Perpective: Dave Foltz: President of Ivy Acres

Perpective: Dave Foltz: President of Ivy Acres

Back in 2003, we knew Dave Foltz was one to watch when we featured him as one of our “40 Under 40″ at age 32. He directed sales and marketing back then for Kurt Weiss Greenhouses, the largest greenhouse operation on the East Coast. Today, he is 40 and leading legendary Ivy Acres.

Foltz started at Kurt Weiss as an in-store service rep and rose through hard work, determination and being hands-on and engaged in the business every day. His drive was to make a difference in the organization and grow the business. Now he’s doing the same with Ivy Acres as the company expands geographically, adds new product lines and diversifies its customer base. As we went to press, Ivy Acres was acquiring Conard-Pyle’s production facilities in Pennsylvania to produce roses, perennials and groundcovers.

GG: What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned serving large retailers?

DF: Always listen to what they have to say. Truly listen to their needs and expectations, their challenges and obstacles. Understand your customer, then try to help! React quickly to find solutions that are win-win for both the customer and the supplier. Always execute and deliver on whatever you say you will. Expectation and execution are everything!

Relationships are another key element. This means relationships at all levels with your customer, from the employees at the store to the buyers and executives at the home office. They must understand you truly want to make them and their company successful and you are not just in it for the sale. Strong relationships are key to success.

GG: Over the last few years, we’ve seen large retailers dramatically reduce the number of growers they are working with. How have growers had to adjust?

DF: Growers have had to adapt and adjust quickly in order to survive and become a better supplier in every aspect–quality, service, packaging, innovations, shipping and overall logistics; anything to differentiate our products and companies from our competitors.
We’ve also had to do additional things such as consolidate different types of product and branch out into other categories and product lines to become a one-stop shop for retailers. This includes outsourcing and brokering various products until we can ultimately produce them ourselves.

It’s sort of a Darwinistic approach where only the strongest will survive with the large retailers. And by strongest I mean the best in terms of quality and execution.

GG: What does it take to be the primary plant vendor in a region for a large retailer? How would you describe the level of commitment and investment required?

DF: It requires a tremendous amount of dedication and loyalty. You’re basically on call 24/7, especially in the Northeast where the selling season is so short. You have to be prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty at any given time. It’s all about having the right mix of product in the right store at the right time to optimize the potential for driving sales. You have to do whatever it takes to execute that. It’s pretty intense at times.

Also, you have to remember, with some retailers we are partners until that plant leaves the store. Thus, our service, quality and execution have to be exceptional. In many ways, we have essentially become the retailer and we have to think of the end consumer as our ultimate customer.

GG: What strategies do you recommend for growers who aren’t the primary vendors and have become contract growers?

DF: Really listen to the needs and concerns of the growers you are providing products to. Be proactive. Ask them how you can help them have better success with the product they are purchasing from you. Try to find out the retailer’s expectations. Determine if there are any adaptations or enhancements you can make to your product so all parties are more successful. Take initiative and show them you care about the success of their company, too.

Another suggestion is it is very important to see how the end consumer reacts to your product. Don’t be afraid to visit it in the retail environment. Stand back and watch and study consumers as they pick up your product, pass by it, read the labels, are drawn or not drawn to it, and who ultimately purchases or does not purchase it. (Of course, it is always better to inform the grower you are supplying before you visit the retail store.)

Then, most importantly, use what you’ve learned and experienced to make recommendations and work with the grower you’re supplying to enhance your product so it is more successful in the future.

GG: How has the big grower become the big customer?

DF: Well, that’s easy. The more each big grower expands their product lines and becomes more diversified, the more we depend on contract and specialty growers to provide various goods. Essentially, we are becoming not only the big grower and big customer but also the big retailer in every aspect you can imagine. Where we used to just focus on producing, selling and shipping a great quality plant, now we are focused on every aspect of the retail environment.

In regards to packaging, presentation and service, we analyze each plant or category as if we were one big retailer not only focused on how our customers will react to it but how the end consumer views it. In many retail arenas, we have more responsibilities than in the past and so much more is at stake until that finished product ultimately hits the consumer’s shopping cart.

GG: How big is too big? Any insights on managing very large operations?

DF: I don’t think it’s a matter of ever being too big. I think the larger you get, the more important it becomes to continually invest in people and infrastructure. You have to put the right people in the right positions in order to sustain your growth. You need a strong base of managers and employees to focus on the day-to day operations while at the same time having key personnel focusing on long-term strategy and vision. The key is to successfully bridge and integrate the two sides. In terms of infrastructure, you have to keep investing in technology, equipment, education, logistics and innovation to sustain and support your organization and its growth. The biggest challenge occurs when a company grows too quickly and does not add the proper support. You have to invest in your people and your infrastructures.

