Building Success At Tagawa Greenhouses

wp tagawa
From left to right, Carlos Castillo, production manager; Erik Edwards and Dominic Vercelote, both ranger growers; Kara Crist, research and development manager; Randy Tagawa, CEO; Ryan Jaebker; Mallory Westlund and Stuart Shoemaker, all range growers.

In an effort to stay ahead of the curve, Tagawa Greenhouses is trying a new approach to how it runs its operation, starting with the production staff.

CEO Randy Tagawa says that throughout the greenhouse industry, customer expectations have increased, and the company wants to be accurate and provide customers with a quality product.

“On the young plant side, there’s definitely an expectation to have quality products delivered on time, and with the complexity of the number of varieties and product lines that we have, it’s definitely been challenging to provide and meet our customer’s expectations,” Tagawa says. “From a company standpoint, we’ve been trying to reinvent Tagawa’s. Just like any company and any product, you have to reinvent yourself to be relevant going into the future.”

Making Changes To Keep Tagawa Current

Tagawa Greenhouses is a family owned company that has been in business for 47 years. The company produces young plants and liners sold exclusively to Ball Horticulture, as well as finished products for the mass market.

The company has locations in Brighton and Golden, Colo., and New Mexico, and each facility has around 16 to 20 acres of production greenhouses. Tagawa also has a partner company in California called Ball Tagawa Growers that produces all young plants that are sold to Ball.

To help meet customer expectation levels, the company has made an effort to build a great production staff. In the process of adding to the staff, many young individuals in their 20s and 30s were hired to fill those production spots.

Tagawa has found that younger individuals come to the table not only with an education, but with a lot of energy and a positive attitude. With more employees coming to the company with fewer years of experience, Tagawa says he is personally spending more time in production trying to educate growers.

“For the past six months, I’ve been directly working with all of our new production staff to help train them in making good production decisions,” he says. “I am very impressed with all of them and how fast they pick up on things.”

Building A Strong Team

Randy Tagawa
Randy Tagawa, CEO of Tagawa Greenhouses.

Hiring young people is one philosophy that is working for Tagawa Greenhouses. The production staff has improved in meeting its goals, and Tagawa says there is a lot more communication among staff members, and that the group is energetic, social and skilled at working as a team.

“I’ve seen a huge improvement over the past season and we will be very successful in meeting our customers’ expectations into the future,” Tagawa says.

There have been three new positions added to the production staff, for a total of 20 key production staff members. Eight of them are under 30 years old, which includes two of the three production managers.

“All of these young people were some of the best graduates in the industry,” Tagawa says.

Along with those employees, there are many others under 30 who are playing key roles in the company, as well as many individuals over age 65 who offer the needed experience to make the company successful.

Blending experienced staff with talent from the younger generation has yielded positive results.

“This combination has started to come together and see success. I would say that this team is becoming the best in the industry,” Tagawa says.

“We hire just the best individuals. We’re not just concentrating our efforts on young people — it just happened on the production side that there was an opportunity to hire a lot of young people, so maybe we fell into it. It wasn’t a conscious effort; however, we do see the advantages in production.”

One of the biggest challenges of hiring young employees is providing them with enough experience — not just in production techniques — but also in communications and working with people. Tagawa says that when hiring individuals who are just out of college, you must be willing to give them more responsibilities, despite their lack of experience.

On the other hand, Tagawa’s younger staff members are eager to learn and have a desire to do a good job.

“We have a couple of people under 30 in production manager roles, and we see them as up-and-coming individuals who can go really far within our industry,” he says.

Preparing New Growers For The Job

Company co-founder and now adviser Ken Tagawa always believed in training and having a great internship program for graduates who wanted experience, says Tagawa.

“I think that there are a lot of young people coming out of school who really don’t know what they want to do,” says Tagawa. “And as we look at it, we’re willing to do a lot of the training in order for them to be successful. It’s hard to try to find good people in any place. It doesn’t matter what age. Finding the talent to do production is difficult in itself, but as individuals are coming out of college, that’s an opportunity we’re tapping into.”

