What’s your company’s culture? Are your people and departments fragmented into silos? Do they have an internal “us vs. them” mentality? When things go wrong, are blame and overreaction common responses? Or, are you working together toward a shared mission and common goals? Do you enjoy a “we” culture regardless of job or department? When a problem arises, do your people pull together to correct it?
Your employees’ responses when something goes awry say a great deal about your company’s organizational health and culture. Businesses filled with people who do what’s best for the company are far more pleasant and productive than organizations where decisions are based on an individual’s or department’s best interest.
Preventing tribalism and promoting cohesion and unity among all parts of your business is imperative to long term success. Whether your people are divided into departments such as retail, landscape, floral, container design or any other aspect of your business, a strong company spirit should be one of your primary goals and stated expectations. The following are suggestions for enhancing your company’s unity.
1. Keep your mission and vision first and foremost. Despite their differences, people pull together most easily when the vision and mission of their organization
2. Promote a team spirit. Your business, departments
3. Try some relatively inexpensive fun things like bringing in
4. Actively reward team players. What gets rewarded, gets repeated. If you want a “we” culture, publicly recognize and reward employees and departments that work together to solve problems and move your business forward.
5. Increase trust. Trust is enhanced when people treat each other respectfully despite problems, difficulties
6. Encourage informal gatherings in and out of the workplace, have routinely scheduled but brief meetings, and involve small, rotating teams in
7. Enhance communication on all levels. Get teams, and when possible, the entire company together to share good and bad news. Interact with your employees when things are going well, not just when you’re giving out new duties or talking about problems. When in doubt, over-communicate.
8. Hire carefully. Just as “One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel,” it is far easier to make a good hire than to clean up after a bad one. When interviewing, ask probing questions and pay attention throughout in order to determine if applicants are team players or interested in looking out for themselves. It’s better to operate shorthanded than to hire someone willing to disparage a former employer or colleague.
You’ll never go wrong focusing on creating strong relationships and a “we” culture. Retention and productivity will follow. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for
Sherene is a widely acclaimed speaker, author
As gardeners, might it be time to update our planting, digging and weeding wardrobe? I’ll admit, I have often had this internal dialogue with myself, especially after a neighbor has caught me out in my garden at 7 a.m. (when no one is supposed to see me). There I am, with my bed head, ratty t-shirt and old yoga pants that keep catching on rose thorns to the point of being full of holes. It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing much for the image of gardening (or myself for that matter!) After such unwelcome encounters, I always chastise myself for not making at least the tiniest effort to put on some functional and decent-looking clothing whilst I’m outside for all the neighbors to see.
I know what some of you are thinking: who cares what I wear when I’m gardening! And sure, aesthetics may not matter to you, or to some of your customers. Nor am I suggesting that we can get much done in the garden wearing billowing white linen shirts and big, stylish, floppy hats. But I bet comfort, mobility and durability sure do matter. My arms and legs sport an intricate highway of scars from rose thorns and other gardening-related altercations. Better protection that is also stylish and comfortable would serve me well.
Regular jeans get to be too uncomfortable for gardening, especially in the Texas climate. I used to do much of my gardening in jean overalls, as they were convenient, durable and had lots of pockets. But then overalls fell out of fashion after the ’90s and so over time, I traded them out for yoga pants, which make no sense in the garden. Neither do leggings or other athleisure wear, for that matter. My go-to garden sweats and yoga pants are pretty much trashed at this point and offer no real protection, and I bet your customers are looking for better options, too.
As you may have noticed, people are willing to spend good money on clothing that they mostly sweat in — i.e., those sometimes $100 workout leggings that are now in fashion — especially if it’s both functional and flattering. Why not the same for gardening?
So, where does the average consumer go to find good quality, durable, and comfortable gardening-appropriate garb? Too often, it’s not their local IGC. Most garden centers carry a limited assortment of garden clothing, and some don’t even bother to carry gloves. Some home improvement stores only carry men’s gloves — not kidding. But I do see lots of scarves at garden centers. Not that I’m opposed to scarves — I like scarves. But a great pair of durable gardening pants that fit would certainly be more likely to catch my attention.
Work pants, overalls and even coveralls are back in a big way, but now we must call them “vintage” or even better “heirloom.” Companies like Duluth Trading Company, Red Ant Pants, Rosie’s and Handy Ma’am Goods (what a great name) carry well-thought out work clothes, such as gardening overalls with smart features like harvesting bibs and zip-up gardening vests with lots of pockets. Plus, they offer multiple colors and configurations, catering to various styles. Note, this is not an endorsement of these companies, but it’s important to look at specific brands to view current trends and product options.
Coveralls are a piece of garden garb that I’m kind of obsessed with now. If you’ve ever done outdoor landscaping, you know the benefits of wearing a coverall. But women haven’t exactly had good options in this department, until now. Coveralls are even starting to show up in other fashion clothing lines, as an alternative to the jumpsuit. And don’t forget the short work apron. There are lots of new sturdy yet attractive gardening apron options available from these companies and many others, including some you may recognize from industry trade show floors.
I’m enamored with cooling arm sun sleeves, of which there are several brands. These are stretchy sleeves that slip on and cover your forearms for sun (and plant) protection. What a great way to prevent those pesky sunburns while you’re out in the garden and protect yourself from random plant attacks. In speaking of attacks, consider carrying bug-protection clothing, too. These come with a small price tag, so they are perfect for impulse sales.
Don’t skimp on gloves. Sturdy gardening gloves, for both women and men, in a good variety of task categories and sizes, are a must.