GG: How important is it for growers to be diversified in their offerings and customer base? Are more putting all their eggs in one or two baskets?

DF: It is extremely important to be diversified in both your offerings and your customer base. As a matter of fact, that was my number one priority when I joined Ivy Acres as a consultant. Ivy was primarily an annual and perennial grower who mainly shipped and serviced The Home Depot. My goals were to first diversify our product lines and then use this as a catalyst to diversify our customer base and ultimately capture more marketshare.

For the first time, Ivy Acres as an array of product available in the following categories: tropicals, indoor floral, orchids, cacti, tropicals, hibiscus, sod and holiday plants throughout the year. Additionally, in the last 18 months, we started producing and shipping container roses, a complete fall line including pumpkins and gourds, and various Christmas greens. All of this added together really completes us, as we are no longer just an annual/perennial supplier, but rather more of a well-rounded company providing product and services throughout the year. We are providing almost every item for our customers with the exception of trees and shrubs.

In terms of our largest customers, it allows us to push more product, which ultimately means more dollars, through the each store front. This enhances synergies including shipping more freight to the same location and allowing us to staff a more permanent well-trained service team in the field. Increasing our sales throughout the year helps offset fixed costs and assets throughout the company.

In addition to offering more products, diversifying our customer base helps lower the risk factor. If sales in one customer slows down, there is another outlet for moving product. Increasing volume with additional customer bases enables us to develop new products and packaging and test them in multiple retail outlets. Most importantly, it allows us to have more control over our own destiny. The closer you get maxed out in production, the more you can pick and choose where to send product to and ultimately become more profitable.

It’s also just as important to expand into new markets and territories. This year we are shipping to multiple customers in four additional states. By capturing more marketshare in different states, it allows us to have more regions to ship to. If the weather is bad in one, you usually will have another outlet for your product.

GG: What excites you most about this spring season?

DF: I would have to say for us it is hands down the growth and expansion we are experiencing. That, along with the new facility. It’s exciting to be part of a growing company and taking an entire organization to the next level. We have a lot of great people here at Ivy Acres and you can see and hear the excitement each season as we continue to get larger.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Marc van Iersel

September 1, 2015

GROwing Floriculture Research And Extension

Research and outreach efforts help keep floriculture production profitable. With seemingly continuous budget cuts to university and federal budgets, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to sustain their programs and to keep making a positive impact on the industry. So what can be done to ensure that the industry will keep getting the research and outreach support it has come to rely on? There already is a variety of funding programs that support research and Extension programs in our industry. This funding is critical for many floriculture research and outreach programs. What can we do to leverage that funding and make sure it has the biggest possible impact? A program that I was part of in 2010 may serve as a model. LAUNCH was co-founded by NASA, NIKE, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State as a program to help make innovative ideas become a […]

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler Of Bell Nursery USA Leads By Example

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler is laying a strong groundwork for the industry by mentoring future growers and instilling a sense of pride in growing quality crops.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Bell Nursery USA Cultivates New Growers Through Internships

Bell Nursery USA started its internship program two years ago with the aim of identifying and training the growers of the future. Each season, the company’s internships give interns a broad overview of the company, exposing them to everything from growing and production to distribution, retail and finances.

Read More
Latest Stories
AmericanHort logo

August 20, 2015

David Savoia To Serve As AmericanHort’s Interim P…

Following Michael Geary’s announcement that he has resigned as president and CEO of AmericanHort, the association has announced that CFO and Senior Vice President for Operations David Savoia will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a search for a new staff executive. Craig Regelbrugge, the senior vice president for advocacy and research, will support Savoia with the association’s external affairs. Geary announced August 12  that he will be leaving his position after September 30 to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” Geary said in an eMail. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me […]

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More

August 15, 2015

Ball Horticultural Co. Buys Conard-Pyle/Star Roses And …

Ball Horticultural Co. plans to add Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants to its family of breeding and distribution companies, according to a press release dated August 14, which announced the company’s recent acquisition of the famous introducer of Knock Out Roses and other perennials and woody plants to the market. Ball plans to capitalize on the expertise of its Ball Ornamentals woody ornamentals division, as well as Conard-Pyle’s market-leading position as a top rose breeder to strengthen its product line. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of September 2015. Conard-Pyle’s in-house breeding division NovaFlora, along with its intellectual properties and the distribution, production and administration facilities of its wholesale division are also part of the acquisition. NovaFlora is the driving force behind the Star Roses and Plants brand. “Conard-Pyle has been the leader in roses in its market and has been actively diversifying its offering with other woody […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

August 7, 2015

Big Banks A Step Closer To Financing Cannabis — Or Not

A key Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill on July 23 that allows the nation's capital to establish regulated medical marijuana stores and lets banks provide financial services to state legalized marijuana dispensaries.

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
thermoflor

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit studentsforag.com to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
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