Why We Must Sharpen Business Management

Joe Farinacci

What can a guy with 15-plus years in distribution tell a grower about running a greenhouse operation? To be honest, I asked myself the same question when I was invited to Greenhouse Grower’s Grow Summit in August. What do I know about growing plants? Frankly, not a lot.

So before I accepted the invitation I had to think about what I could bring to the table. My first thought was the fact that a business is a business. All businesses are trying to do the same things: increase sales, reduce costs and have money left at the end of the year.

I thought about how distributors and growers are similar. We are both supplying our end user–for Integrated Horticultural Alliance (IHA) members, the grower; and for the grower, the independent garden centers or the mass merchants. I also thought about the differences in our businesses, and this is where I can pull up a chair.

Throughout my career in distribution, the distributors I’ve worked for were not only distributors, but marketers as well. Distributors spend a tremendous amount of time “driving” sales. They don’t just wait for their customers to buy from them. They create catalogs, flyers, postcards, trade shows and other promotions designed to get their customers to purchase products from them.

I know what you are thinking: “I do that.” You send your customers catalogs or lists of plants. You may even do promotions. All this is great, and you should continue to do these things. Still, I want you to ask yourself this
question: Are you really driving sales?

Become A Better Businessperson

Driving sales is a series of events or activities aimed at increasing sales. What are you doing to sell more? Sure, catalogs, flyers and promotions help, but to really sell more you need your customers to sell more. Growers would sell more products if their independent and mass merchant customers had better sell-through. You can’t sell them more if they haven’t already sold what they have. If you want to increase sales, you need to help your customers increase sales.

What can you do? How about training your customer’s sales staff about your products? What grows best where? How often does a hanging basket need to be watered? How often do you need to fertilize? This may sound silly but trust me: If you train your customer’s staff on your products, those are the products they will suggest when a consumer asks for advice or recommendations.

In addition to training on your products, how about providing some point-of-purchase (POP) materials? What is POP? POP is all the signage, shelf tags, posters and all the other stuff you see at almost every business. Are your plants unique in some way? Organic? Grown in self-composting pots? Long bloomers? Drought tolerant? Help your customer let the consumer know what’s special or unique about your products.

To sell more, growers need to be the GPS for the home gardener. Help your customers drive the home gardener to your products. Your customers will sell more, and you’ll sell more.

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