2022 SEMNLA President's Message - January 2022

By Tim Parker
BlueWater Horticulture
President, SEMNLA Board of Directors

A wise man once told me that the only thing constant is change. One does not need to look too far to notice that so many things that had once been considered routine have become anything but that.

I have always thought the Green Industry, albeit very rewarding, has always been a challenging industry - dealing with perishable products that take, in some cases, years to produce, labor shortages, weather factors, etc. Certainly, the last two years have piled on so many more challenges including the health and safety of your family and your extended family, your team at work, and more challenges seem to be lurking over the horizon going into 2022.

We are looking at supply chain gaps and inflationary pressures, large increases in costs, uncertainty with freight, and, as always, the perennial challenge of getting (and keeping) great staff. It is my opinion that future success in today’s business climate will depend on great leadership and not only the ability to accept (tolerate) change but, moreover, to embrace it. Business “as-usual”  is no more. Today it is business as “unusual”.

So, what can you do to help grow your business? I have always felt that the people that are very open and transparent about their way of conducting business are usually the ones that are doing rather well. These are the folks that travel a lot to industry events, they visit other people’s businesses, they listen more than they talk, (a skill I haven’t yet conquered, but I am trying), they go to trade shows, and visit with colleagues and competitors alike. They are always on the lookout for what other folks are doing well and are not worried about being called a copycat. After all, they say “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” and I think our industry has always been very open and sharing.

Many moons ago, I was 25 years old and just out of college struggling to grow some plants. I was introduced to a grower named Marv Wiegand. He helped me with a recipe for a good growing media for bare root container shrub production—a plant grower helping somebody else to grow plants! Not in every industry will you find people that will help you with the sharing of proprietary trade info like that but I will tell you, I never forgot it and it certainly made me want to help those I could as I became older and hopefully wiser in this industry.

It’s the rule of reciprocity. That’s when somebody holds the door open for you in the vestibule and you feel compelled to hold the door open for them at the next door. There’s a lot of that going on in our industry and I encourage you to take advantage of it. It will help you grow your business.

I know a lot of you are feeling a wee bit tired after the last two years. With the emotional ups and downs and just the sheer amount of demand for our goods and services compounded by the lack of good help, folks are just worn out. I am old enough now to remember a couple of economic downturns, so much so that I vowed I’d never ever complain about being too busy. Busy is good!! And for the first time that I can remember there was an economic “event” and the Green Industry not only didn’t suffer, but it thrived and 2020 and 2021 were record years for many that I have spoken to.

This is Great news and it seems like our industry has had a rebirth of sorts. The virus and the corresponding restrictions on travel have cast a refocus on the simpler things in life, like sitting on a nice back yard patio with the family and grilling on an outdoor kitchen that overlooks the perennials in full bloom.

I have also noticed the younger demographics at the independent garden centers and out working in their yards – this is great news as well! I’ve attended so many seminars in the last 20 years that were very doom--loom about the younger generation not liking the yard “work”. I was even told that the word “gardening” was mentally associated by the younger generation with “work”, and Garden Centers should consider changing the semantics of the business from Garden Center to something less associated with “work”, like an outdoor living store or something to that effect. Really?

Well, I am very encouraged to see that the reports of the demise of the garden business have been somewhat exaggerated or flat-out incorrect. That being said, with all of the great success many of you have enjoyed these last two years, we know it can still be quite challenging. We encourage you to reach out to us at MNLA and regionally at the SEMNLA Chapter. We are Associations that enjoy helping people and we have a team of staff and volunteers on the Boards that have some great experience and love helping people. We offer a lot of resources to help you grow your business and this starts with our annual Great Lakes Trade Expo Conference & Trade Show (GLTE).

Being held January 24-26th, the GLTE features education, award ceremonies and receptions, and vendor trade show interactions with industry pros that include green goods, hardgoods, equipment, and professional services. Go to www.GLTE.org for a complete listing of events and everything you need to jump start your business going into 2022.

In closing, I’m extending a personal invitation to all of you and encourage you to join us at the SEMNLA Annual Meeting and Reception on Tuesday, January 25th (4:15-5:30pm) at the Riverstreet Pub in the Lansing Center, after the trade show at the GLTE.

I look forward to seeing you there!