Whether a new employee is right out of school or not, Tagawa recommends putting them through a mini-internship program. New employees at Tagawa Greenhouses spend a few weeks learning about each of the company’s departments before they actually start working.

“It’s definitely advantageous to let people see your entire business, versus just putting them into their position and that’s all they do,” says Tagawa. “They should know something about your organization as far as marketing, merchandising, etc.”

That has been the company’s approach for its internship program, which has been in place for about eight years. Interns spend a semester working at Tagawa, during which they are exposed to all aspects of the organization.

“We go from one end of the business to the next. They spend some time in each to get a good understanding of what we’re doing,” Tagawa says.

Interns spend about a month and a half in production learning about decision making, watering, growing, spraying and all of the functions relative to growing. Then, they spend one to two weeks in each of the other departments in order to get a well-rounded view of what the company does. Interns are exposed to everything from maintenance to merchandising to finance to marketing.

One of the benefits of having the internship program is that it serves as a source for future employees. Some interns come from out of the country, or already have plans to work for their family’s businesses, but some are looking for jobs.

“That gives us an opportunity to look at them, and for them to look at us,” says Tagawa. “We might offer them a position if it works out for both parties.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

February 16, 2018

New England GROWS Discontinues After 25 Years

After 25 years, New England GROWS — both the annual event and the organization behind the event — are discontinuing operations.

Read More
Weigela Czechmark (Spring Meadow Nursery)

February 14, 2018

Spring Meadow Nursery Furthers Its Mission of Giving Back to the Industry

The Spring Meadow-Proven Winners Endowment Fund through the Horticultural Research Institute has now topped $800,000, with more scholarships coming in 2018.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

February 13, 2018

Don’t Let Your New Year’s Resolutions Fade Away in 2018

Stuff got real in 2017, and it caused many of us to stop and reflect on the current state of the world, and how we can impact change — or at least improve our own situations. Life is too short, and we work too hard, to not use the annual renewal as an opportunity to take stock of our own personal lives, businesses, and careers, and make the necessary adjustments that will allow us to work smarter and live better. Even if you have already given up on your resolutions, perhaps you can think of January as a trial month and make February the month when you really get to work on your goals. And while I know it’s a difficult month to start on some of these changes, since you’re already immersed in the busy spring season, I promise that if you take some time to evaluate your reality […]

Read More
Latest Stories

January 31, 2018

Online Education Empowers Employees to Succeed

See how UF/IFAS online certificate courses helped employees at Costa Farms get ahead with their jobs.

Read More
Money-feature

January 25, 2018

Why It’s Critical to Understand Your Real Costs o…

It’s time to stop guessing and start calculating when it comes to finding out what your real cost of production is, and pricing products accordingly.\

Read More
Tax-Money

January 23, 2018

Learn How the New Tax Law Will Affect Your Greenhouse B…

AmericanHort will co-host a free “Comprehending the New Tax Law: webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with K-Coe Isom, a national tax consulting leader.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin…

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More
Tax-Money

January 9, 2018

What You Need to Know About the New Tax Bill

The United Fresh Produce Association, which represents the needs and interests of fruit and vegetable growers, recently updated its members on how the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act might affect their businesses. Many of the insights provided by United Fresh also apply to greenhouse growers and nurseries.

Read More
Doug Cole, Owner of D.S. Cole Growers

January 4, 2018

D.S. Cole Growers Blazes Its Own Path to Growth

Known for its commitment to sustainability and innovation, this grower is one of the pioneering trailblazers changing the way horticulture does business.

Read More

December 31, 2017

Ag Exemption for New Trucking Regulation Still Under Re…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s trucking electronic logging device mandate, which took effect on December 18, includes an Hours of Service exemption that may or may not apply to greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More