1 Cultivate New Customers By Examining Other Industries
Tom Smith, the president of Top 100 Grower Four Star Greenhouse and a partner in Proven Winners, is adamant about greenhouse floriculture doing a better job of driving consumer success (page 16). But he’s also a proponent of cultivating new customers by looking for answers outside our industry.
“We need to follow what every other industry has had success with,” Smith says, “We need to look at grocery, clothes, hobby, decorating–they all have looks in their stores and environments that make it very favorable to shop. More favorable than garden centers that merchandise their products from A to Z.”
2Drive Consumer Success By Categorizing Consumers
Top 100 Grower Metrolina Greenhouses has broken consumers down into two categories: decorators and diggers. “We definitely see those two trends continuing, so we’re developing products and lines to accommodate both groups,” says Mariah Holland, Metrolina’s marketing director.
One program Metrolina developed to accommodate decorators is Ready Refill for finished combination planters. “If consumers have a container they’ve invested in, they can take the Ready Refill, enjoy it for a couple weeks and come back and get a new one.”
3 Demand Quality At The Young Plant Stage
For growers like Top 100 Grower Lucas Greenhouses, quality starts with young plants. George Lucas and his team value rooting percentage as a metric and shoot to root nearly 100 percent of all plants. Every plant that doesn’t root properly, after all, represents a cost.
“We want to be high 90s on the rooting percentages,” Lucas says. “We want to have [material] that’s free of disease. We invest a lot of money in water cleaning, ozone systems, filtration, high-light greenhouses–a lot of stuff to make our liner material as high quality as it can be–so the next guy who gets that product will be able to be successful easier.”
Keeping the greenhouse facility clean is another factor Lucas says growers should demand of themselves. Cleanliness should be apparent everywhere from shipping docks and trucks to offices and the greenhouses themselves.
4 Sharpen Business Management By Knowing All Of Your Costs
Sharp business management to Sedan Floral’s Jonathan Cude means really watching his costs–and more than just his operation’s fiscal costs.
“We watch the true expense of doing something,” Cude says. “At one time if we made a mistake and were off by 20 or 30 percent, we survived. Today, that margin of error doesn’t exist. You have to be very focused and very refined. You really have to weigh every choice you make.”
5Invest In The Industry By Supporting Local Hort Programs
Hundreds of interns have had the opportunity to gain experience at Metrolina over the years. Three of them even became head growers for the North Carolina operation. But rather than simply investing in people that directly impact its own business, Metrolina has been active supporting a local high school horticulture program and engaging kids in the industry.
“This high school used to have four to 10 people in their horticulture program,” says Art Van Wingerden, Metrolina’s chief operating officer. “We built them a greenhouse–about 1,000 square feet–and we take care of it once every three months or so. Now, they have 100 to 150 kids in horticulture class.”
Not all of those kids are going to venture into horticulture, Van Wingerden admits, but Metrolina’s contribution at least exposes kids to horticulture and gets them used to growing.