“Rain Day, Train Day” at Meadows Farms takes advantage of inclement weather to drive knowledge. Photos courtesy of John Kennedy.

June 2024
Knowledge is the new currency By John Kennedy

As we move into summer and your team begins to lose the “spring” in their step, now is the best time to set up for your fall success.

When Revenue Adds Up

Based on data provided by Tim Quebedeaux and The Garden Center Group, spring (defined as March, April and May) represents 50.3% of an IGC’s entire annual revenue. The second week of May represents 7.8% on its very own, and the entire month of May represents 29% of annual sales.

Summer is a distant second, with 21.3% of annual sales (defined as June, July and August). In essence, the month of May alone generates nearly over 30% more sales than the entire summer season. Invaluable data to make better decisions! Thank you, Tim, for sharing.

The brain can turn to mush pretty quickly over the summer, and teachers want to avoid summer learning loss by sending kids home with reading assignments or offering summer classes. According to a Brookings Institution study, students lose between 25% and 30% of their learning over the summer.

There is much similarity in the green industry — vendors come to the garden center in February and March and offer product knowledge training for your staff to get them soaked with education and stoked for the season. It’s usually just a day or two of what amounts to a fire hose of facts — that’s it. A good soaking in the spring that is expected to last the entire year. Can you imagine doing that to a plant? Let’s water and fertilize our people just like our plants this year!

IGCs Committed to Consistent Training

Many IGCs commit to training and development on a more consistent basis. Meadows Farms, with several locations in the D.C. area, has a “Rain Day, Train Day” model, where they take advantage of the weather to drive knowledge. They recently did this in the spring with the Proven Winners Certified Garden Center Training Program. Great job, Team MF!

(If you haven’t gotten your team plugged into the Proven Winners certification for 2024, check it out here)

Joey Bokor and his team at Kerby’s Nursery in Seffner, Florida, is another great example. They have a daily team huddle and a product knowledge presentation once a week, where a team member teaches about a product or problem and offers the value or the solution. From there, those notes are then posted into The Garden Center Group’s GroupSpace platform to be available for review — and building a resource library for future learning (visit yourgroupspace.com to learn more).

Reston Farm Garden Market, in Reston, Virginia, has set up a continuous learning platform where team members are challenged to learn and teach something new each day. Employees can attend The Knowledge College, fostering a culture of curiosity and education, and earn points that can be converted into gift cards or additional money in their paychecks. (Hey, sometimes it pays to learn!)

Forest Lake Greenhouses, in Florence, South Carolina, is currently building its Forest Lake Greenhouses University (FLGU) inside their GroupSpace, where associates that “learn more, earn more” by also assigning points (think CEUs) to their learning effort and rewarding them accordingly.

Both Reston Farm Garden Market and Forest Lake Greenhouses’ intranet platform are filled with vendor training, product knowledge, ACT Cards (Top Five Things You Need to Know About Each Position at the IGC) and Gardening 101 videos, as well as internal tribal knowledge to build the capacity and competency of their stakeholders of the future.

Louisiana Nursery, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has its three locations compete by adding up the points each team member earns attending Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association certification programs, participating in the 2024 Proven Winners Certification program, teaching a class, attending a seminar or presenting a “Deep Dive” during its Friday huddles. This not only helps to increase their knowledge, but also shares the knowledge with other team members — “Each One, Reach One.”

“Rain Day, Train Day” at Meadows Farms takes advantage of inclement weather to drive knowledge.
“Rain Day, Train Day” at Meadows Farms takes advantage of inclement weather to drive knowledge. Photos courtesy of John Kennedy.

Meadows Farms, Forest Lake Greenhouses, Reston Farm Garden Market and Louisiana Nursery each play “The Great Game of Business” through monthly mini-games. Employees learn about the features and benefits of the products they promote, then track the sales improvement over the month. This year, they will focus on curiosity and knowledge as one of their key performance indicators. Louisiana Nursery has made it a healthy competition between their three locations.

Heinz Brothers Greenhouse in St. Charles, Illinois, has taken its training to a whole new level with “One Plant a Day: 365 Days of Plants” videos by Summer Rayne Oakes, and then tying the product and plant training programs to its marketing plan.

Each week, they focus their attention on items that are marketed out to the public with the product/plant knowledge training they offer internally, allowing each and every employee to be competent and confident in their ability to educate the customer.

Down to Earth (DTE) Garden Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, (another “Great Game” IGC) has also committed to lifelong learning with its team. The “Plant and Product” training inside of its DTE University platform offers an amazing amount of opportunity to convert knowledge into currency for the entire team and successful business enterprise. Also, look for co-owner Sarah Polzin to speak about DTE University at Cultivate next month. They are leading the way with team engagement, communication and education.

Down to Earth Garden Center’s DTE University platform.
Down to Earth Garden Center’s DTE University platform.

Build a Culture of Curiosity

Building confidence and capacity within your garden center should be the big focus in 2024. We know that garden centers that have an informed and well-educated staff who can coach and consult customers are seeing better sales and enjoying better employee retention.

Knowledge is key to building a more successful garden center of the future. Leveraging your vendors, creating your own training content, and encouraging and rewarding your team to learn more will absolutely foster the best chances for everyone to earn more.

My dad taught me at an early age to “learn something new each day; if you don’t, you wasted that day.” Creating a culture of curiosity within your garden center will drive your team to higher levels of learning and education, not only in horticulture, but also in business and life.

Invest in Your People

I understand many folks are hesitant to invest in education for their team out of fear they may leave and take their new knowledge with them. I totally get it! The alternative, however, is far more challenging for your business.

What happens if you don’t train them — and they stay? Knowledge is the new currency; are you investing in your team for a better return on investment not only in the spring, but also all year?

Let’s attend summer school. Have your team read a few books, learn a few new plants, understand the benefits of a few more products, be curious about financial literacy in business and life, and share with a few other team members.

When fall comes around, your team will be focused, sharp and ready to close strong — beating back the summer learning loss and turning into a summer knowledge gain.


John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a strategist, consultant and speaker to the IGC and horticulture industry and is a service provider to The Garden Center Group. He and his wife, Souny, are co-founders of BoomerWrangle LLC, a digital solutions agency specializing in data management, analytics, visualization and reporting, as well as customized workplace solutions for the IGC and grower communities. For more information, visit johnkennedyconsulting.com.