Success in business comes down to two things: The strength of your plan or strategy and your ability to execute it; everything else is window dressing. In the words of business consultant and author, Mark Sanborn, “it’s better to be consistently good than occasionally great.” Mark’s mantra can be applied across all lines of business, but has a special meaning for business processes.
Good business processes can lead to great rewards. Followed correctly, they can:
Why then do so many small businesses and midsize enterprises (SMEs) undervalue business processes? According to a report from Circle Research, which questioned 800 global SMEs, only 19% want to achieve business improvement. In addition, less than half want to streamline their business processes, reduce their cost base, or create supply chain efficiencies. On the contrary, 47% of businesses are focused on achieving growth.
My advice for business owners is to focus on what you’re doing now and get that right before branching out. Here are eight more steps to help you run a better, more efficient company.
Change takes time. Sometime it happens quickly; other times change can be painfully slow. Either way, the changes you make in your business should be viewed as an investment of time, resources and manpower; something that should not be decided by a flip of a coin or the winds of fate.
Read the report from Circle Research to find out why ambition matters and how businesses, just like the one you run, are using it to grow their companies.
With spring approaching it’s the perfect time to look at what could help you boost your sales for the upcoming season. But does color sell plants?
A simple answer would be yes and no. But this not much help with deciding what colors you should focus on displaying. Research would suggest a number of reasons why consumers will select certain colors. It could be based on seasonal ideals, so when you think of spring you would generally lean towards pastel muted colors even veering on towards the warmer yellow tones for a splash of brightness; think Easter and daffodils. But what else? There must be other factors that will influence color choices other than the typical seasonal selections. Well there can be, and this is where it gets a little more complicated.
Research will tell you that color selection is often based on personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences and so forth, often muddying the effect individual colors have on us.
However, if you are to examine the color preferences between men and women, as done in Joe Hallock’s Color Assignments, you get a rough idea of colors that are most universally appealing. Although there are apparent differences between gender choices there are also glaring similarities. For example, both men and women most preferred blue, green, orange and red in similar amounts. The same can be said for least preferred colors between the both being brown, orange and yellow. Another example shows that men prefer bright toned colors whereas women prefer softer toned colors. Obviously this diagram lacks the broad spectrum of colors available in the flowers you could possibly sell, and again it is all down to consumer personal preference.
Another factor that influences color choices is seasons, whether that is the typical colours associated with the season or dependent on the varieties that are available. Most gardeners planning for spring are looking forward to bursts of colors that are uplifting after a cold and dreary winter. Think of those yellow daffodils again!
People like choices. It’s a fact. But too much choice will often overwhelm a consumer, which is why presenting consumers with only the most popular colors is usually the way to go. But it’s still important to provide enough of a selection that people feel like they can express themselves individually.
Even in the floral industry there are trends set for the year of what will be the most popular colors. Consumers want to be individual but also to be socially accepted by others and will often follow trends set in the industry. According to Flowers Canada (Ontario) the Netherlands is the trendsetter when it comes to determining the popular color of the season. For example, in the beginning of this season you should plan to include a variety of purple shades. Of course this just touches the surface, as there are numerous factors that go into trendsetting, and trends can bleed over from other industries such as the fashion world.
What should you do?
You should aim to have a varied selection of colors to choose from as male and female color preferences vary so greatly. Consider what time of year consumers are buying, the most popular trends set for the year and the type of consumer that you sell to the most. Bear in mind there is no definitive right or wrong answer to color choices!
Commercial growers are constantly challenged to improve production efficiencies on every possible angle. Competition is stiff, and growers must continually find ways to improve in order to remain competitive in their market. Saving even a fraction of a cent here and there goes a long way when you’re producing in high volume. Here are 6 of the most common production inefficiencies greenhouse growers face.
1. Relaxed Nutrient Management
When it comes to yields, it’s too easy to make the assumption that “more food means more flower”. But is it that simple? From a horticultural perspective, delivering just the right amount of nutrients, at just the right time, will improve your crop’s nutrient use efficiency.
Fertilizer is not cheap, especially if you rely on premixed, or use a drain to waste style of production where you are unable to reclaim unused nutrients. Running a “lean” crop will not only save you from wasting nutrient solution, it will also improve the performance of your crop.
Tightening up on your nutrient management system means evaluating where your wastes are. A good fertigation management system can really add to the bottom line.
2. Improper Lighting
Lighting is essential, without light a plant won’t grow, and in greenhouses where natural light is in abundance, lighting is the most often overlooked component in a production plan. When considering the lighting needs for your plants it is important to look at when to and when not to provide light. Shading and blackout curtains are often used to reduce the amount of daytime light. Consider how your zones are divided to make sure you are balancing your crops light needs correctly. The type of glazing on your roof also effects light distribution and needs to be part of your light plans, as well your geographic region and seasonal changes will also come into play.
