Why We Must Demand Quality

Ed Kiley

I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at the ANLA Management Clinic a couple years ago. I asked the audience at the start of my talk, “How many of you feel your quality is better than anyone else’s?”

Well, almost every hand in the room went up. I chuckled to myself and started my talk by telling the audience they were kidding themselves. But how were they kidding themselves?

To focus on quality means to create a culture of quality within your company. It’s how we look upon quality within our own businesses, and how it relates to the quality of our products. It’s the responsibility of everyone involved with the creation of the products or services offered by an organization. In other words, true quality capitalizes on the involvement of management, workforce, suppliers and even customers in order to meet or exceed customer expectations.

So, this all sounds kind of clinical. How about we break it down and look at areas
of quality with a few questions?

Where You’ll Find ‘Quality’

•  Do you offer excellent customer service to your customer? Do you go “the extra mile?” Do you huff and puff when a customer makes a special request? Do you promptly return phone calls and get pricing to customers the same day? Do you fix problems or just put bandages on them? A satisfied customer will always perceive your quality to be a notch above where it really may be.

•  Have you looked around your nursery lately? Is it clean and organized? Hopefully you don’t have trash and weeds all over the place. My experience is that dirty, messy operations often lack excellent quality. There is no substitute for a clean growing operation, and it speaks volumes about your dedication to quality.

•  Do you utilize the best feeder material available? Is it weed free with a well developed root system?

•  Is your soil mix the right formula for success? At The Perennial Farm, we have perfected ours over the past 25 years, and we continue to optimize our growing medium. Consider carefully what you are growing.

•  Do you temper your enthusiasm to grow all of the sexy new plants? Many of the new plant varieties are not well suited to a commercial growing operation. Remember, coreopsis ‘Limerock Ruby’ and echinacea ‘Orange Meadowbright?’ There were a lot of very unhappy consumers who purchased these plants. What does this say about the quality coming out of your operation? Be careful! Don’t grow problem plants.

Remember, there are three versions of plant maintenance and disease control:

1 Do nothing, cross your fingers, throw away the junk and ship the plants as fast as you can.

2 Spray or treat after problems are discovered.

3 Put in place a preventive maintenance program to address quality up front and build it into your growing operation. It’s an extra cost on the front end, but it will assure better quality, higher plant yields and lower mortality.

We want to build quality into everything we do in our growing operation. A business that stresses quality in everything it does will always produce a top-quality product.

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