Time To Refocus

Last month, I promised I would share a few ideas on how to avoid or repair the damage when the bottom drops out of your business.

I am writing this as 2009 draws to a close. You are reading it in February, when you are in the midst of your spring season. All of us are wondering what the future of our industry will be. Unfortunately, none of us has a crystal ball so we can know for sure what will happen.

In March 2000, I wrote: “To survive in this industry, you must find the stars, milk the cows, look carefully at the question marks, dump the dogs and keep squintin’.” That’s probably good advice today. (If you want to read the rest of what I had to say, get a copy of my book, “One To Grow On,” from Meister Media Worldwide and check out the column titled “Will Floriculture Continue To Grow?” on page 41.)

What are the options you can consider when faced with an economic crisis? You can downsize your business or declare bankruptcy; you can attempt to sell your business; or you can reinvent or refocus it by finding other products and uses for your facilities.

I recently spoke with Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse in Carleton, Mich., and together we came up with examples of friends and colleagues in floriculture who have chosen each of these options.

Downsizing Or Closing Your Doors

Dennis recalled what happened to a rose grower. Prices dropped because imports entered the market in very good condition. The grower’s overhead costs continued to rise. Heating costs increased dramatically. The rose grower tried to maintain business as is. His profits and cash reserves disappeared. When he made no improvements, stopped planting new plants, reduced chemical applications and lost key employees, he was forced out of business within two years.

Growers producing any type of crop who have maintained a business-as-usual plan have either already suffered the same fate as this rose grower or are approaching that fate at an alarming rate.

Selling Out

Another rose grower faced basically the same situation as the one I just mentioned, but he was fortunate to sell his property at a very good price to a real estate developer.

Forty years ago, when the majority of our business was still in cut flowers and potted plants, a colleague of mine worked for the largest greenhouse operation east of the Rocky Mountains. He figured he was set for life. Then, someone offered the owner a ton of money for the property, and that was that. If you are as lucky as these two operators, then selling may be an option. But don’t count on it in these turbulent economic times.


Ten years ago, I read a book titled “The Power of Focus” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt. After reading it, I defined “focus” as I relate it to floriculture.

F Is For Future. Thirty years ago, some cut flower, pot plant and bedding plant growers saw the changes taking place and anticipated the direction of the future. They modernized their operations to be more efficient, adjusted their crop mixes, partnered with either independent or chain store retailers, and in some cases, opened their own retail outlets. Today, it is even more important to have a vision, to differentiate fads from trends and plan accordingly.

O Is For Opportunity. Once you have that vision of the future, you must constantly relate it to your business. Many growers have tried to copy the success of others. Seed plug producers, vegetative plug producers, plant branders, retailing outlets, box stores and novelty crops have all come and gone.

True there is only room for so many players in any niche, but the first truth is there is soon only room for those who can do it right and do it at the right time.

C Is For Customer. It is as important to cultivate new customers as it is to cultivate new plants. We all know the story of General Motors’ difficulties. Well, in November a friend went to a GM dealership intending to purchase a new car. She was told they didn’t need to make deals on their most popular models and that she wouldn’t be able to get her new car for at least three months. So, she bought a Subaru!

Growers who will survive when the bottom falls out have developed cost-efficient methods for both pulling and delivering orders and are focused on servicing their customers. They know consistent quality at a fair price is very important to retailers but customer service with good attention to detail is the key.

U Is For Utilize. This is the key word in “focus.” Many companies write business plans and talk about strategies but fail to achieve their goals because they can’t pull it together. Some growers had a good business plan and produced a very good crop for the independent or chain store retailers they had partnered with only to have these outlets go out of business and take the grower down with them. The old business adage of never committing more than 25 percent of your business to one customer in many cases is a true rule to follow.

S Is For Science. Knowledge is power. Information is available now more than ever and at speeds we couldn’t imagine even 10 years ago. Those who can keep abreast of new developments in production and marketing and implement them quickly will stay in business.

And finally, we have to remember in today’s marketplace, change is constant. Just when we think we have found the answer, we find the question has changed.

In just a few years, we have been forced to change from being specialized farmers who followed simple rules of supply and demand to highly specialized business people who grow plants. If we haven’t been able to refocus, we need to begin planning our next career.

Cost analysis, pricing based on costing, budgeting, improved efficiency, cost effective transportation methods and detailed customer service are now every bit as important to growers as plant selection, timing, temperatures and pH.

Each person is responsible for his or her own destiny. Whether or not you survive in business will depend on how you handle your responsibility and authority. Only you can make it happen. As I have said many times: “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” It definitely is time to lead, follow or get out of the way.

I hope this spring season will be all you hoped it would be! 

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Cape Fear Botanical Garden

November 27, 2015

National Garden Bureau Awards Grants To Three Therapeutic Gardens

The grants, totaling $10,000, are through the organization’s Growing For Futures program, which supports the growth of therapeutic gardens across the country.

Read More

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

Read More

October 25, 2015

We Could Be Growing More Green Infrastructure Plants Th…

At her Cultivate’15 presentation in July, Shannon Currey of Hoffman Nursery challenged the horticulture industry to get involved while green infrastructure is still developing, saying that a good start is to offer more plants that fit the unique needs of this market.

Read More
Integration Key To Compliance For Specialized Crops

October 22, 2015

Integration Key To Regulation Compliance For Specializ…

Growers considering supplementing ornamental crops with cannabis will enter into a new world of governmental regulations where key business systems will be indispensable for successful crop management.

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

October 21, 2015

Kate Santos Explains What The Sale Of Dümmen Orange To …

Over the weekend, Dümmen Orange announced that the Dümmen family has sold its majority stake in the Dutch flower breeding company Dümmen Orange to European private equity firm BC Partners. The deal is valued at more than $560 million, around 11 times its core earnings, according to a Reuters press release. The company, owned by the Dümmen family and investment firm H2 Equity partners, has locations all over the world, including farms in Central America and East Africa. This is BC Partners’ first foray into the flower business. We caught up with Kate Santos, operations director for Dümmen Orange, to find out how the company’s sale to BC Partners affects Dümmen Orange customers, if at all. Here’s what she told us: Why did the Dümmen family decide to sell their shares? Why to a private equity investment company? Similar to the reason that H2 sold its shares to BC Partners, all […]

Read More
The tradeshow at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo — outside of the occasional 1960s vibe, perhaps — would feel familiar to most growers

October 19, 2015

Have Cannabis Growing Expertise, Seek ‘Golden Ticket’

Many horticultural growers might start cultivating cannabis tomorrow if they could secure a license, the equivalent of a “golden ticket.” But these are hard to come by, and the number and criteria vary greatly by state

Read More
Lurie Garden Millennium Park

October 16, 2015

Green Infrastructure An Opportunity To Redefine How We …

Green infrastructure is an emerging market that has important ramifications for the horticulture industry. That is, if growers, designers and other industry players take a proactive approach to grasp the opportunities that come their way.

Read More

October 5, 2015

Smart Business Sense At Tidal Creek Growers Yields Succ…

Tidal Creek Growers stays competitive by focusing on what really turns a profit. It helps the large operation successfully balance contract growing with growing for retail garden centers.

Read More

October 4, 2015

ePlantSource Adds 5 New Partner Companies

ePlantSource has announced an additional five companies that have been added to its partner distribution list. Not only do the additional partners offer more supplier options to ePlantSource customers, but the website now also provides a more diverse product list with the addition of bulbs, clematis and many new varieties. New partners added for the 2015 – 2016 season: A.D.R. Bulbs Lennon Farm Greenhouses Micandy Gardens Pacific Growers Roseville Farms “We make it a priority to respond to our customers, and we have had many requests for additional options and a more diverse product line, so we are continually evaluating suppliers that work well with our non-traditional approach to the sale of live goods,” says Gary Falkenstein, President and CEO of ePlantSource. “We feel that it is good for our company, our customers and the industry as a whole to keep looking forward and seeing how we can improve and expand how […]

Read More
Cannabis marijuana

September 8, 2015

Supplemental Lighting Benefits For Growing Cannabis In …

The cannabis industry has moved out of the basement and into the light, and with this shift in politics and regulation occurring worldwide there is a need for growers to change the way they think about lighting and energy consumption.

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
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

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
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]