Many commercial greenhouse growers are also looking at supplemental lighting to boost light levels when your crop needs it most. HPS lights are still generally the most economically feasible solutions but LED should not be ignored. Many vining fruit growers use LED inter-canopy lighting to boost fruit production.
In all cases selecting the right lights, putting them in the right position, and coordinating your day lengths will help substantially in managing your lighting bills.
I think we should also mention Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (PPFD), as a standardized measurement when trying to meet crop specific light needs. Because PPF only focuses on photons which are active for photosynthesis, it helps growers quantify what they are delivering to their plants VS what their plants need. Of course the computer can calculate this, but growers still need to be aware so they don’t get the tunnel vision of “more light=more production=more profit”
3. Climate Control Mismanagement
In days gone by greenhouse growers sought to minimize the greenhouse height in order to reduce the cost of heating the perimeter. Today we realise that it is far easier to maintain a consistent temperature with a greater air volume. This enables commercial greenhouse manufacturers to design higher gutter heights, and using passive climate control: Shade/energy curtains, and natural ventilation taking advantage of convection to force hot, humid air out of your vents. Greenhouse heating systems have also come along way, and old boilers should be considered for replacement to take advantage of the efficiencies newer boilers offer. High efficiency condensing boilers can have a quick ROI as they can be up to 13% more efficient than the conventional fire tube style boiler. A good environmental control computer is essential if you want to maximize the efficiency of your climate control.
Growers also use their climate as the primary tool for shaping plant development. Mismanaging your greenhouse climate can make the crop develop in an undesirable way. This can lead to needing more crop labour to physically fix the problem, and it can lower the market value for your product. Either way, it’s costing you money.
We want to stress that energy is typically the biggest production cost in a commercial greenhouse, most of which goes into managing the climate. So inefficiencies here will substantially take away from the bottom line.
4. Inefficient Greenhouse Labour Management
Labor is usually your second largest expense after energy, so not managing your workforce efficiently is a serious cost problem. Streamline production so your laborers can be efficient with their time. Track the amount of time it takes each laborer to complete each task and how many times someone touches a plant. This gives valuable insight to how long specific tasks should take to complete, who is efficient and who needs improvement, what component is the most labour intensive, and anticipate when extra labor may be required. This will help you trim the fat in production, and give you something measurable to decide when spending money on greenhouse automation is worthwhile or not.
5. Wasted Greenhouse Production Space
Canopy space / total space = % space used for production. It is a simple formula to determine the percentage of floor space you are using for production. Remember your production space is what pays for all the other space, so it makes good sense to maximize one and minimize the other.
The best space savers in a greenhouse tend to be rolling benches where a single aisle can replace several aisles in a stationary bench layout. Or if your crop is grown on the ground, in-floor heating eliminates the need for aisles entirely. Tiered/stacked production has also seen a rise in experimentation, though this does not always lend itself to more production efficiency as material handling, irrigation, lighting all need to be adapted to a multi-level system.
Consider in your greenhouse design the space needed for the irrigation room, water, fertigation and other equipment storage. Is there a better layout for more efficient use of floor space? With drain to waste, drip, DWC, NFT, flood, aeroponic, do the results of production justify the extra space required for that style of growing?
Having said that you still need to have a working environment conducive to employee needs. How do employees and product get from place to place. Electric vehicles, bikes/scooters, carts, mobile racks, fork lifts, skid steers. Does it really increase production to maximize floor space if it means laborers must spend substantially more time to do their job? Sometimes, some empty space isn’t wasted if it allows for improved production.
6. Lax Greenhouse Maintenance
Regardless of your greenhouse design, or the technology you use, all of your equipment and growing systems if not properly maintained are inefficient. Heating, irrigation, venting, shading, greenhouse automation, forklifts, delivery trucks, all need to have a maintenance schedule.
Proper maintenance reduces downtime by fixing little problems before they become big ones. A proper maintenance log will also help you identify when spending money on maintenance would be better spent to upgrade a piece of equipment.
Even when you adhere to a maintenance schedule things can go wrong which is why having open eyes and ears are a growers most useful tool.
Train your senses to know when everything is working perfectly, so you can quickly sense when something is wrong. Catching a noisy vent motor early enables you to get a replacement before something fails and interrupts production.
As Valentine’s Day approaches everyone’s thoughts turn to flowers. The Cupiddrone is the newest tech initiative from funnyhowflowersdothat.uk. Using smart new technology to delight and surprise customers the Cupiddrone none the less shows us that technology alone is not the answer. It is the flower in the end that makes the human connection.
