Growers Must Be Willing To Let Go Of Old Business Models [Opinion]

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GROW logoThe last few years have been tough ones for the ornamentals business. The economy is slowly, but surely, recovering, but a lot of greenhouse operations, big and small, haven’t survived the Great Recession. Just among the Top 100 Growers, we have seen Elzinga & Hoeksema, Stacy’s Greenhouses and, most recently, Color Star Growers closed or sold in the past couple of years.

The reasons are varied and unique to each operation, but the bottom line is the same. The customers and the production, if not the facilities themselves, invariably are picked up by other growers, but some excellent businesses built with decades of effort and commitment are suddenly gone.

So it’s all the more inspiring to see an operation work its way back from the brink by whatever means necessary. Sedan Floral, the subject of Greenhouse Grower’s March 2014 cover story, is in the process of doing just that.

One of the key elements that has allowed Sedan Floral to rebound over the last seven years is the willingness to let go of what the business had been and push it to evolve into what it needs to be. It’s easy to stick to stay in a comfort zone. We know who we are. We have built a reputation and a brand and have a real personal stake in what we and our families and teams have built. That often makes it difficult to acknowledge when significant changes need to be made, let alone leap off the cliff hoping there’s a soft landing spot in the foggy uncertainty below.

But is can be done. In fact, it happens in other businesses and other industries all the time. The Minnesota Mining And Manufacturing Company (3M) started out as a source for grinding-wheel abrasives. That product didn’t work out so well, but the company adjusted and is a lot more successful today selling Scotch Tape and Post-it Notes. The Gap started out as a record store that also happened to sell jeans. Nintendo began as a playing card manufacturer.

I’m not suggesting you stop growing pansies and start wholesaling Post-its. But I do think there’s value in keeping an open mind to where your business is — and should be — going in the future.

Sedan Floral’s Jonathan Cude talks about adapting to the new reality for his business.  That’s going to need to happen for a lot of greenhouse operations in some form or fashion in the next few years. It may be the crops you grow or the way your production is set up or even the customers you sell to.

We’re already well into a new era for floriculture. Familiar customers who loved our acres and acres of bedding plants are less plentiful today than in the past. A whole new breed of customers is rising — one that wants something different.

The growers who will be the most successful for the long term are the ones who figure out what those consumers want and how they can provide it.

Richard Jones is the group editor for Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines.
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