5 Minutes With Bob Wasson 800

February 2024
5 Minutes With … Bob Wasson By Teresa McPherson

Bob Wasson is director of retail operations at Wasson Nursery, which has three locations in Indiana.

What’s the best part about your job?

The best part of being in the garden center business is the seasonality. I love the buildup to Mother’s Day weekend, followed by the slower summer days, then the ramp-up into the fall and holiday seasons as well. During the slower times, I love brainstorming and coming up with plans and ideas of things to tweak for next season. Having a period of pause and reset can be financially challenging at times, but it’s also a hidden perk of running a garden center.

What keeps you up at night?

Two things: First, we need to be different and create an experiential feeling when customers are in the store. What can we do that sets us apart from being “just a normal garden center”? I want to see us evolve over time to ensure that we are appealing to younger generations and keeping customers engaged more than just when they need to purchase plants.

The second thing that is keeping me up is profitability. The pandemic surge of 2020-21 is now over and things are a little more challenging. After going through an easy, lucrative period like that, we all have a tendency to get complacent. Now, seeing revenues level out at our garden centers, we need to ensure we are taking all the necessary steps to secure profits.

What is your biggest goal for the next year?

The biggest goal for next year would be to operate with a renewed company-wide focus on profitability. I’d like to end 2024 with a net profit margin of over 10%, which would be a record for our garden center department. One step that we recently took was to join The Garden Center Group, which is a peer group of garden centers that share financial data on a weekly basis. I see this being super beneficial so we can benchmark our performance with similarly sized stores in the Midwest.

As a family business, what measures do you take to separate the family part from the business part?

Ha ha. Our family is not great at this — we talk shop constantly. Whenever we get together outside of work for birthdays, holidays, etc., we try our best to not bring up work issues but ultimately they always come up. In the daily work environment, I think it’s important that family members are not the only decision-makers. We have an executive team with non-family members who contribute to key decisions and handle much of the day-to-day operations. Most importantly, we have a chief operating officer who manages a lot of the day-to-day and works with most of the staff. This helps family members stay out of the weeds and takes emotion out of decisions.

What’s something few people know about you?

I love to play table tennis. A few years ago, I purchased a ping-pong robot (the PowerPong 5000) that receives my shots and returns them in random shots back to me. I’m always up for a game; in fact, last year I bought an office conference table that transforms into a ping-pong table … or is it a ping-pong table that transforms into a conference table? We’ll never know.

Favorite plant to grow? Why?

Evergreens. Whenever I’m helping customers pick out plants at the garden center, the most common request is, “I don’t want evergreens, I want more color.” My favorite response is, “Green is a color.”

I personally love the look of various shapes, textures and shades of evergreen plants in a landscape. I think it is a clean, timeless look and people should use more evergreens, not less!

For an enhanced reading experience, view this article in our digital edition.

Teresa McPherson

Teresa McPherson is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected].