Labor & Training: A Better Perspective

Labor & Training: A Better Perspective

Finding a way to make training stick with staff members is always a challenge. Although we had tried several things at Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery in Dolores, Colo., it never quite seemed to work the way I really wanted it to until I had an idea a few years ago.

While it’s not practical to take everyone in our company on the big garden center tours because of the expense involved in travel from our part of the world, it started me thinking about how I could replicate the experience on a smaller scale and still have it be meaningful and effective.

It also started me thinking about how staff members learn. Because about 65 percent of the population are visual learners or do better with hands-on training, we invented Tour Trip Day. This day is set aside to take staff members to non-competing garden centers to visually see what we try to preach on a daily basis. It’s a combination of a “day out with the boss” and a mystery shopper program all rolled into one. There are some criteria for being included in the Tour Day exercise. A staff member has to be with the company for several months – in our case that usually means they are a new hire and have survived the spring season. They have to be someone we believe will benefit from the training and will put it into use, (we have to believe that they have a future with us) and they have to be open and willing to learn and grow with the company.

The concept behind Tour Day is quite simple: We choose as many staff members as will fit easily into one vehicle. We tell them to dress in street clothes because to the rest of the world we are simply a group of friends on a day out. We give them a small amount of money to make a purchase and tell them that they can buy anything they wish and that it will be theirs to keep. They are simply to observe the customer service given to them when they make that purchase. The staff members are instructed to talk to the staff at the businesses we visit – ask for things and ask advice on gardening problems. They are also instructed to split up when they are in the garden center to see if they can notice different things to share later. I tell them to look at everything – the layout, the lighting, the product mix, the signage, the prices, the quality of the plant material, even down to making sure at least one person visits the restrooms at each stop.

Because of the way the centers we usually visit are situated geographically, we try to visit three in the morning, break for lunch, and visit two in the afternoon, spending about 45 minutes to an hour at each. Two of the big box stores are included on this tour to provide contrast between them and the independents. After each visit we compare notes. Our company treats for lunch as well, usually at a place with table service so we can sit down and discuss what we’ve seen and learned.

The program has accomplished several things. By doing the site visits our staff is able to see first-hand examples of both good and bad displays and merchandising. They are able to note signage and how effective it is or is not. They come back with a new standard of measurement for customer service. When they return from the day, they often better understand why we change displays regularly and are fanatical about presentation. And, since some of the centers we visit are kept less than tidy, one of the best benefits for me is that no one ever seems to complain about cleaning or weeding tasks around the garden center again!

Tour Day also gives me, as an owner, a chance to work one on one with staff members and suggest improvements for their performance, in an informal setting other than a formal evaluation meeting. The total cost – about $100 for the day. The results have been immeasurable.

Leave a Reply

More From Sales Floor...
2016 SHSG covers.indd

July 31, 2015

SHS Griffin Releases 2016 Catalog In Print And Expanded Digital Formats

SHS Griffin has announced the release of its annual seed and plant catalog for the 2015-16 season. Available in both print and digital formats, the 2016 catalog features more than 400 new and improved varieties from the industry’s leading breeders. The 262-page print catalog covers the company’s full seed portfolio — more than 3,400 cultivars of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and vegetables. From the SHS Griffin vegetative offering, the complete spring-annual assortment from Syngenta Flowers is featured, alongside new introductions and top sellers from nine top suppliers such as Proven Winners, Dümmen Orange and Suntory. More than 120 vegetative perennials from Syngenta Flowers are also included, including several SHS Griffin exclusives. The SHS Griffin 2016 digital catalog includes all of the product information and photography from the print edition, and more. For the first time, SHS Griffin has added a range of digital-only bonus content: detailed crop culture, quick […]

Read More
Marvel Mahonia (Plant Development Services)

July 31, 2015

Retailers’ Choice Awards For Best New Products Presented At SNA 2015

A team of independent garden center retailers, along with the Garden Center Group’s Sid Raisch, walked the SNA show floor in search of their favorite new products.

Read More
Steve Bailey

July 30, 2015

How To Determine A Gross Margin Percentage Goal At Your Store [Talkin’ Finance With Steve Bailey]

One retailer asked this question: Is there a gross margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Latest Stories
2016 SHSG covers.indd

July 31, 2015

SHS Griffin Releases 2016 Catalog In Print And Expanded…

SHS Griffin has announced the release of its annual seed and plant catalog for the 2015-16 season. Available in both print and digital formats, the 2016 catalog features more than 400 new and improved varieties from the industry’s leading breeders. The 262-page print catalog covers the company’s full seed portfolio — more than 3,400 cultivars of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and vegetables. From the SHS Griffin vegetative offering, the complete spring-annual assortment from Syngenta Flowers is featured, alongside new introductions and top sellers from nine top suppliers such as Proven Winners, Dümmen Orange and Suntory. More than 120 vegetative perennials from Syngenta Flowers are also included, including several SHS Griffin exclusives. The SHS Griffin 2016 digital catalog includes all of the product information and photography from the print edition, and more. For the first time, SHS Griffin has added a range of digital-only bonus content: detailed crop culture, quick […]

Read More
Marvel Mahonia (Plant Development Services)

July 31, 2015

Retailers’ Choice Awards For Best New Products Presente…

A team of independent garden center retailers, along with the Garden Center Group’s Sid Raisch, walked the SNA show floor in search of their favorite new products.

