by Sid Raisch

We’re in a group. We might be subject to Groupthink.

From Wikipedia:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Cohesiveness, or the desire for cohesiveness, in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs.[1] This causes the group to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation.[2][3]

Groupthink is a construct of social psychology, but has an extensive reach and influences literature in the fields of communication studies, political science, management, and organizational theory,[4] as well as important aspects of deviant religious cult behavior.[5][6]

Like-minded is different from groupthink, and it is important to know the difference, so let’s clarify that definition now. There is no wiki definition for the phrase “like-minded”. Here is the Urban Dictionary definition:

Like-minded is an adjective and means to have the same turn of mind or to have the same opinions, goals or disposition.

We’ll come back to discuss like-mindedness further down in this article.

The fact that The Garden Center Group exists indicates that its participants are vulnerable to groupthink, the same as any other group you might engage with. Not only are we vulnerable collectively, we are also vulnerable individually.

It takes a special kind of person to appreciate The Garden Center Group. We call them “joiners”, because we are willing to join with others to gain benefits we perceive from our investment. Two of the most appreciated benefits of The Group are, 1) sharing, and 2) ideas. These benefits are valued, encouraged, supported, and appreciated.

There are other benefits of The Garden Center Group such as access to credible experts and thought leaders (with deep experience in the retail garden industry), whether we want to hear what they have to say, need to hear it, or agree with their perspective. At least we can overcome the fallacy of following groupthink of common practices, status quo, and rules of thumb to make more informed decisions. We hear, read, learn, and hopefully are inspired and guided by information shared across The Group whether in these email newsletters, on The Group's many eList, or at The Fall Event.

As with anything else worthwhile, it takes work to go deeper, to participate at a level where we are individually (and as a company) challenged and guided to actively engage, participate fully, to learn better practices, and become like-minded (should we choose to do so) to organize our companies around the full experience The Group and its Service Providers offer. Some companies who have been in The Group a while were more engaged in the past than recently. We might question if we’ve been riding on the lift of past involvement to the point where it isn’t working because we no longer are “working it” or that things have changed. Others have joined and haven’t yet taken the deeper dive. Both are effectively stuck where they are. Socrates said, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Examine whether the level of engagement, the depth to which we’ve explored, whether we’ve drifted rather than kept our sharp edge sharper. How are we really doing?

Are we retaining profitability? Are we and our people developing in understanding and ability? Is the value of our company increasing? Is our personal net worth (as owners) increasing? Do we have a solid understanding of our place and potential, and what must go between the place our bar presently is and the place we’re trying to raise it to?

Back to Like-Mindedness

How we think about what we think about is as important as what we think about it. Like-mindedness is thinking in accordance with certain principles, objectives, and goals. We share a like-minded perspective that we’re better together. We are like-minded to strive to learn and to do things better as a result.

It gets a little tougher from there. We have like-mindedness about working on the business, and not just in the business. The Group shares like-mindedness about and aspires to a higher level of operating margins and profitability with greater consistency. These are just two of the ways we measure progress.

We have our Differences

While we can be like-minded about how we think about what we think about, there are differences to respect as well. I learned long ago that the majority of garden centers are basically the same, with different appearances. Differences are as easy to ignore as they are dangerous to ignore. There are cultural, regional, weather, and seasonal differences that make doing business in one location very different from another. There are also very different expectations of owners. I call these “owners’ prerogatives”. Some owners value higher profit, others value community involvement, among other differences but yet others don’t define, communicate, or protect and defend their values well enough.

Danger in the Differences

There are some ever-present threats to our businesses to guard against. The danger of taking on groupthink is one. Another is the danger of applying what “works” in one situation to another very different situation. Let’s define reality for a moment. When we hear a word like “works”, or “all” or “everyone” or “most” or (one of my favorites), “lots”, and other generalizations, there is often a dangerous thinking misstep being taken. Think about how treacherous it is to think that “lots” of people want to buy the newest thing to come along at the mart or at the trade show, or in the ads and media buzz” Yes, those words can come back to haunt us. Among the most dangerous thinking is that something that works for one company will work equally well for another, especially when in almost every case, the definition of what “works” means that it hasn’t been clarified, especially in economic terms.

