Is Your Greenhouse Business Indispensable To Your Customers? [Opinion]

Richard Jones

Quality should, obviously, be a priority for every greenhouse business and manager. But it’s not enough just to produce excellent product today. There are a lot of other growers doing that, too, and many of them are calling on your customers, trying to take some of your business for themselves.

Successful growers today are finding something additional to bring to the table. This month’s cover subject, Sam Rambo, is a great example. His business, Rambo Nurseries, was a finalist for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation of the Year Award in 2012 because he has uncovered ways to offer products and services to his customers that others can’t, or at least haven’t.

The model that is working well for this operation — being a single-source supplier for 54 Home Depot locations in the Southeast and maintaining a full-time staff of merchandisers in the stores — isn’t unique to Rambo Nurseries. But it has helped him differentiate his offerings enough in the eyes of his customer to maintain and expand the business over a period of years. Rambo has become a valuable business partner for Home Depot.

In the flat market we’re experiencing now, there isn’t a rapidly growing number of retailer or consumer customers to sell your plants to. You have to find other ways to build your business. Like Rambo, that means doing things other growers aren’t.

Growers like Rambo Nurseries are big operations selling to big customers. But you don’t have to sell to the biggest retailers or be a Top-100-level grower to adopt their tactics. Making yourself or your greenhouse operation a “partner” to your customer is an increasingly beneficial strategy for growers of any size or market.

It means working closely with new or existing customers to get a deeper understanding of what they want and expect. Or better yet, help them understand how you can help increase their garden center sales.

It means finding ways to build similar relationships with your own suppliers; exploring mutually beneficial ways for you to sell more plants more profitably, and in turn helping grow their businesses, too.

And it may mean working to build new, beneficial relationships with other growers who can help you serve your customers more efficiently. In some cases, you may be helping them serve their customers. I’ve heard the word “co-opetition” suggested as an important business strategy for growers in the future. More and more, I’m convinced that’s going to be the case.

The measure of success in 2013 and beyond will be the tools you can bring together to make your greenhouse operation stand out from your increasingly tough competition. The growers who create these offerings will be an indispensable resource for their customers.  

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