Too Busy to Talk?

May 13, 2003 - 10:21

Even during your busiest month of the year, there are improvements to think about.

May is the busiest month of the year for most growers in the
United States, as well as most garden centers. In fact, the spring season is
epitomized by the long hours growers put in during May trying to get all of the
crops ready for shipping and sales. For growers, shipping seems to be going on
around the clock, seven days a week during May, and for garden centers, May
brings in the most customers shopping for their dreams.

But for May to be a good month, the weather has to
cooperate. The traditional selling weekends of Mother's Day and Memorial Day
are very big for both growers and retailers. Rainy weekends during May mean
less sales and more reliance on June to make money. With all of this going on,
it is no wonder that May brings out the most conflicts between staff members.
Whether in the greenhouse, the garden center or the front office, tempers run quick
as patience wears out and exhaustion sets in.

Tips for Coping

When working with my clients during May, I try to keep
things simple. The three areas I emphasize are: 1) keep the plants watered and
fed if needed, 2) get the growth regulator drenches on in time and 3) keep
plants clean of insects and diseases. May is not the time to try to optimize
culture for many different crops. Just staying up with watering, drenching and
spraying is almost too much.

Many growers have difficulty trying to schedule time for
spraying when shipping is going on all the time. Learn how to drench with
A-Rest, Bonzi or Sumagic to hold crops where you want them until shipped or
sold. And don't believe it when sales says that all of that crop will ship out
tomorrow. Drench it with a growth regulator anyway! Keeping up with the demands
of customers, along with training staff and keeping fresh plants stocked, will
drive many growers to the back greenhouses where they don't have to have
contact with anyone; the last thing you want to have to worry about is stretch!

Now is the Time

Even though May is so busy, it is an excellent time to talk
with your customers. Whoever your customer is -- garden centers at the
wholesale level or consumers at the retail level -- schedule some time in the
field. How else are you going to get such timely feedback or input?

Ask your customers what is selling. What is not selling?
What are they specifically looking for, especially if they have that lost look
on their faces when they come into the garden center? And finally, what can you
do better? You might be surprised at the comments, and how even tiny things can
make a big difference. Implement any small changes you can right away, and
write down the larger things to discuss with your staff after the season is

The most important thing to do is make sure employees within
an operation talk with each other. Day-to-day issues can become major
misunderstandings when people do not make time to talk and understand what is
going on. Just a little slip of the tongue in passing can be turned into a
personal calamity by the end of the day.

Help each other out if you have a little extra time.
Remember, everyone is rowing the same boat, so learn how to row together. Keep
your sense of humor, and help others to laugh at least once a day.

If you are the owner or manager, try providing some kind of
unexpected treats for your staff members about once a week. Keep them guessing!
Donuts, bagels, pizza, cupcakes or any other food treat would be great. Give
out little trinkets or other on-the-spot rewards for performance above and
beyond the call of duty. Encourage others to cheer their own staff when the
going gets the toughest. Remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
You just might have to get to June or July to see it, but it is there!

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