It is hard to fathom that another year has come and gone. And, yes, it is true when your parents tell you that the older you get the faster the years seem to pass.
With age, I’ve begun to look at the transition from one year to the next like erasing a chalkboard; our chance to wipe the slate clean and begin again anew. No different than the change of the seasons, I guess.
Coincidentally, this piece also marks the end of my two-year gig as a Tip Jar columnist. I’m grateful to have had this time to share my thoughts with you. I may not have always been right, but hopefully I’ve provided some food for thought and/or another viewpoint to stimulate discussion. Rather than focus this last piece on one subject, I’ve opted to share some thoughts on various topics I think are key to the future of our businesses and the industry. With all my heart I believe we are lucky to live and work in the green industry and alongside Mother Nature. I truly think you’ll never find another group that is so giving and supportive of each other. While in some ways it is in our DNA to be growers, we need to continue to be better marketers and overall business people.
Accept change. If I didn’t repeat this mantra one last time, some of you would think I was sick. It’s all about change, my friends. It’s also about perspective. While not the easiest thing to do, viewing change as a gateway to opportunity is the path of least resistance and can be the road with the most reward.
Embrace social media. Don’t bury your head in the sand, because when you eventually pull your head out and look around, you’ll be left in the dust. Check your ego at the door on this one, folks; if you don’t understand it, be big enough to acknowledge it as the choice of communication, not for the future but for right now, and empower someone to manage it for your company. Pick one form of social media, do it, do it right or don’t do it at all.
Know your entire channel of distribution. Just because segments of the industry think something is a trend or buzzword on the professional side does not automatically mean it has flowed through to reach the consumer. When doing presentations to consumers this year in conjunction with my book Garden-pedia: An A-Z Guide to Gardening Terms, I’ve queried audiences to see if they know the terms native, nativar and sustainability, as well as if they know certain plant brands. You’d be shocked at what they do, and more importantly, don’t know. I’m referring to the general gardening public, as well as those you’d think have more experience such as master gardeners. It doesn’t mean those perceived trends are not the right path, just know what you’re getting your company in to by hanging your hat on said trend. It can be a differentiation strategy but only if there is a perceived value by the consumer.
Consider a national marketing campaign. I don’t think we’ll see a true national marketing campaign in the foreseeable future, relying instead on a more grassroots effort. There are some very worthy marketing efforts that we could, and should, get behind such as America in Bloom and #PlantSomething. These two are not competitive but complementary in nature. If our industry does not make a concerted effort to help educate consumers on the value of our products and services, then who will? We must have some level of organized campaign and these two, for instance, have created a strong foundation upon which to build. This scenario is one where we need the masses to be involved. It won’t work if we only rely on the same people who are always willing to carry the torch.
Spend adequate time working on the business not trapped working in it. Be the leader your employees need you to be.
Strive for that work/life balance. Most times this is easier said than done. If you and your family aren’t healthy and happy, then that will permeate in to your workplace, and not in a positive way.
Maria Zampini is president of Upshoot LLC and Director of Plant Development and Ornamental Program Manager for the HGTV HOME Plant Collection.