Kate Spirgen
PORTRAIT BY AMBER SMITH

Most of us have that one friend who’s the life of the party. Someone who brightens the room, someone who’s always cracking a joke, cheering you on and lightening the mood. For me, that has always been Sarah.

About a year ago, Sarah came down with a chronic illness that has changed her entire life. But no matter how bad things have gotten, she just keeps smiling and laughing. Not much about her has changed throughout the whole ordeal.

A few nights ago, while a group of us were visiting her in the hospital, someone made a negative comment and she immediately shut it down, saying, “We can’t have that kind of attitude in here. We need to stay positive.”

She knows that to get through the tough times, there’s no use in feeling sorry for yourself or wallowing in the hardships. And she knows that not only for herself, but for everyone else in the room, because negativity spreads like wildfire. It just takes one turn of the conversation and everything starts to spiral. And she isn’t having any of that around her.

While it’s important to talk about problems as they arise and face adversity head-on (and realistically), the way you approach it is the most important. Don’t let negativity sneak into your company. The way you handle adversity will inform the rest of your staff how to do the same. When you see negativity sneaking in, shut it down, and train your staff to do the same.

That’s not to say that you should pretend that things are all sunshine and rainbows. The next few months are crucial and busy for independent garden centers. There’s no getting around the fact that trying to manage all of the different tasks you need to get ready for the busy season can leave your head spinning. Things will go wrong. People might quit; deliveries might not arrive on time; customers might be difficult. But the way you and your staff face those problems can determine how you overcome and rise above them.

A very successful landscape company I used to work with would always say, “Culture isn’t something you just hang on your wall.” You can’t simply say, “We’re going to have a positive company culture.” It’s something your staff has to buy into and live every day they spend at your operation.

Kate Spirgen
kspirgen@gie.net