September 5, 2012

Use Production Inputs Wisely

During the Great Recession, I witnessed a cost-centricity like I had never seen before in my nearly four decades of being affiliated with the green industry. By cost-centricity, I am referring to the tendency on the part of growers to reduce costs. After all, there are only two ways to increase profit margins — either increase sales or reduce costs. It’s easier (or at least perceived to be easier) to do the latter. Having grown up in the family nursery business, I know all too well the mentality of shaving every single cent from the value chain that is possible, but this last economic downturn forced us to tighten our belts even further than we had thought possible. Belt-tightening in depressed economic conditions involves reexamining both the demand and supply side of profitability. On the demand side, growers ask what products and how many of each they should be growing […]

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August 2, 2012

The Great Truck Driver Shortage

You probably got into trucking by complete accident. You started growing or brokering plants and all of a sudden, you were in the trucking business too! How did that happen? Don’t worry, you are not alone; I ask myself the same question every day. As with all of the challenges we face each day, except for the drain on cash part, the actual physical trucks aren’t really the problem. No, the real problem is the drivers, or rather, the lack of good ones. There is good reason for this shortage — and it is getting worse. Demographics People are getting older. This seems obvious, but what I mean is that the general population is getting older, and a lot of the good old drivers of the past are retiring or close to retirement. Typically these empty seats would be filled by new drivers entering the market. The problem is, nobody […]

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July 19, 2012

OFA Appoints Charlie Hall, Ph.D. To Chief Economist

OFA’s Board of Directors appointed Charlie Hall, Ph.D. as its chief economist on July 15, 2012. He will work with and represent OFA to provide vision, leadership, analysis and technical competence required to achieve OFA and industry objectives. He is appointed for a two-year term. Charlie Hall is a professor at Texas A&M University and holds the Ellison Endowed Chair in International Floriculture. Dr. Hall’s expertise in the production and marketing of Green Industry crops is nationally recognized in academia and among the horticultural clientele he serves. His major research, teaching and extension areas of specialization include strategic management, market situation/outlook, cost accounting and financial analysis for Green Industry firms. He is an invited speaker at numerous regional, national and international meetings of various industry-related associations and organizations, including OFA events. “We are excited to have Dr. Hall formally recognized as a partner of OFA, and his insight will help […]

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July 9, 2012

Business Transitions And Growing Pains

This is a season of transitions. Being a university professor, the end of the semester brings some degree of reflection regarding the future of these bright minds as they progress onward in their life’s journey to their first career job, summer internship, part-time summer job, etc. It’s a transition period for school kids as well, as moms and dads look to the summers with both dread and excitement. I am reminded of this, having just returned from my oldest grandson’s eighth grade graduation ceremony. Seriously? A ceremony for graduating from the eighth grade? When I finished the eighth grade, the teachers just said get the heck out of here and on to high school! All of these circumstances, of course, are examples of evolving from the big fish in a little pond to the little fish in a bigger pond. Businesses experience this phenomenon too, as they grow from small […]

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June 12, 2012

Groupon Rumored To Test Payment Service

As bank transaction fees continue to rise, many small business owners have turned to PayPal or Square for their primary payment methods. Now, Groupon, the company known for its daily deals on restaurants, beauty salons and more, is reported to be testing a payment service that would make PayPal and Square look pricy. According to Industry Analyst Rocky Agrawal, who wrote a guest post on, the new payment offering would charge merchants a 1.8 percent transaction fee and 15 cents per transaction charge for the payments processed through the system. This compares to PayPal Here and VeriFone Sail’s 2.7 percent of purchase fee on all credit and debit card swipes and Square’s 2.75 percent of purchase fee. While Groupon’s service would supposedly charge 2.3 percent for purchases made with American Express cards, this is still less than PayPal and Square, which maintain the same fee for all cards, and […]

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May 29, 2012

Tips To Pay Your Bills On Time

A 2012 small business credit index report confirms that big businesses are taking longer to pay their bills. According to the report conducted by Experian, a company that offers credit reporting and marketing services to consumers and businesses, and Moody Analytics, an analysis, data, forecasting and credit risk management company, businesses with over 1,000 employees have shown the greatest increases in paying bills after the contracted terms. But regardless of size, all businesses have increased in average days beyond terms (DBT) payments over the past year. While small businesses paid less than seven days beyond terms (DBT) in 2011, they are paying nearly eight days past contracted terms in March 2012. Businesses with over 1,000 employees or fewer than nine, however, have seen the greatest jump in late payments over the past year. “One of the things it is important to point out is that DBT has grown over the […]

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April 10, 2012

Ecke Ranch Sells Property In Encinitas, Calif.

