I Can’t Do It All Myself

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Killer Business Attitudes of Revolutionary Garden Centers: I Can't Do It All Myself

The owner of a garden center grossing $1.2 million recently commented to me about how she couldn’t imagine taking time off the way the owner of another garden center doing three times her volume does in the spring. Hmm. So I asked her and I ask you, “If you can’t take time off now, how can you do more work to get any bigger?” It’s not that getting big should be the goal, but being any size and not being able to take some time off is not good, either.

Killer Business Attitude #3:

“I can and must find someone who can do this better than I can.”

The antithesis, or negative version of this attitude is, “I may as well do it myself.” This business-killing attitude is almost always held by owners who came up from the bottom in their businesses. We learned to work hard, and to sweep, prune and water well. We cling tightly to the belief that if you work hard enough long enough, good things will surely happen. And good things often do happen, to a point. That point is when the business plateaus at the far extent of the owner’s ability to “do it all.” Unfortunately, that point often comes after the kids have grown up without knowing mom or dad outside of work, after the divorce is final or after the desire of a “real life” has long passed. Ouch. Is he talking about me?

Last August, I sat in on a Financial Review meeting of six retail grower companies held by my colleague, Steve Bailey, financial consultant to The Garden Center Group. As each person introduced themselves and explained what they did for their company a snowball was formed. Until about the fifth person, the answer grew, and then was shortened to, “I do it all.” This was repeated with a guilty chuckle all the way around the room. I ask you, might this be a sign of an industry with a problem?

An Executive Mindset

In the year 2001, I became inspired to help our clients increase the sales of gift cards after learning the Wilmington, Ohio, franchise of Damon’s Grill sold more than $70,000 of gift cards in the month of December alone. At that time, I didn’t know of one garden center that sold that many dollars of gift cards all year long. As a result of this effort, I found my poster child for Excellent Delegation in my friend, Mike Berns, co-owner of Berns Garden Center in Middletown, Ohio. Mike earned this status in 2005 when his company surpassed $200,000 in gift card sales. Yes, you read that right, more than $200,000 of gift cards were sold by Berns Garden Center in 2005 and every year since then.

Even if you do not know Mike Berns, I am sure you have no trouble believing that he does not sell all those gift cards himself. Mike delegated the project to one of his managers, Barry Christian. As you can imagine, Barry also did not sell all of those gift cards single-handedly. Barry made the gift card project a team effort. The staff in his part of the business consists mostly of cashiers who bought into the idea of making this “product” their own. They now compete in a friendly way, with their peers in nursery, perennial and other product categories. “We have a team spirit and now participate in sales discussions with the other areas. We’ve proven we’re no slouches,” Barry comments. Their commitment included wearing buttons reading, “Gardeners (Heart) Berns gift cards,” as well as suggesting a gift card whenever a customer indicates they are purchasing a gift and seem unsure of their purchase. Wearing the button is not a significant marketing step in itself, but it represented buy-in and involvement when the entire team was willing to wear them.

When solicited for donations, the Berns staff now suggests to fundraising organizations that there is a way they won’t have to beg for donations anymore. This is an appealing and intriguing idea to most volunteers. The fundraising part of the business has taken off, but amazingly, still more than 40 percent of Berns gift cards are sold at the checkout registers. That’s more than $80,000 of gift cards sold by the cashiers.

Now I’m sure that this amazing story of Berns gift cards has piqued your interest, but remember that this story is an example of what can happen when an owner overcomes the attitude of, “I may as well do it myself” and focuses again on what can be done through excellent delegation as we continue.

Neither Invincible Nor Indispensable

When I asked about Barry’s approach to delegating, he answered, “I don’t want to be here seven days a week, and besides, I might get hit by a train on the way to work tomorrow. Someone else has to know how to do what I do, and the process and sequence of what needs to be done. They also need to trust that they won’t get beat up if something goes wrong. Things go wrong sometimes when I do it myself, so it should be expected that everything won’t go perfect if I ask for help.” He added, “When Mike Berns asked me to take on another project, I had people in place to take the gift card ball and run with it. I am not invincible or indispensable around here. Instead, I try to be more valuable, because I involve others to accomplish the bigger goals we have together.”

“If you can’t do your job in 40 hours, you’re doing something wrong.”    – Barry Christian

Making the “leap” from the mindset of, “I may as well do it myself” to the mindset, “I can and must get others to do this,” is not fast or easy.

Because I believe a healthy attitude and mindset about managing and the skills to lead are so important, we have developed a training program titled Executive Advantage. If you’d like to know how this program may benefit your company, contact me by e-mail at sid@horticulturaladvantage.com to participate in a complimentary Executive Effectiveness Assessment that will show how your organization is doing relative to your potential and to others in our industry.

Sid Raisch is founder of Horticultural Advantage, a consulting firm to independent garden centers and servce provider to The Garden Center Group. He created the Advantage Development System to help client companies increase effectiveness to earn greater profits. For more, go to http://AdvantageDevelopmentSystem.com, call 888-339-7456, or eMail sid@horticulturaladvantage.com.

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