For Or With, That Is The Question

Over the past three months, I have asked more than 20 people, "How many jobs have you had since you started working?" Their answers ranged from 1 to 35 jobs. I then asked them, "With whom did you work?" Nineteen of the 20 responded that they worked "for" the companies. Only one said that he worked "with" them.

While you may think the difference in the two words is just semantics, I contend it means much more than that. In fact, I believe the difference is worth millions of dollars to the individual and the company.

When I finished questioning, most people asked me how many people I have worked for. I responded, "None." I said I always felt I was working "with" the companies and universities I tried to help.

If an owner of a business or a corporation can develop an environment of working together, employees will feel they are working "with" the company and not "for" the company.

I’ve seen many cases, especially in agriculture, where the employees are so tightly controlled that they are allowed to do only what they are instructed to do. As a result, when they finish one job, they must wait to be told what the next job is. If the boss isn’t there, they just sit and wait for instructions as to what their next task will be.

On the other hand, those workers who are free to make their own decisions feel they are making a significant contribution to the company. They enjoy their work and are much more productive both for the company and themselves. They also are happier and more satisfied with their working time.

In fact, many people who work "with" their companies commit more time to projects than just 40 hours a week. Some invest 60 or even 80 hours a week because they feel their work is important and they are making a significant contribution to the company.

Of course, this can go to the extreme so that they get so wrapped up in their work they sacrifice other areas of their lives, such as family, leisure and sometimes even health. This can also cause the employee and the company difficulties. 

Good Management

How do you manage a company in order to take advantage of the secrets of handling employees?

I knew a CEO in the horticultural printing business who was hired as a graphic artist with the business. He worked day and night and got to know everyone at work. There were probably 20 employees at that time. He knew how to work with people. He would remember their names, spouses’ names, children’s names, birthdays and what they liked to do in their leisure time. He learned everything about the company. Because of this, he became the plant manager and the plant grew to employ 100 people.

He still knew every person by name and the facts about each one. This continued for over 40 years until the company employed several hundred people and he became the president and chairman of the board. When he arrived, the company did less than $1 million in sales a year. When he retired, it did over $50 million annually.

His secret was he knew everyone, everyone liked him and they loved to work "with" him. He treated everyone, from the professional designers and printers to the people who cleaned the building, with equal respect and opportunities.

Another one of his secrets was that he always said, "We have accomplished this. We need to improve this. We have these goals for next year." The company held regular meetings so everyone could share ideas on how to improve their jobs and what needed to be done to make the company better.

He never used the pronoun I because I is a lonely word. I immediately indicates that people are working "for" you. If that is true, then you have just lost the team spirit. You have to make all the decisions yourself, and people will wait for your next instruction. They will be afraid to make decisions themselves. Thus, the "I" approach is a very costly one. It will cost millions of dollars in lost productivity and low employee morale, and it will also reduce the potential growth of the company.

I Versus We

An article in the 2004 Harvard Business Review cited the famous management guru Peter Drucker. Drucker surveyed many CEOs and found they had different types of personalities. They ranged from extroverts to almost recluses, but they all followed eight basic practices that made them successful.

Here are those eight practices:
1. Ask what needs to be done.
2. Ask what is right for the business.
3. Develop action plans.
4. Take responsibility for decisions.
5. Take responsibility for communicating.
6. Focus on opportunities, not problems.
7. Run productive meetings.
8. Think and say "we" rather than "I."

These steps provided them with the knowledge they needed and converted that knowledge to actions. They made the whole organization feel responsible and accountable.

Show me a well-run and profitable greenhouse business and I’ll show you a strong leader who practices these basic principles. The fact that the leaders of successful companies may have varied personalities does not make that great a difference if they follow sound basic management practices.

I believe this is the greatest problem of the small greenhouse operation. While most small operators learn the basics of growing plants and know how to produce them commercially, they don’t have or take the time to master the basics of good management. As our industry matures, we can see many small growers going out of business. I would venture to say the "I factor" is a major part of the problem.

There are levels one can reach with a sole proprietorship or partnership or small corporation where the strong boss approach works. Usually that approach can work until sales reach $1 million and then the business starts to "shake," becoming difficult to maintain or handle. At that point, some sort of organizational structure and professional management are needed. If this isn’t done, the boss approach may still work until the company reaches sales of $3 to $5 million. Then it will shake again, this time more violently. It may even start to fall apart. Beyond this point, the "I" will die and the "we" will survive.

People who start their own businesses and make them survive and grow almost always want to keep control. They have made all the decisions that made the business successful to this point, and they are afraid someone else will never be able to handle it.

Most of these folks have never understood the basics of management and do not know how to work "with" other people in a non-threatening way. They have not learned the simple difference between "for" and "with" and that can cost them their business. I hope you enjoy working "with" people.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Biocontrols in a Greenhouse

May 22, 2018

Register Now for Award-Winning Online Greenhouse Growing Courses

Learn about production cost and profit, as well as the basic behind plant science, via two online classes being offered by the University of Florida.

Read More
Lean-Event-at-Smith-Gardens-feature

May 3, 2018

How Companies Can Work Together to Solve Problems and Become More Efficient

Pacific Northwest Lean consortiums show what growers can achieve when they work together to solve problems and improve labor efficiencies.

Read More
Greenhouse-Space-Tracking

April 27, 2018

Five Keys to Accurate Greenhouse Production Costing

There are several steps you can take to make sure you understand the true costs of running your business.

Read More
Latest Stories
Biocontrols in a Greenhouse

May 22, 2018

Register Now for Award-Winning Online Greenhouse Growin…

Learn about production cost and profit, as well as the basic behind plant science, via two online classes being offered by the University of Florida.

Read More
Lean-Event-at-Smith-Gardens-feature

May 3, 2018

How Companies Can Work Together to Solve Problems and B…

Pacific Northwest Lean consortiums show what growers can achieve when they work together to solve problems and improve labor efficiencies.

Read More
Greenhouse-Space-Tracking

April 27, 2018

Five Keys to Accurate Greenhouse Production Costing

There are several steps you can take to make sure you understand the true costs of running your business.

Read More

April 26, 2018

ForwardGro Advances Medical Cannabis in Maryland With F…

Building on roots in agriculture, this new medical cannabis facility continues to implement process improvement to provide quality medical-grade product for the patients who need it.

Read More

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