Phases of Spring

Survival, Success, and Significance: Phases of Spring

by Sid Raisch

Have you noticed the Phases of Spring that occur as we approach, endure, and emerge from the annual 100 Days of Horticulture Hell crisis?

There is a naturally occurring progression of events and associated emotions during the early spring through until the summer seasons.

Phase I – Survival

Spring begins with the confident feeling that we’re ready to go, “said no one ever”. It actually begins at the exact moment when we realize we can’t possibly accomplish everything we wanted to. We “recast” the goals, deciding what we realistically can accomplish. Every. Year.

If you are still feeling confident about this Spring, just wait a few more days or maybe a couple of weeks for another dose of the Spring Reality Gap. (Regional differences put some of us deeper into spring than others, so adjust for your location.)

It’s all about Priorities
It will soon become apparent that some projects were not so important as to have them completed by this spring. It is time to kick those things we would like to have done from our daily task lists over to the next year's file, and focus on the most critical among the absolutely must-get-done items.

Panic and Chaos - Mindfulness Required
Even if only momentarily, we are overwhelmed at times and it can show way too much, upsetting everyone around us if we’re not careful, if we’re even unaware. Being mindful of our situation, we can change our response. We so often fall into fire-fighting mode. We cannot rise to the level of our plans if we first fail to the level of our systems. Nothing we can do about all that now, except to take note and resolve to never let this happen again. We can change the things that get us into those situations.

Getting a grip on ourselves is important. Breathe. Think, “this too shall pass”. As the clock ticks and calendar pages turn, we put one foot in front of the other and proceed to be fully in the moment, present in what we’re actually doing right then. It is all anyone can do.

For better or worse, our habits do define us. Habitual reactions take over for planned new ones. Is there time to form new and better habits now? Not now. We had our chance. We will do what we have trained to do, which most likely has more to do with the HARD WORK of retail – planting, unloading, stocking benches, watering, loading cars, ringing registers, and repeat until the last customer leaves. We are well-qualified, motivated, and skilled to do all of those things, and after all, they must be done. We will do those dirty work things right.

A Tale of Two Train Wrecks
An unfortunate recent example of crisis communication breakdown is the two train wrecks that occurred in 2023 in East Palestine Ohio. The first train wreck was the actual derailed train. The second and much more damaging train wreck was the lack of leadership showing up when and where it was needed. The first responders did their job. The appointed and elected leaders who should have been communicating with the media and public simply didn’t show up, until it was too late to stop the communication train wreck. They left a gap in communication that was quickly filled by user-generated social media commentary (more influential than actual media in this case). Long after the actual derailed train cars and their spilled, burned, and absorbed into the soil and waterways contents are all but forgotten, the leadership train wreck will remain. Trust in appointed and elected leadership was lost.

Entering our 100 days is like watching a train wreck about to happen in slow motion. Then it speeds up.

What we expect people to do, vs. what they actually do.

In times of crisis, people forget what they were told to do, and even what was practiced. They even forget why they’re doing what they are expected to do. We are quickly reduced to crisis response, which is fight, flight, or flee.

When someone takes the lead there is someone for us to follow. Crisis communication means communicating FIRST - clearly, thoroughly, and then frequently until it is over, and then we debrief.

“It is a new day. You may have said it yesterday, but today is a new day and people will not remember what they were told even as recently as yesterday. Just get over it and say it again.” said Michael Benken, former owner of H.J. Benken Florist & Greenhouse in Cincinnati Ohio. Remember that you are only beginning to be heard right about the time you are getting tired of communicating. Do it anyway. Is it time for that morning meeting again already?

Appropriate crisis communication means communicating FIRST - calling out what’s going on and what needs to be happening clearly, thoroughly, and then frequently as long as is helpful.

Phases of Spring II – (How to get more) Success Mode

Following closely behind the panic of early spring we go from Survival to Success Mode. Strangely, and contrary to what you may have thought, Success Mode is a dangerous place to be.

Positive cash flow does wonders for creating a positive attitude. Almost suddenly the bank account starts filling up and the crisis is over, or so it feels.

Danger: The mid-spring EUPHORIC state of success often harbors, or breeds problems.

As the initial spring weather watching, stocking, and waiting for it to start, spring passes and we move into managing a new level of routine roles.

1.  With cash worries behind, free-spending creeps in.
2.  Re-ordering is fun, and sort of a rite of celebration of success.
3.  Decisions on new items now seem less risky, even as customer traffic predictably wanes.

Even more dangerous is a false sense of security from a plump bank account balance that everything is going to be ok, even when it is not for some garden centers. Often the state of the business isn’t well at all. The hard reality of the situation is that a full bank account will dwindle. Doesn’t it always? Hopefully, there will be enough money to make it until next spring, or until the line of credit gets tapped again.

Two important and fearful questions that might as well come up now rather than in August:

Will this year's March-June sales be enough to pad the bank account to carry over to spring 2024?

Will the line of credit get paid back so it will be there when we need it again to get through next winter?

Back to Success Mode.

Customer flow increases and staff focuses on watering, stocking, re-ordering, and checkout.

Customers largely serve themselves – just like they do at The Home Depot.

Euphoria is ending, but spring crisis habits prevail. There wasn’t time to take good care of every customer, but now there is, but do we? It just doesn’t happen the way we may think, because everyone forgot to change modes.

Phases of Spring III – Significance

What is significance?

Webster says: Something signified. Of meaning. Of importance. Also, significant: having special meaning. Of considerable influence or effect. Of consequence.

Many of us do what we do because it’s what we’ve always done. We are flying flags of no particular significance. We went to school for it, were hired to do it, were born into it, or married into it. In many cases, we’re doing the garden center thing better than the box stores or even other independents. But why do we do this in the first place?

Garden retailers have been doing a lot better in recent years (Thank You Covid). But we still search for something – not something we can describe or show a picture of. We search for significance. It’s not that we’ve never had significance, but we drift. We fail to remember and stay grounded in why we do what we do.

This year the evidence in support of the significance of our industry is overwhelming when you consider the sustained increase of consumer interest in gardening. The increase in interest is still getting many customers to branch out in their newfound interest as well as bringing new gardeners into the fray.

What if we were living our lives doing what we’re doing in focused pursuit of significance?

Search for Significance

Take some time – just enough for a cup of coffee, tea, or water, and to share a few thoughts amongst the team. Make some notes about it. If we don’t have satisfying answers to these questions now, while we’re influencing and affecting so many, when will we?

1. What is the significance of what we’re doing in this business? Why is it important?
2. Who are we influencing or affecting? How?
3. Of what consequence are we individually? Our company?

Someday never seems to get here. Get a grip today on why, and the how will take care of itself.

Who will lead your company in this way? Who is the most important question to be answered.

If not you, whom?

Send a text to connect while you’re thinking about it and I’ll get in touch to set it up. 937-302-0423.

Have a SIGNIFICANT Spring!

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, Tim Quebedeaux, Jean Seawright, John Kennedy, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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