Plant Your People

Plant Your People

By John Kennedy


As the road in this new year is currently being paved, and 2022 slowly appears on the horizon of your garden center’s windshield, it’s always a good idea to reflect on the past year that is disappearing in the rear-view mirror quickly before the lessons and blessings are forgotten.

Many lessons for sure. And countless blessings abound.

Do we move towards or away from the “convenience economy” and learn new ways to meet our customer’s needs in a contact-less (not contactless) manner? 

Do we revisit our vendor relationships in the continued supply chain challenges?

Do we follow the new trends that the pandemic has created or do we hedge our bets that they were just short-lived fads of necessity?

And do we search deeper for the answer to this “Great Resignation or Great Retirement” that continues to plague us in 2022?

All great questions and one’s worthy of asking as you plan your approach to another “unprecedented and unpredictable” year ahead.

As I have stated previously, the pandemic both accelerated and amplified actions and issues within the workplace.  If you were thinking about leveraging e-commerce, the pandemic accelerated that decision.

If you were contemplating investing in a new POS, the pandemic accelerated that decision.

If you had a poor team culture, the pandemic amplified that team culture.

If you had a great work environment, Covid amplified that team and galvanized them to become even better. And those existing employees may not be so keen on inviting new folks to become part of their team: “They weren’t here with us during the hell, so why should they be here now that we are doing well?” 

And if you had a weak on-boarding system, it was amplified as you tried to attract and retain new talent to join your team. The new employee's needs and wants (whether they are young or old) have dramatically changed over the last two years, and knowing what those wants and needs are will play into your success in 2022 and beyond.

From the stage at the Fall Event, I risked pushback and boos by stating what I have witnessed over my nearly two-decade relationship with the green industry-- “You often care more about your plants than your own people.”   As I waited for the tomatoes and smirks to come my way, I was surprised to see many, if not most, nod in agreement (after the sting subsided).

I even had hallway conversations with a few of you that made an extra effort to say they agreed with my premise. So, on the drive home from Delaware, I began to formulate a new approach to employee development that the entire industry, as well as most others, are addressing—the attraction and retention of talent.

Many of you may have seen my three-part series with Proven Winners in the waning months of last year, and that work and feedback also inspired me to take a deeper dive into the process.

Souny and I do a fair amount of our strategic thinking and planning on the road these days. We always challenge each other to “Make it Better!” so, during our southern tour visits and trips in December to see Lindleys, Kerby’s, Forest Lake Greenhouses, Dothan Nurseries and Gardens of Babylon, we formulated a plan.

With the new  completed, we would build a program within the platform to address this pressing industry issue.   And “Plant Your People” began to take shape.

We identified the five key steps to building a culture where employees show up to work because they “want” to…not because they “have” to.  Those five steps are as follows:

Hiring. On-Boarding. Engaging. Coaching. Retaining.

Each of these steps will be accompanied by worksheets, easy-to-implement strategies, and video support to foster a work environment that emulates the effort and attention we give to our plants.

We go to great lengths to create the soil needed to provide a healthy environment for a plant to survive. We fertilize, water, prune, and protect that plant from harmful weather, provide it the sun or shade that is needed, and even place them into a “plant hospital” in a secreted area of the garden center to nurse them back to health.

Why not invest the very same effort afforded your plants with your people? Soon you will be able to follow a set of instructions and actions that will do just that.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as this program unfolds, and for those who have already invested in, this will be added to the existing training videos, forms, workbooks and tools that already are populated into your platform.

For those who would like to join the other garden centers that are taking advantage of the single-source digital “intranet,” your customized platform will also be propagated with this new program. (Must commit by March 15th to have your platform ready by April 20th—first come first served basis with ten additional spots currently available). 

Attached to this link is the one-sheet description of the “Plant Your People” program. More to come soon…


Want to discuss a Team-Building opportunity with John Kennedy? Call or email him!

John Kennedy
[email protected]
Cell: ‭443-605-7095

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

John Kennedy is a strategist, author and Service Provider to The Garden Center Group. John and his wife Souny offer innovative tools and digital solutions that accelerate change in the green industry. Their new “YourGroupSpace” intranet platform can be found at   They are also the co-founders of --A search engine and digital magazine that promotes farms, garden centers and wineries of the agritourism industry of North America.

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