At GGS we are dedicated to helping growers grow. We design greenhouses to provide the ideal environments for your plants, and we look for technological advances that can help us as well as our customers. Back in 2013 when we received notice from Google that we had been selected to be one of the google glass explorers, we knew that wearable internet connected devices have the potential to be disruptive technology in the greenhouse industry. One year later we were one of the first companies to bring drone technology to greenhouses and farms, exploring how drones could be used by our customers to improve their businesses.
But regardless of the technology, and whether it improves production efficiency, provides marketing insight, helps you grow a better crop, or allows you to make viral youtube videos, the flower is what really matters. Last year Bloemenbureau Holland reminded everyone of the power of a rose without any high tech gadgetry.
So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are delivering bouquets by drones, by van, or by foot, know that the flowers you grow in your greenhouse are making the world a better place.
Happy Valentines Week!
Different crops require different levels of specific expertise in attaining the highest quality. The growers that achieve this high level of success do so by getting in the routine of practicing great growing habits.
1. Master the Basics
Highly successful growers makeit a habit to always include the fundamentals of growing when dealing with crop issues. These fundamentals or “Basics” refer to 5 considerations when growing a crop:
2. Consistent Record Keeping
In order to consistently grow high quality crops a grower needs to learn from both mistakes and successes. Successful growers make it a habit to keep accurate and detailed records of all aspects of the growing process so that mistakes are not repeated and successes are. Climate control computers can be used in conjunction with growing notes; on most systems the grower can look at climate history making this a very useful tool when reviewing crop notes.
The climate control computer is one of the modern grower’s most necessary tools; it irrigates, fertigates, ventilates, shades, heats and cools automatically. However, the highly successful grower recognises that no matter how sophisticated the computer system, it is still at the command of the grower and only does what it is told! This is why it is so important that this “automatic” system is reviewed on a regular basis. The automation of the system will tell the grower when there is an EC deviation or when there is an issue with the heating system but it cannot compensate for errors in what is put into the system. Supplemental light timing, light levels that initiate shading and black out times are all inputs controlled by the grower and should be reviewed regularly. Highly successful growers will make this control review a routine so that nothing is missed and quality is guaranteed.
3. Hands On Crop Techniques
It is one thing to use the climate control computer as a valuable tool but it is another thing to trust it to do all of the growing. A highly successful grower is always in the habit of confirming or denying what the computer is telling him by physically viewing the crop regularly. Sensors can fail making computer readings unreliable, nothing compares to utilizing your senses to review your crop. A successful grower can tell the health of his crop through how the foliage feels, how the plant and roots look and pythium and foliar rots can be detected through smell. Being with the crop will tell a successful grower far more than any climate control computer ever will.
4. Regular Soil and Foliage Testing
Being a successful grower doesn’t ensure that one is “all knowledgeable” and at times we all benefit from outside testing. For success in growing it is important to get into the habit of sending random soil and foliage samples out for testing. The testing is usually at a minimal cost and will give the grower a very accurate sense of what is happening within the growing media and inside the plant. This valuable information is used to tweak nutrient delivery to increase plant health and ensure that the crop is of the highest quality. Some growers hire a monthly consultant to take care of media and foliar analysis which is usually included in the fee.
The highly successful grower is never satisfied, the mindset is always that it is never “good enough” and there’s always room for improvement. This motivates the grower to constantly do research into new growing techniques, pest control, disease control and advancements. The investigation aspect of the research can become a daily habit of the successful grower and time is always put aside for this. The industry advances rapidly and highly successfulgrowers needs to stay on top of it.
6. Keeping Equipment Maintained
Maintenance of all greenhouse equipment is essential to the success of the crop. Irrigation equipment if not maintained will give false readings and poor results will be imminent. A successful grower will be in the habit of calibrating sensors and probes on a regular basis, leaky pumps will be addressed immediately and injectors will be also be inspected. Motors on vents, shading and blackout will also be given attention on a regular basis as these systems must be operating properly to attain the highest quality product. Well maintained equipment runs as it’s designed and gives the grower that “peace of mind” that is paramount for a grower’s success!
7. Superior and Ongoing Training
Highly successful people recognise the need for continual learning for themselves and their team. Successful growers share their knowledge with other team members; they attend industry events and seminars, and encourage others to do the same. Good training programs and standard operating procedures ensure individual jobs are consistently done to the company’s quality requirements. And an open mind to new learning opportunities enables a successful grower to continually make improvements.
Growing is both an art and a science. Highly successful growers do not limit themselves to mastering their particular crop, they learn about the business, the customer base, the market trends, and about other potential plants they could grow. And the world is a better place because of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees that they grow.