Family Owned...Passion Grown ... Savor the Stress!

We want to extend a big Group Welcome to John Kennedy, our newest addition to our Service Providers. John is an international strategist, author and speaker driving cultural shift and change within businesses and associations in our green industry. He has worked with some our Clients already - Dambly's Garden Center, Ray Wiegand's Garden Center, and Rockledge Gardens, as well as scores of others throughout the world. Welcome John! Here's John's first "share" here in GROUPtalk...

Family Owned...Passion Grown ... Savor the Stress!

Our green industry is ripe with family-based businesses. Insights and ideas that have been passed down through the vines linking one generation to the next become the new innovations of our industry for the future.

As our businesses age and mature, and as our next generation of family members begins to do the same, it is a fine time to re-evaluate our present, revisit our past and recommit to the future.

As I write this article, I am fresh from a wonderful tour of a local winery in Carroll County, Maryland. 

Owned by the Baker family, their method of farming and harvesting is "powered by sweat, not oil" and our "fingerprints are on every vine, every grape and every bottle" they painstakingly produce.

It is indeed a labor of love. 

I have been blessed to meet many growers, nursery and garden center owners that have the same balanced philosophy of farming and family. You are each an inspiration.

Drew Baker, along with his sisters Lisa and Ashli, have created a distinctive experience that separates them from the other wineries in the Mid-Atlantic region. They truly get the value proposition of "tell a great story... and then let the guest experience the entire process of a great wine".  

(It's not just the taste of the wine... it's the flavor of the entire winery).

"The customer will seek you out if you have a great story to share."

And seek them out they do!

Old Westminster Winery is located on an 18-acre farm tucked away in the hills of very rural Carroll County, yet they have visitors travel for miles to find them, experience them, and then take them home.

They have recently won both Best in Class and Gold in the 2015 Maryland Governor's Cup Awards for wine and continue to make a notable name for themselves in the growing market of local vineyards.

They could do it cheaper. They could do it faster. They could do it with quality in the back seat. But they choose not to, because their beliefs are there's a niche market of folks that are like-minded and will seek them out. 


Quality farming, quality family, quality faith, makes quality fermenting... one barrel at a time.

With faith as a compass, passion as the engine, parents (Jay and Ginger) as a foundation, and great wine as an end product, the alignment that you would want for any business in the green and agriculture business to thrive and survive is in place.

However, it certainly has its challenges. But as I learned on my tour today, you actually want the vine to be "stressed" in order to produce a more vibrant and eccentric flavor. 

And that "stress" is what makes OWW such a success. -They welcome the stress!!   (

The winery wants the vine to "work" for its survival... not just sit around and wait for nature to do its thing. 

(I like this metaphor).

I am sure we all can agree that there's been no shortage of stress over the last few years.

Whether it was the tough economic drought of years passed or a recent downpour of business in the last two years, we have experienced both famine and feast climates, which have "stressed our vines to the breaking point."

Well... just know that the lessons of the past, the management of the present, and the forecast for the future will all benefit from the cultural changes that are now becoming the norm of our green industry.

Separate. Differentiate. Innovate. Exclusive. Experience. Brand. Authentic.

These are all the new buzzwords of the future of our industry and are also truisms as I see it. If you don't like change, you are going to hate extinction!!

The sooner we get on board and are willing to make the rough choices of talent, the tough decisions of family, the right calls to change, and the right direction to chart, the better our industry will be as a whole. 

I love that you surround yourself with like-minded partners in our industry!  Ask the tough questions and formulate the right answers to maximize your investment in The Garden Center Group!

Strategy and intention will beat out wait and see every day of the week. I was fortunate to be invited to work with the team at Rockledge Gardens. Our strategic planning from last year, and a concerted effort to create and innovate an authentic brand, have paid off and then some!

You recently may have seen their commercial videos highlighted in your GROUPtalk (wonderful family... wonderful customer experience). And their commitment to engagement and teamwork has paid off as well... Theresa Riley reported, "The sales games and "ownership techniques are really starting to catch on. In fact Happy Frog Soil continues to be a top seller every week... even though that game ended weeks ago."  :-)

Back to the wine....

Drew Baker said it best:  "We surround ourselves with successful folks in our business that share the same values as our winery". 

That small sample of fertile ideas can grow to large varieties of distinctive, unique and sought after wines that the new generation of spenders will definitely seek and find.  

"We will become that winery of choice for the wine spectator who seeks something unique and authentic...with a story...that they can become part of."

The willingness to do it right, which may actually cost more on the front end, is another key to the family's cultivating success story.

In addition, the willingness for the family members to wear different hats, to be equals on the team, and to support whatever is necessary to create that greatest experience for the wine enthusiast. That is what makes this family extraordinary.

What lessons can we learn from Old Westminster Winery and Rockledge Gardens that can be applied to our garden center, grower, nursery or landscape business that will begin the process of future-oriented differentiation and change?

I know one - that it's OK to "stress"! 

The tougher the stress, the tastier the success.

Until next time, savor the stress of spring...

it will pay dividends down the road.


Ready to talk Strategic Planning, Leadership and Team-Building for your center with John? How can John help your team grow? Contact him today.
John Kennedy
John Kennedy Consulting
Cell: 443-605-7095
John Kennedy will be with us at The Fall Event 2016 in Houston. In the meantime, if you think his areas of expertise can help you in your business give him a call or email. He can be found at
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