Thank You (and more, there’s always more!)

Thank You (and more... there’s always more!)

by Steve Bailey

I’ll say it right off the bat - I despise the word “lucky”. The only word I dislike as much as “lucky” is “hate”. So, I won’t say I “hate” the word “lucky”.

What’s all this got to do with me riding off into the sunset? In just a few words, quite a bit. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. I beg to differ.

I’ve always felt that “good fortune” or being “fortunate” was the result when “preparation met opportunity”. If one is prepared, there’s no luck to it, it’s what you have prepared for and occurs either knowingly or unknowingly.

My work career bears this out. At the age of 19, the last year of high school, my railroad Father was promoted in his job, and we moved from deep southern Illinois to the Chicago area. I graduated in a class of 1,000. Yes, moving to a new high school with a huge number of students your senior year was not fun, but I had no choice in the matter.

I wanted to fly. In order to pay for flying lessons, I got a job at a landscape operation. I was soon a crew foreman at the ripe old age of 19, with many on my crew at least twice my age. I didn’t know it yet, but that job was going to determine the course of my work career. My parents prepared me for responsibility and so I was very “fortunate” in that respect.

After moving back to southern Illinois during my sophomore year of college, I took a job in the one place I felt comfortable – a garden center. Soon I was a manager and attended college while putting in at least 40 hours at work. I didn’t know it, but I was prepared to work in a garden center with my background in landscaping. Once again, I was “fortunate”.

After graduation from Southern Illinois University in 1975, with a degree in Plant and Soil Science, I took a job with a wholesale nursery. The owner wanted to establish a garden center, which we did. After five years, I was burned out at that position due to a number of owner issues and took a job with a friend at his hardware store. As I have told many of you, the owners were the best business and retail mentors I could have hooked up with. Knowing I wanted my own garden center in the future, I used their experience and teachings to “prepare” a game plan towards what I thought would be my ultimate goal – ownership of a garden center.

That occurred in 1983 when Bonnie and I took the plunge into opening our own garden center. Once again, the assets we had accumulated to that point “prepared” us for financing the garden center.

We built our garden center on the three Ps – People, Product, and Phacility – gee, where have I heard that? We also built it on a firm financial footing based on mentoring by the hardware family as well as our accountant and lender. Our original intent was to build the garden center with the intention to sell it when we wanted to retire, a departure from the garden center family norm. In other words, from day 1 we had to be “prepared” to entertain any offer that came along. Robert Hendrickson, and what was the predecessor to The Group, were invaluable assets towards that goal. So, when a landscaper approached us with an offer to buy our garden center, we jumped at it, but it was way too early to retire.

I was very “fortunate” when Robert Hendrickson called me in May 2001 and offered me the “opportunity” to work with The Group on the financial aspect of garden center retailing. He made it sound really good, but actually I think Wendy needed to move on to other responsibilities in The Group and he needed someone to take over for her. No problem, my background in POS and the financials of a garden center allowed me to be “prepared” to take it and run. Besides, I didn’t have any other job offers (but don’t tell Robert that!). THANK YOU ROBERT AND WENDY!!!

Actually, I did have one huge stroke of “luck” in my life. It occurred in February 1968. I was a sophomore in high school when I took a student bus to a basketball game (very unusual for me) and sat across from Bonnie Jane Crawshaw. I knew then she was the one. I won’t speak for her, but what a good choice I made. Bonnie has been the silent backbone to all the success she and I, along with our two sons, have achieved. I couldn’t have done it without her. If you don’t believe me, ask Robert Hendrickson. He’ll tell you she did all the work anyway!

And the rest is history. It’s been a great fifty-year run, twenty-one years of which were with The Group. Honestly, it couldn’t have been any better. I got to work with the large majority of you in your garden centers, and more importantly, I was privileged to form close friendships as a result. I have been so “fortunate" to work and enjoy it. It couldn’t have been any better, and all because “preparation met opportunity”. Thank you one and all!

So please allow me to put on my consultant hat one more time. The past two years have been tumultuous with rising Revenues that many times cover up management errors or deficiencies. What is going to happen when Revenues rise slower than we saw in 2020 and 2021. Will you be able to capitalize on the lessons learned in better times? I think you will, with the help of Tim, Danny, Karen, Sid, and the rest of The Group Service Providers. – the best set of resources in our industry.

And while I might not be qualified to assess anyone’s personal life, if you use the same preparedness, the opportunities will arise. Take it and run. Enjoy it. Bonnie and I are going to.

Now, back to my Bonsai . . .

Steve Bailey

On Friday, April 1, 2022, The Group hosted a GROUPtalk LIVE Session to salute Steve and Bonnie Bailey and say THANK YOU for all they have brought to The Group, our Centers, and the industry! Even on an extremely busy Friday morning, in the beginning of spring, many took the time to honor Steve and Bonnie Bailey.
In the words you will hear in this session, you can get a clear feeling of what the work Steve and Bonnie have done for each Garden Center, The Garden Center Group, and the Industry as a whole. Click on the image below to go to see the video.
A special THANK YOU to Steve and Bonnie Bailey for their many years of efforts on behalf of The Garden Center Group and our Client Centers and the industry!
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