Read More
Steve Bailey

July 30, 2015

How To Determine A Gross Margin Percentage Goal At Your…

One retailer asked this question: Is there a gross margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Chuck Hoover, Tagawa Gardens

July 29, 2015

Give Your Young Employees A Personal Stake In Your Comp…

One retailer asked the following question: What are the best techniques for recruiting new staff members to replace those who are due to retire in the next couple years?

Read More
Petunia ‘Trilogy Red’ (American Takii)

July 29, 2015

Catch Your Customers’ Eyes With These Sun-Loving …

Now is the time to start planning for which annuals will be on display at your garden center in 2016. Check out this slideshow of breeders’ picks for their favorite new sun-loving annuals for the garden retail market in the coming year.

Read More

July 29, 2015

Digital Technology Helps Crack The Millennial Code [Sta…

With a well-trained and knowledgeable staff, Kurt Fromherz says you can forge a deeper connection with your customers and with your community.

Read More
Bauman Farms

July 28, 2015

Local Garden Centers To Visit During Farwest 2015

While you’re in Portland for the Farwest show, set aside some time to pay a visit to these local independent garden centers and check out some of the innovative things they’re doing.

Read More
Farwest Seminars

July 28, 2015

What’s New And What To Do At Farwest 2015

Are you planning to attend the 2015 Farwest show? Here's a list of things to do, including new activities, at the event, which take place Aug. 27-29 in Portland, Ore.

Read More
Bob Peters featured image

July 28, 2015

J.R. Peters’ Founder Dies At 97

Robert "Bob" Peters founded the garden fertilizer company that became JR Peters and has been an active supporter of the greenhouse and garden center industries since World War II.

Read More
IGC Show App

July 27, 2015

Want A Guide To This Year’s IGC Shows? There̵…

IGC Show organizers have launched new free apps for IGC East and IGC Chicago, available for download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play, that offer information on conference sessions and special events.

Read More
Impatiens Lollipop Series (Ernst Benary Of America)

July 27, 2015

18 New Annuals That Are Great For Either Sun Or Shade […

Now is the time to start planning for which annuals will be on display at your garden center in 2016. Check out this slideshow of breeders’ picks for their favorite new sun and shade varieties for the garden retail market in the coming year.  

Read More
Ingenico EMV

July 27, 2015

Why PCI And EMV Compliance May Not Be Enough For Retail…

A report from the National Retail Federation indicates that while companies are becoming more compliant with PCI standards, it may not be enough to protect them from fraud. Note: Thanks for Epicor for sponsoring this EMV story.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

July 27, 2015

Ian Baldwin: Validating Customer Complaints Can Pay Div…

In his latest blog posting, Ian Baldwin says when you deal with customer concerns in an empathetic fashion, you’re more likely to earn repeat business and future sales.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

July 24, 2015

Farwest 2015 Show Promises To Be Far From Ordinary

Farwest, which takes place Aug. 27-29 in Portland, Ore., is the show to discover new nursery and retail-focused products, equipment and services, find new, popular plant varieties, and network with thousands of top industry professionals.

Read More

July 23, 2015

Lakeview Nurseries’ Michelle Harvey Appointed To Massac…

Following a passion for government policy, Harvey says she’s excited to be able to educate elected officials about issues important to the horticulture industry.

Read More

July 22, 2015

Economic Growth Will Fuel Garden Demand [2015 State Of …

As the housing industry continues to rebound and the economy improves, economist Charlie Hall says consumers will unleash pent-up demand, which means good news for garden retailers.

Read More

July 22, 2015

Local Garden Centers To Visit During The Nursery/Landsc…

While you’re in Dallas for the Nursery/Landscape EXPO, set aside some time to pay a visit to these local independent garden centers and check out some of the innovative things they’re doing.

Read More
Texas NLA Trade Show Floor

July 21, 2015

What To Do And What’s New At the Nursery/Landscap…

Are you planning to attend the 2015 Nursery/Landscape EXPO? If so, here’s a list of things to do, including new activities, at the event, which take place Aug. 13-15 in Dallas.

Read More