really caught my attention. I was thinking about how dramatically container manufacturing has consolidated in the last five years. So I went back and looked through our news items from 2000 forward to trace how that happened and who bought whom. Similar strings of acquisitions could be seen in other manufacturers who supply growers and distributors, including crop protection chemicals, growing media and varieties. Based in Akron, Ohio, Myers Industries is an international manufacturer of polymer products for industrial, agricultural, automotive, commercial and consumer markets. Its lawn and garden division includes Dillen Products, Pro Cal, Listo Products and now ITML. Also in the Akron area, Summit Plastic is achieving a more strategic position after being purchased by an outside investor, Lincolnshire Management Inc. This family of container companies includes: Summit Plastic, Nursery Supplies (which purchased […]

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June 16, 2008

Business In The Family

Family businesses are a major part of the United States economy. Unfortunately, says author Edward Hess, family business owners also face challenges other types of businesses don’t. In his book, The Successful Family Business: A Proactive Plan for Managing the Family and the Business, Hess says the complexity of family dynamics cause most family businesses to operate and make decisions differently from non-family businesses. “Leaders of family businesses must learn the processes and attitudes that are needed to manage the family versus those that are needed to manage the business,” Hess says. “You cannot manage both the same way. Families factor family needs, hopes and fears into their decisions regarding the business, and only family businesses have sibling or cousin rivalries, jealousies, and competition for parental love, approval and financial favor.” Not surprisingly, the difficulties faced by family businesses often lead to their downfall. So if you’re the leader of […]

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June 16, 2008

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 […]

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June 16, 2008

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 […]

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June 16, 2008

After The Show

Trade shows are great for discovering new merchandise and making new contacts. All too often, though, attendees return to mountains of backed-up work. Faced with the challenge of playing a game of catch up, they soon forget their good intentions to follow up with vendors, cultivate personal networks and capitalize on industry trends revealed at the show. It shouldn’t be that way. “What you really go to a trade show for is what takes place after the event is over,” says Francis J. Friedman, a trade show specialist and president of the New York City-based consulting firm Time & Place Strategies, Inc. Like golfers working on their follow-through, successful trade show attendees are always trying to improve the quality of their after-show swing. That means sharing knowledge with staffs, placing follow-up calls with the right exhibitors and organizing business cards and notes so they don’t end up collecting dust on a […]

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June 13, 2008

Times Are Tough — And Other Unrelated Observations

The industry today is in disarray, if weather is the scorekeeper. The drought in the Southeast and the fires in California — to say nothing of floods and late freezes elsewhere — have knocked even battle-hardened growers and gardeners for a loop. Even with all our high-tech gadgets in the greenhouse, highfalutin market nonsense in retail and high fives by gardeners, we are still nothing more than glorified farmers, whose very existence and well-being are tied to the weather. The only problem is that farmers’ produce is always essential, ours is not. We are farmers. Farmers have struggled for years with the vagaries of poor crops due to poor weather. We are no different: today, our margins have been pinched so tight there is no wiggle room. One bad season makes us teeter, one very bad year closes the doors. The domino effect of closures and Chapter 11 filings will be felt for […]

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June 13, 2008

In With The New

When Homestead-based Meristem Nursery’s Dennis Smythe decided to retire, he had 26 acres of product and land to parcel off. This past August, when Kraft Gardens owner Kevin Kraft heard about it, he bought a truckload of Smythe’s arborea, an old plant that is making a comeback. And Kraft had no trouble selling it to retail and landscape contractors. Two weeks later, a program was in place for Kraft to lease 11 acres of Smythe’s facility and purchase its remaining inventory. Kraft is currently cultivating three acres of arborea in seeds, liners and finish plants and will exhibit the plant at TPIE. What is old is new again, and having the courage to jump on new introductions and ideas is a key strength of foliage innovator Kraft Gardens. New is a word Kraft uses a lot these days. With the acquisition of Meristem’s property, the company has formed a new […]

