More is learned from one’s errors than from one’s successes.
Rule #4 from “The New Market Wizards” by Jack D. Schwager
“There are a million ways to make money in markets. The irony is that they are all very difficult to find.”
While cheerfully signing accounts payable checks recently I noticed that it cost us $11,000 to print the 2004 price list/catalog. I hope that you will cherish your personal catalog and keep it safe and read it from time to time because it is our primary advertising medium. The Leaflet will give reasonably current information on availability of plants, both those listed in the catalog and those that we just grew for fun. Weekly faxes go out with more current information on plants that are blooming to those who need that information.
The reason that we do not list every single plant that we grow is because some of them would sell out early and thus cause the sales people to spend much time on the phone explaining why we are not able to fill orders. This is a psychologically unrewarding experience to natural born sales people and causes them psychic stress. We certainly do not want to cause psychic stress to any of our employees who spend all day chatting with customers. We have also found that putting in the note “summer availability only” has little affect in stopping early spring inquiries. We are happy that people want all of our plants and we are spending most of our time and resources trying to produce more of them so that our customers are happy also.
We are very proud of Dan Hutton, our ex-sales manager, who came to us only knowing how to sell poly houses and who learned so much while working with us that he was able to get a cushy, well-paying, and easy job selling bedding annual plants for a prominent Kalamazoo grower just a few minutes drive from his house. We suspected that he might want to have a short drive home from work instead of the one hour drive from Twixwood when he and Meredith had little baby Sofia last summer. We consider ourselves to be a family oriented and family supportive business and we were still surprised at how much wall space in the office has been taken up recently with digital photos of little Sofia all wide-eyed from the flashes. We are not saying that Dan is an excessively proud father, we are just saying that the baby photos were threatening to escape from his office and cover up all of our state nursery association membership plaques and meritorious service awards and Michigan Nursery Grower of the Year award and International Plant Propagator Society Fellow award on down the hall. We wish him well as a new father and with his new job. If you ever want to buy any annuals call the office and we will give you his new phone number.
So many of our sales managers have gone on to jobs of big money and easy work that you would think that people would be pounding on the door and standing in line to come work for us. And, by the way, we can always use a good grower, production supervisor, and field production manager. We are developing our latest farm acquisition of 3 years ago, the 87-acre Jung farm, which has sandy soil and a large irrigation pond. We are going to make it a perennial growing farm to support our container business with solid-set irrigation and all. A new 132,000 square foot DeCloet gutter connected has just been completed on that farm so that the field workers will have a comfortable place to work during inclement weather. There is a lot of good experience that would look good on the resume that a person could get working for us.
We welcome Gary McKinley to Twixwood as the new sales manager. Gary has forty years of sales and management experience in the nursery business starting out with Earl May Garden Centers in Iowa. Most of his time was with Henry F. Michelle and Geiger in Pennsylvania. More recently he was with Ridge Manor in Madison, Ohio. As you can see Gary has experience in the hard goods end of the business as well as plant brokerage and nursery production.
We are impressed with Gary’s professionalism and professional experience. We are complimented that he has chosen to come work with us. To the extent that it is possible to predict anything about the future, we are confident that he will treat our customers with the same high sense of ethics that our past sales managers have done. Selling plants is not the easiest job in the world because they keep changing on us. To make this easier we have historically supported the sales staff in their quest to have the customers pleased with what they are shipped.
Speaking of predicting the future, I have informed our banker that we are going to sell a lot of plants next year and make him look good. We hope that there is a congruence between our goals of selling some plants and our customer’s goals of buying some plants. Let us know how we can make this whole operation a smooth process.
As per usual for these leaflets I surveyed the office sales staff for topics of discussion and as per usual they said nothing, with the exception of Joyce Squires who said that her customers always want to know what is new this year. That listing is on page 8. You will want to study the shorter native prairie grasses that have ornamental value when planted in a mass. These are the Mosquito grass, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Bad River’ ecotype, Hystrix patula, Bottlebrush grass, a shade loving and very unattractive plant, Koeleria glauca, Blue Hair grass, one of my favorites of all time because it blooms early and looks good next to Dianthus Tiny Rubies, and Sporobolis heterolepsis, Prairie Dropseed. Sporobolis is very slow to develop from seed and we have been a year behind and now we are almost caught up and ahead of the game. This is a favorite of the Chicago Botanical Garden. It is very fine leaved and drooping. The Achillea Oertel’s Rose comes recommended by the great Dale Hendricks from North Creek. It is shorter and brighter than most yarrows and it really does re-bloom in late summer.
The catalog is pretty good this year. All of that proofreading did not work perfectly but, with therapy, we are dealing with it well. We used a new software program and a new scanner to put in the color pictures and new paper so that there is no dot-bleed. Next year we will finish the new freeway on the map and get the people in the photograph identified. We are concerned about their self-images. And you can help things go a lot smoother around the office by flipping to page 16 in the catalog and at the top of the page in the little blank space hand write in blue mazus and white mazus and do not ask how the mazus fell, so to speak, through the cracks in the system. I was well on my way to ferreting out the chain of responsibility here when it slowly dawned on me, and we are not dealing with the most sensitive to inter-personal relationships person, that next spring I was going to need all of these people to do sales and be cheerful and to get deliveries made. As the old song goes: “How many are the times I’ve wondered, but I really don’t want to know”.
While leafing through the price list you may want to make a notation on page 53 that the boxwoods are mostly Green Mountain, the taller hedge type of the Sheridan hybrids, and that they were field dug and field potted last November. By the end of June 2004 a few roots should have grown out into the pot. Do not order them early as they will keep falling out of the pots every time the delivery truck goes over a railroad track. This will get our trucks all dirty and messy.
On page 27 at the bottom are the Armeria maritimas, thrift, or sea pink. These look like a clump of grass. Worse things have happened. In late spring there is a long bloom period of white or pink blooms. We have 4,000 gallons of ‘Bloodstone’, and 4,000 gallons of ‘Cotton Tail’ and 2,000 gallons of ‘Splendens’. These are really thick and are over-wintered outside and will thus bloom at the natural bloom time. These are naturally low growing and compact and neat looking and thus are the kind of plant that does well in the garden center setting. On a nice sunny weekend they just walk out the door.
Please change the address and the area code on the phone number to the correct ones. We are being really frugal these days and using up the last of the pre-printed stationary from way back when image was everything. That is PO Box 247, and 269 471-7408. Nowadays we do not care about image, only a lot of good pachysandra.