A Grower’s Best Resource Is Other Growers

GROW logoGreenhouse Grower’s sister publication, Today’s Garden Center, honors a unique group of garden retailers each year with its Revolutionary 100 Garden Centers list. It’s a little like Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 list, but instead of ranking them by size or revenue, retailers are selected for the list by how progressive and innovative — how revolutionary — they are. Numbers play a role, but mostly as a measuring stick to see how well these retailers translate creative business ideas into bottom-line success.

Each January, Today’s Garden Center invites the 100 retailers on the list to get together for a three-day roundtable meeting to ask each other questions, share ideas and brainstorm solutions to each others’ problems. I’ve been attending this meeting for the last seven years and it’s amazing to see what they accomplish. I believe for many of the retailers in the room, it may be the most valuable event they attend all year.

So why am I telling you about this? Because I think it’s something that growers, in their own way, could be doing just as well — if not even better.

Many of the challenges these independent retailers face (selecting the right product, merchandising and marketing for their specific customer base, for example) are unique to their own operations. As a grower, on the other hand, you often deal with many of the same challenges your peers down the road or across the country are trying to work through. How are they managing timing or nutrition issues with a new variety? What are they trying that’s helping control whitefly or downy mildew? How are they training seasonal labor? If you have a problem in the greenhouse, you know there are hundreds of other growers scratching their heads over the same subject right now. Some of them are coming up with ways to do things better.

Sharing that kind of information is our job here at Greenhouse Grower. (This month’s Talking Shop column from D.S. Cole Growers’ propagation grower on his experiences with predatory mites is one great example.) But this exchange of ideas and tips and best practices is something you can do on your own, as well.

At the Revolutionary 100 Roundtable meeting, one garden center manager told the group about a regular meeting he has with peers in other garden retail businesses. Every other Monday, he and the group meet online in a Google Hangout and share. They talk about what’s working in their garden centers and what’s not. They exchange information about promotions they’re trying, products that are selling and what ideas they might be able to borrow from each other to solve a problem.

While these retailers aren’t direct competitors for customers — they’re all at least a two-hour drive apart — the garden center manager said they’re friendly competitors in other ways — who’s doing the best on sales or turns or margins, for example. They drive each other to be better.

Take a minute this month to think about a half dozen of your peers you could benefit from sharing ideas with. Then pick up your phone or send a few eMails. See how you can make another grower’s job a little bit easier and how they can help you solve a few of your problems, too.

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