Staff September 14, 2016

Meeting Ken Fisher

They say that patience is a virtue, but can the same be said of impatience?

It most certainly can, if it drives you to challenge yourself to learn as much as you can, as well as you can, as quickly as you can.

Ken Fisher, the new president and CEO of AmericanHort, intends to do just that in the upcoming few months. Fisher took the helm of the national association in June, a scant month before the opening of this year’s Cultivate trade show in Columbus. It wasn’t necessarily trial by fire; more like meeting the extended family – the large, diverse, extended family.

“Cultivate was fantastic,” Fisher says.

“It’s nice that 10,000 of my closest friends came to Columbus so that I could see what they do,” he jokes, “but now what I want to do is I want to go out and see people on their turf. And I’m going to be on the road a lot in the next 60 days.”

Fisher’s impatience is eagerness, really, to learn what makes this industry tick and to become familiar with the people involved. He brings experience from a number of other areas, much of which he’ll apply to leading the association. But his immediate, self-appointed task is to learn. And then learn more.

“I’m very impatient with progress,” he says. “I’m not impatient with people, but I’m impatient with progress. But at the same time, I know that I have to be a little bit patient with learning the industry and the players. So I kind of have one foot on the accelerator and one foot pumping the brakes a little bit just to make sure … At the same time, I want to be respectful to the industry and the companies out there, and I understand that there’s a learning curve.”

He’ll be visiting, observing and listening, and one thing he’s interested in is finding commonalities, basic business issues and ways of performing that seemingly unrelated industries share. “I look for commonalities in sales and marketing and production and management and organizational development and industry trends,” he explains.

“I’ve been in commodities, I’ve been in consumer goods, I’ve been in industrial equipment, I’ve been in financial services, I’ve been in a lot of different industries,” he continues. “You do start to look at these trends that are consistent: how consumers behave, what’s happening with transportation logistics, what’s happening with labor costs, and what’s going on with regulation? While it’s unique to each industry, you see the same trends affecting each industry in a similar way. Everybody’s got to get their arms around the cost of labor, and everybody has to get their arms around slow growth. Everybody has to get their arms around the rising cost of doing business. All of those things are everywhere, and I think there are best practices that can be applied inside the horticulture industry. It’ll be a unique perspective, but it’ll be a different spin.”

To help the industry get to know Ken Fisher in return, we asked him to put pen to paper, so to speak, and answer a few questions. Here we go:

What drew you to the job, and to the green industry?

Ken Fisher: First, the people and their values. The people I have met so far represent all that is good in our communities. Very refreshing. I am looking forward to meeting even more of our membership this fall as I attend industry events and visit with a broad range of our member companies.

Second, the reach of the plant and horticulture industry. The industry supply chains and markets are sophisticated and diverse, which provides rich opportunities for successful businesses, a thriving professional community and desirable careers for future generations.

Your previous positions have been in the corporate community. What unique skills, experience and perspective do you bring to the position of leading the industry’s premier association?

Ken Fisher: AmericanHort is a unique opportunity to lead a mission- driven organization that will benefit from a business-oriented approach. My business leadership experience should translate well to the needs of this industry leading organization which include:

  • Successfully lead businesses to capture growth opportunities
  • Manage and develop. operationally and financially efficient organizations.
  • Build, develop and lead high achieving management organizations.

I hope to expand American- Hort’s position in leading and unifying the horticulture industry.

What can horticulture professionals learn from professionals in other industries?

Ken Fisher: Good management and leadership practices are transferable across companies, industries and products. I have been involved with “best practices” from successful industrial and consumer companies in production and supply chain that can be adapted to help horticulture companies. Processes and programs developed by leading consumer goods companies can provide great insights into consumer behavior and marketing programs for growing horticulture companies. And staff and professional development skills and practices are essential for any organization that wants to better serve customers, profitably grow their business, and develop high caliber organizations. American- Hort can help our members and the industry in each of these areas.

Can you identify a few of what you perceive to be the biggest challenges in the industry today? Following that, how do you plan to approach these challenges?

Ken Fisher: At a high level, we need to ensure that we are developing successful business people and growing prosperous businesses in current and future economic and market conditions. And we want to help position horticulture to be a relevant and thriving industry where more individuals and companies participate in the professional community and horticulture will be considered desirable careers for future generations.

Our job at AmericanHort is to provide an industry leadership platform, forums for collaboration and best-in-class programs. Some examples include:

Government Advocacy — ensuring no industry-relevant legislation gets passed without the industry’s voice being heard and interests being represented.

Staff and Professional Development — providing industry-leading events and programs that help our member companies train and develop their best and brightest.

Collaboration and Connectivity — there is significant value to the industry in a strong professional community that shares ideas, works together to address industry issues, and guides the industry forward, which American- Hort will help facilitate.

Research — through AmericanHort’s research affiliate, the Horticultural Research Institute, we can fund important research and scholarship programs to inform, direct and potentially transform our industry.

Cultivate — AmericanHort hosts the largest gathering of professionals in our industry, which pulls all of this together every year in July in Columbus. Cultivate ’17 will be bigger and better as the Greater Columbus Convention Center is expanding by 30,000 square feet, which will allow us to offer even more great programming and allow our exhibitors to expand their offerings.

What are your thoughts on attracting and keeping younger horticulture professionals?

Ken Fisher: This is a key initiative for AmericanHort going forward. Some areas we are working towards include:

A strong and shared vision for the future, which includes interesting career and ownership opportunities.

An economic equation that ensures young professionals can make an income competitive with other industries.

A strong NextGeneration community group to network and share ideas.

A strong and supportive group of “experienced” business leaders who will invest personally and financially in these young professionals.

And an interesting, changing, vibrant, growing, relevant, thriving industry — which we all want to help create!

How can industry professionals help you?

Ken Fisher: Everyone I have met has been enthusiastic, supportive and helpful in introducing me to the industry and issues. I am a strong proponent of collaboration and appreciate the “partnership” I am developing with our Board of Directors and other industry leaders I am starting to work with. AmericanHort will continue to be a leading and unifying force in the industry, and I will appreciate input and support from industry professionals as we realign the mission, programs and resources of AmericanHort to better serve the industry.

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