As the year draws to a close, it’s helpful to evaluate where you are as a leader and organization. Are you stressed? Feeling overworked? Focused on the negative with yourself, your business, employees or customers? If so, your team is probably stressed and critical, and you’re most likely experiencing employee and customer turnover.
Or … are you grateful for the business you own or lead? Are you appreciative of your vendors, customers and staff and all they bring to the table? Better yet, are you regularly expressing gratitude and appreciation to those around you?
I’ve long stated, “As the leader goes, so goes the team.” Whether positive or negative, your attitude and leadership permeate your workplace and greatly impact productivity and profitability.
If you haven’t already keyed into gratitude and appreciation, it’s time to consider their effects on individuals as well as your business. Oxford defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It also defines appreciation as “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.”
Gratitude and appreciation are good for your business. They help you attract and retain outstanding employees. Furthermore, individuals indicate they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. Earn a reputation as someone who values and acknowledges hard work, and people will want to work for you.
Gratitude also positively benefits individuals. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, research indicates gratitude can “lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide … Grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence.”
Lastly, gratitude builds trust and engenders customer loyalty. Buyers choose where they do business, and it’s far easier to retain them than to continually find new ones. Think how you feel when a business you utilize knows your name, says thank you, offers perks and lets you know of things ahead of the general public.
The following are ways to cultivate a gratitude attitude:
Look for the positive. It’s always there, even when things go wrong. Make a mistake and you can beat yourself up, or you can be grateful that you are wiser and ready for the next time. Teach your employees to do the same and you’ll reap the rewards of a growth culture.
Focus on what is working. If the vast majority of your business is working well, the majority of your words should center around what is effective. When the positive receives attention, it gets repeated. Additionally, if you focus on the positive, when you need to address a problem, it’s far easier for others to hear and be invested in fixing it.
Say thank you. It costs virtually nothing to say thank you. Failure to express gratitude however, negatively impacts employees, customers and your bottom line.
Regularly identify at least three things you’re grateful for. Each time you do, you move yourself into a more productive zone. On tough days, your list may be water, air and shelter. It’s even more effective when you choose to focus on the people who work for and with you, and the customers who keep your doors open.
In addition to improving your well-being, expressing gratitude and appreciation to bosses, peers, management, employees, suppliers and customers, ensures your stake-holders feel valued. That’s a leadership game-changer every time.
Dr. Sherene McHenry, The People IQ Expert™, works with organizations who want to improve their people skills so they can increase engagement, productivity and profitability. Learn more at sherenemchenry.com.
If your IGC has more than two employees, chances are it’s a challenge to keep everyone fully informed. You want to be sure the entire staff is up to date about sales and new merchandise. Everyone should be knowledgeable about upcoming events, current pests in the area or common problems customers are experiencing. New hires need to be introduced, schedules disseminated and people notified about which employees are on vacation or away on business. But when people are on diverse schedules and work in different areas of the garden center, keeping everyone on the same page can be tricky.
I recently polled IGC people in several areas and found that there are many ways that our industry tackles this problem.
“I have a mini-meeting each morning in the lunchroom where everyone gathers before the day starts,” says Susan Russell Richards, the general manager at New North Greenhouses in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Similarly, Sandi Holmes-Schwedler, the senior buyer and gallery curator at North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas, reports that her employees also gather regularly. “We have a weekly staff meeting before we open on Fridays,” Holmes-Schwedler says. “Some meetings are all staff and some just sales staff. We teach about new products or plants that have just arrived, upcoming events and classes as well as keep them informed on incoming plant orders.”
At my garden center, Hyannis Country Garden on Cape Cod, we hold frequent “huddles,” although these aren’t on a regular schedule. Since huddles are convened during business hours, not all employees can attend. Each department tries to have at least one member at this meeting and that person is supposed to take what they’ve heard back to others in their departments. Sometimes this works flawlessly, but in the busy season the reporting might get derailed as customers ask for assistance or trucks arrive for unloading.
Many garden centers have one person take notes in meetings or huddles, and these are physically posted in a common location or sent out by email. But making sure the notes are complete and that everyone sees them can be problematic. Valerie Nalls, manager at Nalls Produce & Garden Center in Alexandria, Virginia, says, “This is what I have a challenge with … getting the daily information out to everyone. Maybe the huddle needs to be recorded?”
