Nearly 200 members of the independent garden center industry convened on Nashville, Tennessee Sept. 23-26 for The Garden Center Group’s Fall Event. The 19th annual event boasted its highest-ever attendance, and many were first-time attendees.

The schedule was filled with inspiring speakers and open-forum networking, along with a bus tour of two area garden centers and a few other Nashville area attractions.

(Editor’s note: For more on the tour, check out Spotted here)

Danny Summers, managing director of The Garden Center Group, said the group’s value stems from the resources it makes available to its membership. Service providers with specific skills are available to answer any questions members have.

“We’re doing work that a nonprofit can’t,” Summers said.

Some of the work he refers to is the Annual P&L Study Review, which took place on Day 1 of the event. This study, compiled by RetailKPI Consulting, is exclusive to members. It includes sales and expenses of participating retailers and compares percent of sales for the garden center to both the best practices/high achiever group and to the group as a whole. Steve Bailey and Tim Quebedeaux presented the study and explained the results. The study also includes inventory turns, margin targets by category and the resulting Gross Margin Return on Inventory Investment (GMROII).

Consultant John Kennedy described the three types of change and how companies can manage it effectively.

Sid Raisch, president of Horticultural Advantage, joined Bailey for a deep dive on this particular category in a lively session. Attendees discussed their own results and how to fix or remove under-performing categories or items, and ways to capitalize on the highest performers.

“If turns are slow, GMROII will be low,” Raisch said.

Raisch continued on this topic in his Day 2 talk, “It’s Time to become Exceptionally Exceptional.”

During the presentation, he detailed the three-step process to achieving the Profile of the Ideal: develop exceptional people exceptionally, develop exceptionally exceptional processes, promote exceptional products exceptionally.

Raisch said it’s important to develop great processes because your habits define you. Promoting the correct products is the third, vital, step. Garden Center Group members can use the results of their P&L Study to help them determine where to focus their efforts. Raisch said if you don’t believe in the product, buy a different product.

“Get rid of mediocrity,” he said. “Create more space for products you believe in.”

Engage employees

Tim Miles, award-winning author, consultant and speaker, kicked off day 2 of the event with a presentation covering why there’s nothing “small” about small business’ impact on the economy. “You are the economy,” he said, echoing fellow Tennessee entrepreneur Dave Ramsey, “And don’t let Washington D.C. forget it.”

Miles said our time is our most precious resource, and it’s often wasted and taken for granted as we are bombarded by notifications, coming like “a firehose into a teacup.”

These distractions stop workers from focusing on their jobs. Gardepositivityn center owners need to engage those employees and lead them where they need to go. Worry over a potential recession looming on the horizon is increasing anxiety, but Miles plans to unleash the power of .

“I refuse to participate in any upcoming recession, and I choose to model that behavior to everyone I meet,” Miles said.

He discussed ways that attendees could bring “TLC” to their businesses. However important they are, Teamwork, Leadership and Culture are lag measures, not lead measures. That means they are end results – not the things you do to achieve those results.

Truth, trophies and thankfulness are the lead measures he suggested garden center owners work on to improve teamwork. He derided the dismissive attitude a stereotypical uncle may have toward “participation trophies.” It’s not the trophy that’s important; it’s the fact that an employee’s boss recognized that they did a good job.

It’s recognition that people matter,” Miles said. “Little victories matter.”

The Garden Center Group’s managing director, Danny Summers, welcomes attendees to The Fall Event.

Invest time wisely

John Kennedy brought his typical energy and insight to the Fall Event crowd.

In his talk, “It’s time to manage at the speed of life,” the consultant defined several ways independent garden center owners can improve their time management skills.

He began by explaining three ways organizations change: change by crisis, change by drift and change by design. Crisis is fairly self-explanatory. A recession, an unexpected personnel change, like a key employee leaving, or a death in the company.

Change by drift takes place in a much slower way. But there is no plan behind it. Change by design is more proactive. It’s planning, evaluation and training. It’s identifying fire-starters before they happen instead of putting out fires once they’ve occurred.

“It’s hard to do change by design when you’re always in crisis,” Kennedy said.

He suggested taking 30 minutes out of your day to invest in yourself. Five minutes at the beginning and end of every day for planning and evaluation, plus a 20-minute afternoon break.

Tim Miles discusses how to incorporate “TLC” into your business.

Kennedy suggested writing “today lists” instead of “to-do lists,” because of the paralysis felt when faced with an overwhelming list of tasks.

One of the biggest time wasters is decision making, Kennedy said. Perhaps your employees spend time prioritizing their priorities. That’s on you as a manager, he said. They should know their “must-dos” for every day, as well as which jobs they can work on when those must-dos are scratched off their today list.

Kennedy also covered a list of his most common time-burners:

  • Interruptions
  • Telephones/email
  • Competing priorities
  • Paperwork/organization
  • Procrastination
  • Meetings

For interruptions, Kennedy has a novel solution. When someone comes to his office, he immediately stands up and walks toward them. While a tad off-putting, it sets the expectation that he can help the employee, but he’s not available for small talk.

“Meetings are either an investment or a waste of time,” he said.

Five-minute huddles are good and weekly group meetings are OK as long as there is an agenda, a time-keeper and a rotating scribe to ensure that 1) the meeting doesn’t go off the rails and 2) no one forgets to follow up on the tasks decided upon in the meeting.

Next year’s Fall Event has been scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, 2020. It will take place in Wilmington, Delaware at the historic Hotel Dupont.

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