Happy New Year?

January 22, 2004 - 13:44

Wow! A new year. I know many people think it's cheesy, but I
like to use the occasion of changing my calendar to reflect on what the
previous year brought and anticipate what the coming year might bring.

And like the typical optimist in our industry, I look back
over last year's bad weather, slow economy and production challenges and think
this year will be better.

We certainly can't control the weather, but after a year of
drought and a year of cold and rain, what's left besides good weather? And as
for the economy, all indications are good. Throughout most of the country,
poinsettia prices held until right at season's end, indicating a consumer
willingness to spend money, and many of the manufacturers allied to our
industry are reporting healthy orders for the spring season and beyond.

Yes, it looks like we might be in good shape for 2004. If
you want some more in-depth predictions, take a look at the guesses from some
of your peers on page 20.

Start with resolutions

If we're going to make this year successful for ourselves as
growers and as an industry, there are a few goals we need to keep in sight.
Since I love to make resolutions, I'm couching what I think are the top five
goals as resolutions; if you don't make resolutions, think of them as goals or
projects or whatever works for you...just keep them at the top of your list.

Nurture relationships.
I wrote recently about maintaining a close relationship with your bank and what
benefits that could have for your company, but you shouldn't just manage that
relationship and not give attention to others. What about your vendors and
suppliers? Especially if you sell to only a few retailer outlets, those are the
most important relationships you have...you can't give them too much attention.

Invest in your employees. Everyone says it when asked, "Our employees are our biggest
asset," but is that apparent the actual investments made in them?
Generally not. They're the ones actually making your business work; do you have
a bonus system in place for when they do something exceptionally well? What
about insurance, paid time off, formalized training or career path development?
What about some of these things for part-timers or seasonal workers? Benefits
are expensive, but so are finding and training new help.

Challenge your processes. Do you add new varieties to your mix every year? What about new
chemicals or growing techniques? It's not that you need to completely change
your program every year, but there are regular advances in chemistry or
application method or production practices that would benefit you in the long run.
Don't change just to change or just to have something new; look for the items
or processes that actually benefit you or your operation. It will save money
and time and create a better product.

Add value. I really
struggled with this resolution. My inclination was to say something about
pricing, but many times, pricing is out of our control. The retail outlet pays
what they have decided on and not a penny more (especially if that outlet is
Wal-Mart). But there are things you can offer that will raise the total sale.
Larger baskets, new varieties, exclusives, service programs,
training...something to show the retailer that you're supplying them with more
than a commodity

Take time away. Away
from work, away from the industry, away from all the things you do and think
about day after day. I know people -- both growers and allieds -- who visit
Portland, Ore., every year for the FarWest show and have never been to the
national rose testing garden or have never driven the Columbia River gorge. We
fly into a city to attend a trade show or meeting, go back to the hotel every
night and get on a plane when the meeting is over. A healthy industry requires
healthy, happy people (pretty sappy but true). If you take time away from work
to rejuvenate, you'll be better when you go back.

I'm running out of space, but before signing off for the
month, I do want to say Happy New Year. From the staff of GPN -- Bridget,
Carrie, Catherine, Doug, Kelley, Neda, Tami and Tim -- we wish you and yours a
prosperous new year that fulfills all your wishes.

About The Author

Bridget White is editor of GPN.

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