Hardening Of The Mind And Heart

Everyone seems to be interested in physical health. I’ve spent the last month taking people to the doctor and, in my case, to the dentist because of a broken tooth.

Once a month I get together with a group for choir practice, really a friendly game of poker. The oldest member is 92 years old, the others are 85, 78 and 73, and I’m the youngster. The major topic of conversation is our health and how to maintain our quality of life.

At the last meeting of the group, one of the members announced that he had to have an operation on his prostate. The others shared their comments and advice, consoled him and offered to be of help to him and his family.

I’ve been thinking about our industry and not only physical maladies but mental ones as well. With all the changes we are seeing and the need to capture the big box sales, I’m convinced our industry is suffering from hardening of the mind and heart.

We have only to turn on TV and watch "The Apprentice" to see the techniques Donald Trump uses to get one employee – spend 16 weeks and go through 20 people to see who will survive. Big industry thrives on making big bucks and pays CEOs millions while they lay off 1,000 people.

In our industry, there have been attempts to acquire companies and put them into large corporations. However, most of these attempts have failed. Also there have been many small growing operations that have gone out of business. While many of them were good growers, they lacked the business and marketing skills to survive.

In the past, our industry looked great. It was easy to get into and didn’t require a lot of money. You could learn the business while you grew the plants. You built your own greenhouse on 10 acres you already owned. You grew plants as a part-time job while you worked on the farm to make the money you needed to build your greenhouse business.

I know hundreds of families that started this way and now have children and grandchildren either in business with them or operating their own greenhouses. However, there are people who tried this venture and failed within the first three to five years.

The difference between these two groups is that the successful growers had a vision and worked to make it happen. The unsuccessful group got caught up in the physical stages and were usually unsure about what their goals were. Their vision was never properly developed.

If we look at our industry as a whole, we could be classified as a mature industry. Our sales have leveled off or increased only slightly. About 47 to 50 percent of our product is marketed through fewer than 10 big box stores, and thus is forced into being a commodity rather than individual plants or products. 

What’s Ailing Us

I believe our industry is suffering from psychicsclerosis and cardiosclerosis – hardening of the mind and heart.

Psychicsclerosis: We have let our minds go into a resting state. We have convinced ourselves that we either have to get bigger or perish and that small or middle-sized growers either have to sell to the bigger companies or go out of business. Our only options are get bigger, sell to a larger grower or quit the business.

Suggested Treatment: Don’t hang around with negative people. Don’t say negative things. Don’t talk about bad weather conditions. Don’t tell people the plants won’t sell, times are hard, employees are poor workers and the buyer is a dummy. Negative statements and thoughts attract negative people, negative actions and negative results.

Be positive. Always tell people about your great business, the great people you have working with you, the great job your salespeople do selling and how successful your customers are using your product.

Don’t use the weather as an excuse. The weather changes, but people still love plants. If they don’t buy them now, they will buy them when the sun shines. Records over the last years show that sales trends may vary by a week or two, but the end results are very similar.

You may need a shot of enthusiasm (the word means "God within us"). You must have faith in what you do. You must have faith in the people who work with you, your growers, your salespeople, your buyers, and most of all your customers. Also, you must have faith in yourself. Remember that the last four letters of enthusiasm stand for "I Am Sold Myself."

You can worry about everything, but only 10 percent of what you worry about will actually happen. The other 90 percent can be cured by faith. Believe that you, your people and your customers will solve the problem.

Cardiosclerosis: If we don’t have our heart in our business, we will suffer from cardiac arrest. I’ve seen all types of personalities in our industry. I’ve met funny people, strict people, introverts, extroverts and people of every race and creed. Most of them have been excellent owners and CEOs. However, I have never seen a successful business with an absentee owner.

If the person who founded and developed the business thinks it is possible to give it to the children or sell it to a third party and walk away with a profit, the business is usually doomed.

Suggested Treatment: Very few businesses last three generations unless those in leadership roles have a sense of the history and values of the business. There is a greater chance of success if the owner or family member has been active in the business and remains the figurehead of the operation.

When I first came to Kalamazoo in 1966 to talk to growers about converting from vegetables to bedding plants, I met the patriarch of a greenhouse business. At the time he must have been between 65 and 70 years old. His son was learning the ropes and was actively involved in the change from field to greenhouse growing. The son and his wife had several children. Everyone knew the history of the business, and the patriarch was there to make sure they never lost sight of its vision and values.

He worked every day of his life in the field or the greenhouses. On his last day, he worked in the morning, went home for lunch and a nap and said he would come to dinner that night with his son and daughter-in-law. He didn’t make it to dinner, but passed away in his sleep that afternoon.

Dedication is essential to a successful business. Your heart has to be in it. Some businesses today don’t have a heart. The owners want to take the money and leave.

The secret of success in business and in life is to realize that you must be positive, surround yourself with positive people who are smarter than you are and who know and believe in the goals and vision of your company. These are the secrets of businesses that survive for generations.

The greatest joy of an entrepreneur is to have a business and family that survives and does well after he or she is gone! If you are successful with your family and your business, I’m sure that you will be at the top!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

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 Management

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
Latest Stories

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

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Nexus greenhouse construction for Knox Cannabis Facility

July 27, 2017

Ornamental Growers Will Revolutionize Cannabis Industry…

Professional growers have much to offer the emerging cannabis market, according to the co-owner of Knox Medical, one of the licensed cannabis producers in Florida.

Read More
Ball ColorLink logo

July 11, 2017

Get Guidance on Running Your Business from Ball ColorLi…

Representatives from Ball ColorLink will be on-hand at Cultivate’17 to answer questions and present business-building tools and industry insights to growers.

Read More