Notes and posts
Jodie MacKenn Bross, one of the owners of Glenwild Garden Center in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, says that they also hold meetings but not as frequently as she might like. “We’re small, only about 10 employees, but it’s hard to find a time when everyone is there together because of split shifts.” So MacKenn Bross puts notes near the schedule and says that one of her managers also sticks notes on the registers.
Others have success putting summaries on paystubs or posting them by the time clock. Marcia Chapman, the horticulturalist at Soares Flower Garden Nursery in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, says, “Our small nursery uses a centrally located notebook that all must read and initial each workday.” It’s not a perfect system, however. “Threats and reminders are required.” Chapman comments, “Compliance and retention are fair, but not great.”
Texts and emails
Many garden centers communicate via text messages or emails. MacKenn Bross says that she will frequently send group texts. “Some employees don’t check their email very often, but everyone gets texts.”
The downside of texts is that some employees have limits on their phone data. Sending frequent or lengthy messages in this way can cost them if they go over their service plan’s quota.
For those who do check emails, some garden centers use the same newsletter program that is utilized to communicate with customers. Employees receive their own editions as well as the version that’s sent out to the public. But other businesses turn to alternative digital options.
Apps and other software
Some IGCs report that they use the Slack app to send out notices to their staff, and I heard from several people who use their point of sale (POS) software to communicate. Wendy Weber, department head at Hanna’s Garden Shop in Birmingham, Alabama, says, “The VMX POS we have allows you to email another employee at any time from the register screen without having to go log in to your own work email. It also has a ‘task’ option, so you can assign tasks to employees via POS. Our employees come in, check their tasks and go forward.”
Others find additional apps helpful. Meghan Murray Burnett, a manager at Burnett’s Country Gardens in Salem, Connecticut, says, “We use When I Work for scheduling and it gives us the option to message the whole team, small groups or individuals. I use it for sending information that everyone or specific groups need to be aware of.”
Karen Hansen Van Duyvendyk, owner of Dutch Growers in Regina, Saskatchewan, uses Google and Facebook for very specific reasons. “We use Google Calendar and Facebook Messenger,” she says. “We have department-specific chat groups set up as well as a full team chat. I like it because I can see who has read it. We post schedules there, share videos and photos. And because we have a large number of Spanish-speaking employees, it’s great because it translates everything for them. My staff really likes this.”
At Cactus Jungle Nursery & Garden in Berkeley, California, Google programs are also used to keep in touch with staff. “We use Google Calendar for deliveries and special stuff like vacation days, trade events and so on, and Google sheets for the weekly schedules,” says Hap Hollibaugh, owner of two stores. “All employees are given access to see on their phones or at home, but only [a] limited number have access to edit.”
Hollibaugh also uses some of the lower-tech options for connecting. “We have a ‘communications’ binder with daily sheets at both stores,” he says, “and all salespeople review at the beginning of their shift. All employees have their own work email and we have magnetic marker boards on every locker, so notes can be easily left for each employee. We also do quick team meetings most mornings.”
In fact, most of the people who spoke to me about in-house communications say that they use several methods and that none of them are perfect. After listing emails, apps, Constant Contact newsletters and more, most would finish by saying, “We could do much better.”
It seems that good communications are similar to tending a garden: the effort is ongoing, always changing and never finished.
C.L. Fornari is a speaker, writer and radio/podcast host who has worked at Hyannis Country Garden, an IGC on Cape Cod, for more than 20 years. She has her audiences convinced that C.L. stands for “Compost Lover.” Learn more at www.GardenLady.com
Make the plan then work the plan. How many times have you been given this advice? Planning is good and executing your plans is even better. But what do you do when nothing seems to be moving in the right direction? If you’re looking to shake things up in your business and try new things in the new year, then I’d like to make a small addition to the adage — one that has always worked for me. Make the plan, work the plan, then change the plan.
Change is the name of the game of course in today’s marketplace. Not much stands still for long anymore but changing how you do business can be scary. The fear that making a big business change can illicit paralyzes many from making any changes at all. No doubt, there is always risk in making changes and trying new things, whether it’s in our personal or professional life. My question always is, though, what are you really risking by not trying or making a change? (See my Greenhouse Management July 2017 column - Flip your script on fear for more.)