Ecke Ranch, the California-based poinsettia and annuals grower, announced the sale of its Encinitas, Calif. property to the Leichtag Foundation on April 6, 2012. The Encinitas property acted as the company’s research and development space, but Ecke has decided the facility would be more efficient on a smaller scale. The revenue from the sale will go toward funding growth and expansion projects in the future. “This is a great business opportunity for Ecke Ranch and a positive benefit for the community. It is a true win-win and we couldn’t be happier,” the company writes in a press release. “This will honor the history of the Encinitas property and its role in the evolution of our business, and we are excited to begin the next era of our growth and innovation.” The Leichtag Foundation, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based non-profit philanthropic organization, plans on using the space to bring about a long-term vision […]

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March 23, 2012

Politics, Presidents And The Economy

Campaign season. These two words conjure up images of stump speeches, issues debates, super PACS and truth stretching. Okay, maybe stretching is too harsh; perhaps manipulation of facts is more accurate? Nonetheless, the phrase “lies, darn lies” seems to come to mind more often these days. Because of this, in the coming months, you will hear much rhetoric about the economy because it is considered to be the pivotal topic for candidates on all sides of the fence. The irony is that you will hear some folks say we are doing as well as can be expected and others pronouncing economic Armageddon is just around the bend. The Economic Reality Personally, when I look at the fundamentals in the market, it seems clear (at least to me) that things really are on the upswing. No, the economy has not yet fully recovered from the downturn (and may not ever completely […]

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February 22, 2012

Hoffman Nursery Earns Top Honor From NCNLA

The North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA) recently recognized Hoffman Nursery by naming it Grower of the Year for 2011. “NCNLA is proud to present the 2011 Grower of the Year Award to Hoffman Nursery in recognition of more than 25 years of premium plant development and its expanded production facility,” says Ross Williams, NCNLA executive director. “The award also recognizes Hoffman’s active support of horticultural research, environmental stewardship and community service.” The Grower of the Year is always an operation that is an NCNLA member exhibiting a high level of professionalism in the management or ownership of a field or container nursery in North Carolina (or other states where that operation may be located). In addition, the Grower of the Year exhibits leadership in the nursery industry through participation in local, regional, state and national organizations. John and Jill Hoffman started Hoffman Nursery in 1986 on 45 acres […]

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February 17, 2012

James Greenhouses Licensed To Produce Green Roof System

LiveRoof has appointed James Greenhouses, Athens, Ga., as a new licensed regional grower and distributor for the LiveRoof hybrid green roof system. Other recent additions to LiveRoof’s network of licensed regional growers include: Pépinière Premier Plant, Saint-Sulpice, Quebec, Canada; Joss Growers, Georgetown, Texas; and Rocky Mountain Green Roofs, Denver, Colo.

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February 15, 2012

SBI Recognized For High Quality Integration

SBI Software has been awarded for the high-quality integration SBI created between its ERP software for growers and the Prophesy Transportation Solutions, the provider of trucking and logistics software. The partnership between SBI and Prophesy creates a customized integration specifically built to help growers and garden centers leverage efficiencies while effectively managing their transportation needs. The Prophesy team was impressed with how far SBI went to make this integration seamless and user-friendly. Specifically, Prophesy was fond of SBI’s use of an error report that is exported directly to an Excel file, which makes trouble shooting easier for everyone. The seamless integration offers the ability to select orders in SBI Software and export them to Accellos One Optimize. Optimize consolidates the orders into shipments and converts them to full and/or multi-stop truckloads. Loads can be built one-way or round-trip. Once loads are built in Optimize, they are transmitted to SBI, where […]

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