Over the decades, Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has become a hub for water features in the area. That’s something Greg Steele, retail manager, credits to a previous part-time owner who delved into water gardening upon his arrival.
Over time, the garden center transitioned from offering water plants and fish to including ponds, waterfalls and fountains in its landscaping services.
As a certified Aquascape distributor, dealer and installer, Steele says the garden center mainly offers that brand, and always has the latest technology from the company. Each year, they also send their crew to Pondemonium, Aquascape’s yearly water garden training and networking event in Chicago, Illinois. There, attendees learn new ways of pondscaping and selling equipment.
While Willow Ridges’ sales are largely made up of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, Steele says the water feature transactions are “pretty close.” He also says part of their marketing strategy is product placement.
“We have 10 water features on site,” Steele says. “When you come to our store, the entryway on either side has a water feature. In front of our [first] cabin building, we have four water features. And then, around the rest of the property, there are several fountainscapes, water features and displays.”
When it comes to educating customers about the eco-friendliness of water features, Steele says having a crew well-versed in their advantages helps a great deal.
“We have a knowledgeable staff and anytime somebody asks questions, we have somebody there that can answer any question someone may have about aquatic life that lives in and around ponds,” he says. “We inform ourselves so that we can inform our customers.”
For garden centers that aspire to offer water features or that are already doing so, Steele says the key to great sales and great service is being knowledgeable.
“You need to learn your products and the best way to do that is by using the resources available. That way, your staff will be able to inform the customer because most homeowners that are getting into water gardening don’t know a whole lot about it,” Steele says. “That’s where we come in.”
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renba’
Bred by Bailey Innovations
How long has it been on the market?
Introduced to growers 2018, retail 2020
6 to 7 feet / 4 to 5 feet
Full sun to part shade
With strong, upright stems and large cone-shaped flower panicles that stay upright, this plant is a summer stunner. Like the other paniculatas from Mr. Renault at Pépinières Renault, the flower color starts out white in July, then progresses to dark pink. Coloring occurs from the bottom and progresses to the top of the panicle.Berry White blooms a little later than Strawberry Sundae and about the same time as Vanilla Strawberry. Color shades can vary according to location, climate and type of soil.
Consumer care requirements
Prune in early spring and fertilize with balanced NPK.
We live in unprecedented times. Due to an invisible enemy, fear and fatigue surround businesses, communities, individuals and families. Casualties multiply. Impatience and anger unexpectedly erupt. At the same time, heroes have stepped up in big ways. There have been acts of great sacrifice and generosity, and creativity has flourished as we’ve found new ways to connect, serve and work.
Turbulent times offer unique invitations for leaders to shine. Without WWII, Winston Churchill would little be remembered. Because of his decisive and inspiring leadership, Britain persevered through the war’s darkest days and Churchill is still greatly admired.
What you do as a leader matters now more than ever. Here are five tips for leading well during difficult times:
Despite how you are feeling and what’s going on around you, if you haven’t already done so, your team needs you to step up. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you must lead the conversation. Ask questions. Get input. Then, make the best decisions you possibly can. As you lead by your words, actions and example, your team will step up to the plate and join you in the fight.
2. Lead with honesty and vision.
Trust is the cornerstone of great leadership. Rather than shielding employees from what’s happening or offering misleading statements, directly communicate what is going on. If your business is struggling, be honest. Then, lay out your vision for facing this difficult time and coming out stronger together on the other side.
3. Lead by taking care of yourself and asking your team to do so as well.
Burning the candle at both ends takes a toll on your body and jeopardizes your team’s well-being. It’s during difficult times you most need reserves. Take time to eat right, sleep, exercise, connect with loved ones and engage in activities that remind you that the world is greater than what you are currently facing. Just as your car needs gas to keep running, you need emotional and physical fuel for the battle you are facing. Your team will follow your lead, and it’s far easier to avoid burnout than to bounce back from it.
4. Lead with compassion for yourself and others.
Understand that many on your team are grieving, frightened, fatigued and even angry. Expect emotions to be closer to the surface than usual. At the same time, don’t give a free pass for bad behavior. While it’s OK to be frustrated, it’s no excuse to yell, belittle, intimidate or humiliate anyone. Express gratitude, offer encouragement and rally around teammates who are experiencing tough days.
5. Lead by looking for the positive and lessons learned.
While it may not feel like it, there is always a silver lining. If you don’t find yourself naturally looking for the positive, it’s time to begin training yourself to do so. Focusing on what’s wrong, bad or unfair is not only depressing, it also keeps you and your team stuck. On the other hand, looking for the positive and what’s been learned creates energy and positions you to move forward to face challenges head on.
Strong, honest, caring leadership is critical during this challenging time. Your team needs your leadership now more than ever. Your team needs hope and direction now more than ever. Your team needs to pull together now more than ever. If you, like Churchill, will guide and inspire your team through this difficult period, you can expect to come out of it victorious and with your head held high.
