Happy New Year? By Bridget White

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

And like the typical optimist in our industry, I look backover last year’s bad weather, slow economy and production challenges and thinkthis year will be better.

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

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

Start with resolutions

If we’re going to make this year successful for ourselves asgrowers 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 fivegoals as resolutions; if you don’t make resolutions, think of them as goals orprojects 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 whatbenefits that could have for your company, but you shouldn’t just manage thatrelationship and not give attention to others. What about your vendors andsuppliers? Especially if you sell to only a few retailer outlets, those are themost 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 biggestasset,” but is that apparent the actual investments made in them?Generally not. They’re the ones actually making your business work; do you havea bonus system in place for when they do something exceptionally well? Whatabout insurance, paid time off, formalized training or career path development?What about some of these things for part-timers or seasonal workers? Benefitsare expensive, but so are finding and training new help.

Challenge your processes. Do you add new varieties to your mix every year? What about newchemicals or growing techniques? It’s not that you need to completely changeyour program every year, but there are regular advances in chemistry orapplication 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 itemsor processes that actually benefit you or your operation. It will save moneyand time and create a better product.

Add value. I reallystruggled with this resolution. My inclination was to say something aboutpricing, but many times, pricing is out of our control. The retail outlet payswhat they have decided on and not a penny more (especially if that outlet isWal-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 morethan a commodity

Take time away. Awayfrom work, away from the industry, away from all the things you do and thinkabout day after day. I know people — both growers and allieds — who visitPortland, Ore., every year for the FarWest show and have never been to thenational rose testing garden or have never driven the Columbia River gorge. Wefly into a city to attend a trade show or meeting, go back to the hotel everynight and get on a plane when the meeting is over. A healthy industry requireshealthy, happy people (pretty sappy but true). If you take time away from workto rejuvenate, you’ll be better when you go back.

I’m running out of space, but before signing off for themonth, 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 aprosperous new year that fulfills all your wishes.

Bridget White

Bridget White is editor of GPN.

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