Risks don’t come with guarantees. When you take a risk and try something new, you do so with the understanding that you can’t predict the outcome. Good planning certainly helps you make the most of the risks you take, but even good planning won’t always prevent bumps in the road. If you demand certainty and success from all your decisions, you are probably severely limiting your potential and that of your business. Knowing your personal risk tolerance is important when you’re weighing important decisions that create significant change. That said, acknowledging your fears about change and risk that hold you back is equally important. Finding a good balance between the two is the trick.
Taking a risk does not mean you are going to be successful. With every risk you take comes the risk of failure. Part of developing a healthy risk tolerance is being able to prepare for and shake off risks that didn’t pay off. Know that you will learn valuable things through failure that usually help you figure out how to take the next step successfully. Trying something new isn’t always about the outcome, but rather the process. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
How can I get fired this week? This is my personal approach, in case you wondered, to risk-taking and professional progress. Pushing boundaries, bucking convention and making up new rules is my comfort zone. Friction drives creativity and ingenuity, and unless you’re willing to turn up the heat, you may never see the change you wish to create. But my eagerness for change and risk-taking can make people around me uncomfortable. I’ve been accused of being over-confident and even arrogant. Rejection is often a reality of risk-taking. Sometimes it’s the personal rejection you’ll face when you change or take a risk that ends up being the biggest risk of all. So be it.
Clearly, many of you are not going to take my approach to risk taking. That’s OK. But like it or not, taking risks and trying new things does require you to be confident. Often it requires you to be overconfident. Being overconfident does seem to be a common trait amongst entrepreneurs. I’d argue, however, that for most of us confidence is a choice. Entrepreneurs and risk-takers have the same fears, insecurities and anxieties as anyone else. We regularly face rejection and judgement, and battle imposter syndrome. Getting past fears and anxiety about life and business decisions requires determination and decisions. It doesn’t just happen. Sometimes you simply need to act confident so you can better manage your own emotions. Fake it till you make it, if need be.
Getting outside your comfort zone in your business could mean investing significant monies to modernize your infrastructure. It could mean letting go of a long-term staff member who just is not the right fit any longer. Maybe it means getting in front of the camera more often to help market your business. Trying new concierge services or embracing online sales may be your next big step. The IGC industry tends to be change-averse when it comes to embracing new technology, so that is one area where you may need to push through your fear.
The change and risk we see facing many family-owned businesses these days is that of letting go completely of an existing business model or brand identity. Do you hang on to a legacy even if that legacy might be limiting your business viability or growth? Or do you change your business or brand to better appeal to and serve a changing customer demographic? Rebranding is exactly what many green industry businesses I work with need in order to grow and thrive. Success is never static.
Sometimes though, trying new things and taking risks on a much smaller scale can help you reap big rewards. For those of you who own your business, one of the scariest things might just be taking a day off now and then or delegating tasks to new people.
What will happen if I’m not there? How will my staff survive? Trust me, taking some personal time off now and then to take care of yourself might just be the best risk you take for your business and your staff. So, let’s go ahead and get those spa days on your 2020 calendar, now.
Change and risk can be terrifying, but can also be energizing and rewarding. As you’re planning for the new year, now is a great time to identify both big and small changes — and risks — you can make and take to energize your efforts.
Trying new things is the best way to keep learning and growing as a person and as a business.
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
What’s trending on Instagram
As the year winds down to a close, we’d like to thank all of our engaging Instagram followers for tagging us in your posts. From novel birdhouses and vintage garden décor to the lush greenery of home-grown plants, we love to interact and see the goings-on of our readers’ everyday lives. We look forward to another year of seeing your photos. Tag us @gardencentermag!
See it here.
Tomatoes from start to finish
How long does it take to grow a tomato? This time-lapse video by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre shows a bountiful tomato harvest grow — without the wait.
See it here.
Garden Center Trivia
THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:
What semi-parasitic holiday plant with leathery leaves and small white berries must obtain water and minerals from its host plant, but can produce food for itself?
Check back next month on Home Page for the answer!
Last month’s question and answer: Small pockets of air inside these fruits cause them to bounce and float in water. What fruit is this?
5 Stories in brief
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Whether it’s an herb gardening book or an urban how-to guide, help consumers find the perfect gifts for their loved ones by offering these bestsellers at your garden center. Read it here.
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Finding labor is a common challenge for most companies. Here are some unique ways to tackle it while helping others too. Read it here.
Lively Root looks ahead with a community-inspired focus
In this Q&A, we caught up with Jon Ewing, who co-created the e-commerce website, Lively Root. Read it here.