After spending what seems like most of the year in the frigid cold and deep, never-ending snow that is northeast Ohio, I always look forward to the warm summer months. In particular I crave spending time at the local beach soaking up the sun while reading gooey romance novels – and doing paperwork for business, of course!

Summer is fading fast, and so is the summer trade show season. Wow! As usual, OFA made me stop and ponder if I’m in the wrong sector of the green industry, as floriculture seems to continue to be hip and happening. No doubt this sector not only understands but thrives on marketing. The colors, flowers, displays and advertising (before you even enter the exhibit hall) create an air of excitement. There is a big contrast between your first impression at OFA and CENTS, which is held in the same venue in January. Of course, being held in the dead of winter requires forcing for color, so the difference is understandable to some degree.

I always find fascinating the international feel and flavor to the OFA show, but tend to be somewhat disappointed that there aren’t more “nursery” type green goods exhibitors from around the country. However, for me, it’s not so much about all the exhibitors I’m going to see, but those who attend the show itself. Many are prominent movers and shakers with whom otherwise I might not normally get to network, except for this event. Regardless, if you’re in the greenhouse and/or garden center business (or your customers are), and you’ve never been to OFA, I highly recommend considering it.

The PANTS show is a different animal than OFA. It is what I would consider more of a regional show. Even so, it has its place. While the traffic flow was not near the level of OFA, to me, it reaffirmed a lesson in opportunity; those who see it and those who don’t.

I saw David Wilson of Overdevest Nurseries and the company’s new sustainable plant line called “Footprints.” They are vegetables, perennials and ornamental grasses in small “E” pots that decompose after planting. They are also available in larger decorative “Nova” pots, which can last up to three years on your patio. Marketing at its finest!

I spoke with Ed Gregan of Carlton Plants. Are sales where he’d like them to be? No, but he says the orders he is getting are up over last year. He is taking that encouragement and running with it. It’s the same story with Iain Hiscock of Commercial Nursery in Tennessee. Iain says he’s never been busier in his entire career than now.

I stopped at Conard-Pyle’s booth to visit with John Rausch and Steve Hutton. I think their display of new, liner-size product alongside the same finished size plants was simple yet effective. Sometimes less is more.

Some vendors, like Steve DePaolo at New Christie Ventures, took low traffic in stride as they’d rather be there and be seen versus have attendees wonder why they weren’t there – or hand their competitor a potential crack in the door. Bo Tidwell of Tidwell Nurseries in Georgia happily made lemonade out of lemons. He reported in his latest newsletter that he seized the chance to go out and see exhibitors who were customers. It also gave him the chance to get a quote from another vendor, which saved him $1,000!

Others were content to simply whine. Maybe they shouldn’t have been exhibiting in the first place?

Having said all that, I received more than one reality check during trade shows; not only was my father hospitalized, but an aunt and a close family friend both passed away. These events prompted me to recall a seminar I once attended. The speaker used an analogy to describe how much time we spend on key aspects of our lives; the bigger the ball, the more time and energy we spend with it. So business is a basketball, family a softball and ourselves a golf ball. I guess my point is that no matter how hectic and significant we think business is, we can’t forget about our family or our own personal needs as they are ultimately more important to our success and happiness. We need to stop and smell the roses.

Right after PANTS I had the opportunity to visit with Paul Kelly, owner of St. Lynn’s Press in Pittsburgh, an independent publishing company. Our connection was due in part to someone I met at GWA last year, Denise Schreiber, author of a new St. Lynn’s Press book titled “Eat Your Roses … Pansies, Lavender and 49 Other Delicious Edible Flowers.” While I met Paul several years ago, I’ve only recently gotten to know him. His wisdom has quickly affected me in a profoundly positive fashion.

During a visit to his office, Paul gave me copies of several books he’s published. One was “Zen Life, An Open-at-Random Book of Guidance” by Daniel Levin. It contains 108 gems of calming wisdom. As the cover copy reads, Zen Life celebrates your power to create a life of meaning and beauty, no matter what is going on around you.

This morning I contemplated what to write and I arbitrarily opened the book to a page with the following gem. Ironically, I think it sums up my thoughts on trade shows pretty well:

“No Expectations, No Disappointments. I went to a conference in a new city to sell clothes I make under my company name, ZENsei. I was hoping to sell out of everything I’d brought. As it happened, only half the expected number of people attended and sales were slow. At first I was discouraged, until I realized that a lot of people who had never heard of ZENsei before, now had bought my clothing. Why let a false expectation ruin a beautiful reality?”

I always find fascinating the international feel and flavor to the OFA show, but tend to be somewhat disappointed that there aren’t more “nursery” type green goods exhibitors from around the country.

Maria Zampini is president of LakeCounty New Plants LLC, Madison, Ohio.She co-founded the company with herfather, Jim Zampini. Their focus is salesand marketing of LCN Selections alongwith research and development of newplant introductions. She can be reached atmaria.zampini@yahoo.com.