Griffin Greenhouse Supplies recently announced two new additions to its sales team. Bill Watson has joined Griffin as a Sales Representative serving southern Texas and all of Colorado. Andrea Nelson has been hired as a Sales Representative in the upper Midwest, calling primarily on accounts in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Both Watson and Nelson will focus on sales and support of Griffin’s live goods products, including seed, cuttings, and young plants.
Watson is a 30-year veteran of the horticulture industry. His extensive experience includes roles in production, marketing, and sales. Most recently, Watson served as President and Director of Sales and Marketing with Grimes Horticulture. He holds a bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Nelson comes to Griffin with a background both in the industry and beyond. She holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Auburn University, and has worked as a research assistant and, most recently, as a grower for Natural Beauty Growers in Denmark, WI. Away from the greenhouse, Nelson is a second lieutenant and platoon leader with the Wisconsin Army National Guard; her service includes a one-year tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Both Bill and Andrea share Griffin’s focus on customer success, and know first-hand what it takes for growers and retailers to thrive,” says Brian Sullivan, Director of Sales for Griffin. “We have every confidence that their knowledge and real-world experience will be valuable assets to our customers.”
Greenhouse Grower recently caught up with both Watson and Griffin and asked them about the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the horticulture industry, and how they plan to work closely with growers to help them overcome these challenges.
Greenhouse Grower (GG): How did your previous experience prepare you for this new role?
Bill Watson: I’ve been fortunate to have worked in all aspects of horticulture, from research in college, to being a grower, to sales, to marketing, to running a company. This has given me a very good understanding of how our products get to market and how the consumer views those products. So I simply try to incorporate that into the daily work that I do, focusing on my customers’ needs and the daily challenges they face, to bring a product to market and, at the same time, create profit for their operations. I chose to work for Griffin because of the wide range of benefits it offers to growers along these lines. Griffin offers in-depth product knowledge, cultural help through GGSPro, great personal service, and the wide choices of products that growers need to be successful in today’s marketplace.
Andrea Nelson: While attending Auburn University, I was able to study under some extremely knowledgeable and experienced professors. I had the opportunity to conduct plant-pathology research with Dr. Kira Bowen, and learn about plant diseases and micro-propagation.
Upon completion of my B.S. in horticulture with an emphasis in greenhouse and nursery management, I took a position as a grower with Natural Beauty in Denmark, WI. There, I was able to put into practice many of the techniques I’d learned at Auburn. I learned and refined my skills under the experienced growers at Natural Beauty. I was able to experience and understand the challenges that our industry faces, and what types of products are expected on the market. I’m so thankful for their mentorship which has prepared me for my new role with Griffin.
My experiences with the U.S. Army National Guard have also played a large part in preparing me for this role. Through commitment and dedication, I’ve developed skills in leadership, teamwork, effective communication, and organization.
GG: What are some of the biggest issues or concerns you’ve heard from the growers you work with, and how do you plan to help them deal with these issues?
Watson: I think there’s growing concern over labor going into the next decade. With a slightly better economy and a shrinking work force, getting seasonal labor could be a chore. Growers must look at ways to reduce labor per crop through mechanization, or figure out ways to do things more efficiently and with less labor inputs. Only through mechanization or streamlining production through more efficient methods or facilities can labor be reduced. There’s simply no other way to bring down labor costs or reduce the need for labor and still get the necessary work accomplished while creating profit.
I am impressed with the support that Griffin provides to its customers, with regard to production efficiencies, through its construction division. This team helps growers improve upon greenhouse space usage and product flow through the growing and shipping processes or upgrades necessary to maintain profitable, lean, low-labor production methods.
Nelson: One of the biggest issues I’ve heard from the growers I work with is how to be more efficient with less labor. How can we, as an industry, implement mechanization in the greenhouse to increase profitability and allow the grower to spend more time fine-tuning his or her crop, or even increase production? Griffin has the broad product offering and expertise to be able to offer smart, effective solutions in this area.
GG: What are the biggest challenges this industry is currently facing? Conversely, what are some of the biggest opportunities on the horizon?
Watson: I think the biggest challenge is understanding the change in product usage at the consumer level. Consumers are moving from gardeners to decorators and holiday to seasonal shoppers. Griffin is a company that’s already offering products to support this change in consumer demand.
We all know this shift is happening, but understanding when and how to make this change involves risk. I think the new marketing methods and the speed at which they happen are difficult for growers to fathom. We need to embrace the change as positive; I believe we can move the industry from just spring-based in many areas to a full-time use of the greenhouse or production areas. Consumers want our product benefits year-round; we just have to figure out how to deliver them and at a price point that works for consumers.
Nelson: I think the biggest challenge is to understand the trends in horticulture and how to adapt the way we do business to better anticipate those trends. Figuring out what drives the consumer across all generations can be a challenge. The industry can find this particularly challenging because our products tend to be a “want” and not a “need.” When the economy takes a turn, the industry can, too; this is why we have to be diverse and innovative.
With the increased technology and research, the horticulture industry has many opportunities. I feel that as we start to understand more and more about breeding and what consumers are looking for, we’re better able to cater to their needs and come up with new and exciting products year after year.
Along with increased research on plants, we also have increasing knowledge on the use of beneficial insects in the greenhouse. This could be something to look forward to as the industry slowly steps away from old chemical products and moves to a more biological approach to pest control.
GG: Looking ahead, what role can you play in moving this industry forward?
Watson: It all comes down to information sharing. I simply must do my part to help each and every willing customer find ways to get better at what they do, or what they want to accomplish on the sales, marketing, delivery, or production sides of their business. My job is simple: I have to be open to sharing new ways and new ideas for the grower to consider that fit their individual operation needs. I would encourage growers to sign up for all the Griffin Gazettes, retail tips, tech tips, and other Griffin e-news bulletins; those programs put forth great ideas for growers to capitalize on and use to their benefit.
Nelson: As the industry moves forward, I think it’s important to continue educating — not just the younger generation but also the consumers of our products — about the importance of the industry. I see myself sharing my knowledge and experience, and the insights of Griffin’s broader team of in-house experts, at all levels.
GG: If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
Watson: I would be on the Professional Bass Pro circuit, chunking lures all day long and talking about the one that got away.
Nelson: If I wasn’t in this profession, I think I’d be teaching agriculture or horticulture to middle school or high school students, preparing them to be stewards of the land and to have an appreciation for and understanding of agriculture.