A few weeks ago, I decided to become educated. I went to Longwood Gardens, which was hosting Lilytopia, a 10-day event displaying thousands of cut lily stems, as well as a professional growers symposium. I don’t grow cut lilies, but I am doing research on pot lilies. There was nary a pot lily to be had at the show, so why attend?
That was easy: I knew I would learn something from the symposium and maybe even take a great idea or two home with me. That is how education works. You will never learn anything if you don’t make the effort to do the learning.
At meetings like this, “bankable” comments are always floating around. A bankable comment is one that is obvious when you hear it for the first time and then grows on you, like interest from a savings account but with a better return.
As usual, I was chatting with other attendees during the breaks, and one topic that came up was how well (or poorly) people are faring in this economy. I found myself talking with Henk Berbee, of Leo Berbee & Sons, and mentioned that, given the current circumstances, growers were highly optimistic. Henk looked straight at me and said, “Allan, my dad once said ‘You can’t stop a person from succeeding. He may get tired, but if he wants to succeed, circumstances will not stop him.'” The more I thought about what Henk’s dad said, the more it grew on me. It was definitely bankable.
I’m not a great lover of professional meetings, but I realized long ago that the more ideas I can glean from others at these gatherings, the higher the chances one of those ideas will be a winner.
There are no shortages of opportunities to glean. At the Longwood meeting, surrounded by 150 other like-minded folks, I learned a little more about Florel on lilies, local marketing, post-harvest treatments and more importantly, I talked with people who also wanted to learn. Without a doubt, many ideas thudded against my thick skull and fell lifelessly to the ground. I was not able to handle some of the trends forecast concepts, thinking much of it was nonsense.
However, when all was said and done, I even learned something from that presentation: to simply be aware what is happening around you.
I don’t believe I have ever been to a meeting or interacted with a group in which I haven’t learned something useful. Yet, many professional meetings are having trouble staying in business these days. State grower conferences have all but disappeared, regional meetings have been struggling to stay afloat and people simply are not attending. Tough economic times, too busy, heard it all before–all are common excuses for lack of attendance. And all are valid, I suppose.
I suppose if people don’t want to show up, why force it? That is free choice at its purest, isn’t it? Yet, why do I always seem to see the same successful people at meetings, the ones who do “know it all?” They have the same economic issues and they are equally busy, but they realize there are always people to see and messages to take home. One idea picked up from a coffee break conversation or a tour bus seatmate can turn a business in a new direction.
Judy Laushman of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers commented on the attendance of cut flower growers at Longwood. She says there is no ideal time for any growers to leave their farms, yet these meetings are the most important reason for growers to leave their farms. More than 70 growers who showed up at Longwood for two days–during the busiest time of the season–apparently agreed with her. They want to succeed.
Ko Klaver of Zabo Plant and I also chatted for a while. He is a mover and shaker, pure energy made human, and did the lion’s share of bringing Lilytopia to Longwood. Ko can take the germ of an idea, grow and harvest it before most others have gotten into the field. “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack,” says Klaver, who helps make people successful.
So, let’s keep the faith. Let’s be smart. And let’s listen to what Henk’s dad said. Because the more I think of it, the more I agree: You cannot stop a person from succeeding. You’ll probably see many of them at some meeting or another–all you have to do is go.