The author works with organizations who want to elevate their engagement, productivity and profitability. Learn more at sherenemchenry.com
During the last four months, the word “coronavirus” has become a permanent part of our vernacular. While it has outstayed its unwanted welcome, the pandemic has swept the normal maneuverability of society, specifically for members of your workforce. Here is how to best handle the casualties of COVID-19, according to two experts.
Although termination, layoff and furlough are terms employers should be familiar with, Michael Maggiotto, senior human capital advisor at BEST Human Capital & Advisory Group, says the terms are often used synonymously, but have different legal definitions and treatments. While termination is the complete end of employment, layoff and furlough are more complex.
“Furlough is a temporary but mandatory unpaid leave,” Maggiotto says. “Oftentimes, furloughs are used for partial weeks or short weeks at a time. It keeps that employment relationship active even though employees are not being paid during that time frame. It saves the company on labor costs, some that might occur from separations, severance packages or even when asked about placement services. When the furlough is over, bringing employees back is simple. There’s no recruiting expenses or other related expenses or training and development of new staff because they can just literally pick up where they left off.”
Maggiotto says layoff is the combination of termination and furlough, and is intended to be temporary. While companies intend to replenish that spot, it is still considered a “clean separation” from the company and involves related expenses.
“You have costs associated with severance packages, outplacement services and other types of separation costs that have to be incurred by the organization,” he says. “One of those — and it all depends on the volume of employees impacted by the layoff — could be triggering of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act unless [layoffs] are done as the WARN Act. This does require and place certain burdens for notification to employees, certain costs and burdens from an outplacement and options for certain classifications on employees. A lot of things need to be done.”
During a pandemic, state or national emergency, these are generally handled the same unless executive orders motion otherwise, like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), for example.
When determining which route to take, however, Maggiotto says there are four factors that should be considered: people first, planning, ethical decision making and cashflow/cash reserves.
“From the people first standpoint, it’s really, ‘Does the company have the focus on people? Are they committed to caring for the people first and foremost?’” Although this sounds like basic leadership, Maggiotto says there are business that look at people as replaceable.
“This crisis and future crises alike, is really going to shine a great light on the significant magnitude of businesses where leadership is not focusing on people as much, versus those who really do,” he says.
According to Maggiotto, strategic planning is the “cornerstone” of businesses and it is “critical” to have a continuity plan, infectious disease control plan and disaster recovery plan.
Since a large part of the green industry is made up of smaller companies, Maggiotto says he often sees owners neglect creating missions, visions and values. But according to him, when entrepreneurs build their business plan and complete the required documentation, they can be drawn from those files.
“It’s time to pull those out and put them on something employees can see because those missions, visions and value statements form the ethical culture of your organization and should be the yardstick against which all decisions are being made.”
Cashflow and cash reserves
Given COVID-19’s abruptness, Maggiotto says cashflow and cash reserves are causing “knee-jerk reactions.” While most businesses share concern for their employees and aim to make ethical decisions, having cashflow and cash reserves is a determining factor.
But even given these circumstances, Maggiotto says referring to your “yardstick” is important.
“You should always be referencing the mission, vision and values to ensure that the decisions you’re making are ethical and that you are transparently communicating the what, why and how with your employees. How you exit is just as important as how you enter and how you operate your business,” he says.
Todd Downing, managing partner and co-founder of Best Human Capital & Advisory Group, agrees with Maggiotto and says candid conversations are best.
“If we don’t know information, it’s human nature to start conjecturing and making up facts,” he says. “That’s why we have to be transparent, especially at a time like this. How you treat people during a crisis is a reflection of the leadership’s values and who you really want to be.”
But how are terminations, layoffs and furloughs completed without discriminating? Since many smaller employers lack strategic HR professionals, Downing says they’re needed to help ensure ethical, yet professional decisions and to avoid disparate treatment or disparate impact.
Disparate treatment is considered intentional discrimination and disparate impact is considered a product of a “good faith attempt” gone wrong that negatively impacts one or more protected classes. To eliminate their potential, both Downing and Maggiotto stress the importance of hiring an HR professional; one who is strategic and equipped to protect companies from liability, but also provide employer rights.
“When a business decision is made, as long as it can be supported by a solid business case focused on business necessity, then in general, the business should be able to avoid any difficult situations,” Downing says.
During a pandemic like COVID-19, to balance this, they suggest making decisions that surround the idea that everyone — employers and employees — have an obligation to protect society and their families, and do what’s best for one another.
“One of the key things to remember — which is hard to do since we’re still in the early stages and have not yet hit peaks almost anywhere in the U.S. — is that this will pass,” Maggiotto says. “And businesses need to be prepared to have a plan to normalize those operations as quickly as possible.”