After researching these new gardening garb options, I pretty much want to spend my money on an entirely new gardening wardrobe. And that’s probably just what I’m going to do. Wouldn’t it be great if I did it at your garden center?Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural consulting, business and marketing strategy, product development and branding, and content creation for green industry companies. lesliehalleck.com
Mayo Garden Centers began carrying QMT Windchimes more than a decade ago, and the chimes have been a staple for the long-standing Knoxville, Tenn., retailer ever since.
“Customers like the durability, quality and sound of [QMT],” says Pat Humphrey, office assistant at Mayo Garden Centers. “There’s a big difference in the sounds of [QMT] as compared to other wind chimes.”
QMT offers a variety in its collection — different soothing tones guaranteed to bring feelings of peace to customers’ gardens and homes.
“The tone of them is just very beautiful,” Humphrey says. “I even have a set myself, and I just love them.”
She also notes the wind chimes’ look — which is offered in several different color options and designs — as a great selling point. A popular product among Mayo shoppers is the Kromatix line, which sells very well at each of Mayo’s three locations and comes in bold colors like lime green, hot pink and neon purple.
“[QMT is] the higher end of the wind chimes that we sell, although the price point is still good,” she says. “Customers are willing to buy them just because of the quality. [Price] doesn’t really deter them. A lot of people who have [purchased] them in the past will come in and buy them for gifts.”
Mayo almost completely sold out of its QMT stock in anticipation of Mother’s Day a couple of years ago and had to place another full order for the holiday.
In addition to boasting satisfied repeat customers, QMT Windchimes also provides top customer service to retailers.
“We’ve really not had any issues about having to return any [goods],” Humphrey says. “Once we get something in, it’s exactly what we ordered. We’ve never had to do any returns for anything being defective, and we’ve never had any customers [complain].”
Mayo carries all of the product varieties available from QMT Windchimes, but Humphrey says that the Corinthian Bells are easily their best-seller.
The Corinthian Bells are unique because they feature centrally suspended heavy-walled tubes with a high-density striker to give the chimes a noteworthy tone and resonance. The tubes are also powder-coated to match the dome and sail, so they offer a noticeably different appearance from run-of-the-mill metallic chimes.
Last year, Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area with record-setting rainfall and powerful winds. In its aftermath, garden centers and other businesses were left tending to the damage. While some experienced more severe damage that included torn up greenhouses and roofing, other centers had more luck, with minimal wear and tear.
In a previous story about garden centers involved in hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Nelson Water Gardens & Nursery near Houston dodged major flooding, but the surrounding neighborhoods weren’t so lucky. Continuous rain flooded the roads and shut down the nursery, halting recovery and business.
Now, the retailer has mostly recovered from the hurricane, but it has not been entirely able to catch a break from bad weather. We spoke to the store’s president, Rolf Nelson, for an update on his store’s recovery and what changes he’s implementing.
Q: After Hurricane Harvey hit, some retailers suffered some major damages. How did your store fare?
A: We did not have a lot of damage ourselves. We had a little water in my office, and a little water came through the room in our showroom, and we had to do some minor repair work. But compared to [other affected businesses], it was really nothing. The big effect of Harvey was just nobody coming [into the store].
Q: How did the business manage in the aftermath of the storm?
A: We just didn’t do business for six weeks to speak of. We were very fortunate in our case … I was trying to get our staff back together and give them a lay of the land of what was going to happen going through the fall. We just started a conversation with somebody who turned out being a high-end builder, and we hit it off, and we ended up doing demo work for him for the better part of six or seven weeks, which was our [only] income stream. We really had no landscaping going on at the time for our design-build [department]. [These jobs] kept us alive, basically.
Q: Were there any other weather incidents you dealt with this year?
A: The last Sunday of February, we had a microburst tornado come through the place. And our retail greenhouses that anchored the middle of our sales area got twisted to the ground. Amazingly, this thing bounced down, got caught underneath our greenhouse, went back up in the sky, and from what we understood from another customer, came down and hit their garage about a quarter mile away, but not their house. Then it went back up and didn’t damage anything else … for something like that, the amount of damage was very minimal.
Q: How has this spring season gone so far?
A: It was an unusually cold winter for this area, as I think it was for the rest of the country, although typically we start to see a resurgence of business in March that really just didn’t happen. We just didn’t have the weather in our favor.
Q: Despite the unfortunate weather you’ve experienced, I understand you’re making some renovation and re-branding efforts. What are some of the changes you are making?
A: We changed our fence line. We had a solid fence, and we wanted to open things up, and we were moving more heavily into shrubs and small trees, which we have not done much of in the past. We’re emphasizing our name more as Nelson Nursery. It’s still officially Nelson Water Gardens & Nursery, but we’re really emphasizing the nursery in how we present ourselves to people now. And with the open fence line and iron fence, it’s our billboard. People are able to look in and see all the plants, and it definitely has helped with the number of people from the immediate area stopping in.
Q: What were some of the challenges with implementing these changes?
A: [The tornado damage] was [bad timing]. So, we had to work very rapidly to just get rid of all the damage and set something up and be ready for business. We were cleaned up in a week’s time and ready for the next weekend.
Q: How have people responded to the store renovation?
A: People do seem to like it. We’re getting a lot of positive comments with the new look. We figured [it would be] at least a two-year build on the fact that we started doing more shrubs and small trees, that that wasn’t going to instantaneously make a huge impact. We’ve done pretty well overall in terms of getting people in and realizing we have some extras.
Samantha is an editorial intern for GIE Media’s Horticulture Group.