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June 13, 2008

Success Breeds Success

“Some of the recent trends in home gardening are very similar to trends in the ’80s in green plants, when we started selling plants that weren’t very durable and were high-maintenance,” he says. “We need to be really careful about that with the outdoor annuals and perennials, and sell plants that do well in our customers’ local area. The more our industry can be up front with the consumer and help them be successful, the more plants we will sell.” This is the philosophy at Fahr Greenhouses as the operation puts more of its emphasis on its own garden center. “When someone brings a plant back to us that they haven’t been successful with or killed, I say we’ve done one of two things. We either sold them a bad plant, which hopefully we haven’t, or we haven’t educated them. Educating the consumer is a huge task, but it’s worth […]

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June 13, 2008

Why Do Brands Exist?

There was an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review, September 2004, titled "Customer-Centered Brand Management" by R.T. Rust, V.A. Zeithami and K.N. Lemon. It focused on a discussion of the purpose of brands. The article posed the question, "Is the brand developed for the company or for the customer?" Their answer was that, "Brand management still trumps customer management" and they stress that this tactic is increasingly incompatible with growth. A graphic in the article shows the brand manager can try to gain customer attention by using free samples, brand awareness, image advertising, attitude toward the brand, ethical corporate behavior and brand ethics. All of these factors become the brand equity. However, value equity (what the customer gets for the money) and relationship equity (the relationship of the company to people and the environment) will also be considered by the customer when choosing a particular brand. Therefore, the final […]

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June 13, 2008

Insurance Coverage Is Risky Business For Providers

Ever since Florida got slammed by a series of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, insurance has been expensive and hard to come by for growers, and steps the state has taken to provide insurance to homeowners has made it even less desirable for private insurers to do business in Florida. The state-sponsored market of last resort, Citizens Insurance Company, has become the only option for many homeowners and businesses, especially if they are near the coast. To subsidize Citizens, the state is charging private insurance companies a 2 percent surcharge on each premium in the state of Florida. On top of this, the state has enacted a rate freeze for private insurance companies in Florida. Where the real squeeze comes is when insurance companies can’t pass along rate increases from their reinsurance companies, who are not frozen by the state. Insurance companies buy insurance to minimize their risk and exposure. On […]

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June 12, 2008

The Accommodating Syndrome

There are a number of competing influences that help mold our behavior. One pair of forces that often clash is a desire to do our duty and the need to be liked and fit in. Youth often grow up in subcultures where succeeding is simply not fashionable. They quickly learn that achievement often brings envy and disdain. Stories abound of young people who have buried their talents so as not to appear too successful, talented or intelligent in the eyes of their friends. Sooner or later these individuals enter the workforce, where things are not much different. Individuals who are perceived as working too hard are often targeted for punishment by co-workers. When employees become supervisors, foremen or crew leaders, these challenges are compounded. As supervisors, such individuals seek the approval of subordinates rather than their own supervisors. Even though the boss might clearly explain why a task needs to […]

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June 12, 2008

Raising Roses

Cornell University plant pathologist Dr. Kenneth Horst has authored the second edition of the “Compendium of Rose Diseases and Pests.” In this new edition, Horst collaborates with Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University associate professor and Extension specialist. “The Compendium of Rose Diseases and Pests, Second Edition”  (http://www.greencure.net/compendium_of_rose_diseases_book_ken_horst.asp) has been thoroughly updated, expanded and given a new format with 151 color photographs. The second edition now includes information on insects and mites with 68 images to help identify these pests and the damage they cause. The book covers rose diseases caused by bacteria, as well as viral diseases such as rose mosaic, rose streak, leaf curl and other problems. It also covers rose damage caused by physiological problems, environmental imbalances, air pollution, pesticide toxicity and nutritional deficiencies. Color photographs of infectious disease symptoms, now inset with the text, enable users to accurately identify diseases that affect roses and quickly understand the causes, […]

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