I’m going to pick on just one of those things that “works” so well that is rarely well defined and even more rarely is measured correctly as a convenient example of what I’m talking about, and that is the value of a “Loyalty Program” – to the customer. Measuring the “success” of a loyalty program is a tricky business. As Mark Twain once said, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Quantifying the success of a loyalty program is trickier than a newbie figuring out which side is up on a caladium bulb/tuber/corm - it’s going to take some careful explaining! Loyalty is a feeling, not a program. A loyalty program only has the word loyalty in it, and never the actual feeling.

There’s talk going around The Group about what to expect in 2022 or any future years’ demand and availability in the supply chain. Here’s something to be like-minded about but not to adopt a groupthink about. We’re not yet in a post-pandemic world and nobody knows if there will ever be one. That doesn’t keep many of them from guessing. We’re in a “Plantdemic” (thanks to Chris Beytes’ Acres Online), and nobody knows when it will end, but everyone keeps guessing. One thing for sure is that we’re each in a world of our own and whether or not everyone else is in it. We will succeed only in proportion to our preparedness for the opportunity that is presented to us. Most deaths are by a thousand cuts. While it appears COVID caused many deaths lately, it was always only the last nail. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of businesses never make it to their next ownership and they die the same way, a death of a thousand cuts while suffering along the way. Each of us has the job of deciding if ours will, and if we decide it will we decide how it will get there. Groupthink will not get a single business into its next generation or to its next owners. With like-mindedness, we have a fighting chance.

How to Think about the Next Year

Like every other year, the next one will be what we make it to be. The best response is to prepare for it and to adjust according to the differences as they come to be known. Being fluid and resilient in all the ways we can is the best way to have a “good year” every year. Don’t be caught in a situation where you can’t adjust your business at least 20% up, or 20% down, or 20% in any direction if you can help it, and you can if you design it that way. Who would have ever guessed a company could even handle a 20% or more increase in sales in one year as so many did in 2020. Some didn’t get there, and others did better than that. Was the difference a prepared state that allowed for more growth? Was it that those with smaller increases weren’t as well prepared or that they were slower or resistant to adapting? I ask the same of companies with the largest increases. Could, even more, have been accomplished with better preparation, and more responsiveness? The point is, that coming up with a groupthink answer isn’t the best way, the right way, or even in the ballpark to figure out what to expect for 2022, or any other year.

The best way to determine what the next year will be like is to do our own forecasting based on our own situation by evaluating our own category performance each month looking for the opportunities to do better, making specific plans, and taking action on those. Then when the next year comes, we can also be quick to recognize changes, flexible, adaptive, and act expeditiously to expand or contract according to our own situation. I once worked in a corporate environment where this process was used to determine the budgets, the results, and ultimately - whether the executives kept their jobs, or didn’t.

It’s all too easy in an independent business to “wing it” and go with groupthink and not do the work of working on your business.

As momma said, “Think for yourself” and “don’t jump off a bridge just because everyone else does." Common sense and like-mindedness aren’t common, but groupthink is. We can now be like-minded about that.

“Keep your friends close, and your Service Providers closer.”

Before procrastination or other busyness steals another year from you Text or Call 937-302-0423 or send an email to [email protected] .

Sid Raisch is an advocate for family business leading growth, change, and results throughout US horticulture. Redefining the business future for consumer horticulture by understanding how the end-to-end supply chain needs to be redirected is a skill Sid has honed into an art. He has understanding and insight through inquisitive observations and extensive experience and has served as a trusted advisor helping transform both national and local businesses into more profitable and sustainable businesses. Developing national and international educational programs that create change in culture, community and company provides Sid venues with a front row seat creating effective and innovative business models.

Sid is a Certified Value Builder System Advisor, and currently serves as Chief Strategist and the Swiss Army Knife of Consultants to The Garden Center Group clients. Contact Sid at [email protected] or call or text  937-302-0423.

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Sid Raisch, Steve Bailey, Tim Quebedeaux, Robert Hendrickson, Jean Seawright, and John Kennedy are included in your retainer!

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