DEPARTMENTS


A new year, a new outlook

There certainly are external factors affecting our business that are out of our control, but the reality is, it still falls to each of us to be a catalyst for our own success.
By Maria Zampini


According to some we're not even supposed to be around to read this article. As you're probably aware, Dec. 21, 2012, was destined to be the end of the world. Surprise! We're still here. In actuality, the Mayans were more likely implying a transformation to the world as we know it - the end of a period of darkness and a shift into light and a rebirth to a new, more positive era.

It's a new day, a new month and a new year. You know, I've never been much for making New Year's resolutions. I'm not totally sure why. It could be that natural reaction to resisting change, or maybe it's the fear of failure. Or perhaps the thought of a huge list of things I'm supposed to do differently appears unrealistic or daunting.

While many of us in the green industry are still hurting, it does feel to me like the major bleeding has stopped and we're on an uphill climb, albeit a slow ascent. The election is over, hopefully the fiscal cliff has been avoided (if not, super shame on those guys in D.C.) and we can concentrate on growing and selling plants!

There certainly are external factors affecting our business that are out of our control, but the reality is, it still falls to each of us to be a catalyst for our own success. And while I've resisted resolutions in the past, in honor of this new year I'm going to take a chance, let go of the negative and accentuate the positive by suggesting some challenges for myself and our industry that I think are achievable - and necessary - for better business.

Me: I travel a lot, so while I still may purchase People or Soap Opera Digest at the airport, I'm going to utilize my flying time more wisely by going through consumer gardening magazines.

The Industry: Reading industry magazines is a business staple. However, we all share the same customers: the end consumer. I think sometimes out of sight is out of mind, and there is this "we're wholesale, not retail" mentality that just boggles my mind. Read a consumer horticulture magazine, sign up for its e-newsletter and/or "like" its Facebook page to get a better feel for what is reaching the homeowners. Shouldn't you want and need to see what they see?

Me: Like Yogi, I think I'm better than the average bear in the world of social media. But I realize that I don't know what I don't know. What I do know is this is how those in the next generation receive their information. Therefore my goals are long and vast, and they include: post more regularly to Pinterest; potentially set up a Pinterest business account; feel more comfortable posting to Twitter; don't forget about LinkedIn; figure out how to utilize BranchOut; master HootSuite so I can be more social media efficient; find out what the heck Instagram is all about; and the list goes on ... . Or maybe I'd better start small and master one at a time before moving on to the next.

The Industry: Just try any of the above. You don't have to post, you can simply observe. If you're not comfortable learning about these marketing tools, you'd better find someone (family member or staffer) who gets it, and delegate the task to them. These are the venues in which our target demographic lives, eats and breathes. Do we really think we can connect with them if we simply ignore social media?

Me: I'm already signed up to attend the ONLA Advocacy Day the end of February. I invite my fellow Buckeyes to join me. I need to respond to ANLA Legislative Alerts when asked and not hope "the other guy" does.

The Industry: I challenge other states to start their own Advocacy Day if they don't have one, and if your state association does, I challenge you to attend. Join me in responding to Legislative Alerts; there is power in numbers.

Me: Visit top independent retailers and help tell the story of how they differentiate themselves from box stores.

The Industry: A certain portion of retailers seems to focus on a single thought: that the box stores are at the center of all their troubles. I think they would be better off taking all the negative energy they expend whining about the chains and redirecting it toward figuring out their own differentiation strategy - and then singing it from the rooftops for all customers to hear. There are many successful independents (a lot with a box next door) who are surviving and thriving, so this is not an impossible task.

Me and The Industry: All of us have cut back on staff and have to do more ourselves. Even so, it is crucial that we take a percentage of our time working on the business and not just in it. Working in it will barely keep our noses above water and I, for one, don't want to drown.

Me: I've finally learned that my mental and physical health are key to the daily success of my business and for me to live long. I'm worth at least a 1 hour and 15 minute yoga class each week or a nightly walk with my dogs. Now if only I can continue to increase my physical activity and water intake, maybe I'll lose a few pounds.

The Industry: Pick something - anything - and do it for you. You're worth it. You'll be happier and, consequently, so will your family and your employees.

Me and The Industry: Need I say more? In regard to a strategic and marketing plan - as Nike says, Just do it!

Maria Zampini is the president of UpShoot LLC. Her company's focus is "living, sharing and supporting horticulture" through new plant introduction representation including LCN Selections. She can be reached at maria@upshoothort.com, and her website is www.upshoothort.com.

There certainly are external factors affecting our business that are out of our control, but the reality is, it still falls to each of us to be a catalyst for our own success. Read a consumer horticulture magazine, sign up for its e-newsletter and/or "like" its Facebook page to get a better feel for what is reaching the homeowners.A certain portion of retailers seems to focus on a single thought: that the box stores are at the center of all their troubles. I think they would be better off taking all the negative energy they expend whining about the chains and redirecting it toward figuring out their own differentiation strategy