COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Surprising new trends are emerging in the green industry, due largely to a rocky economy over the last few years and changing consumer behavior. Five industry experts today announced what they consider to be the Top 5 Trends for 2013, which offer fresh opportunity for those green businesses that are willing to react and respond to the new information.
Trend #1: Sustainability
Customers are increasingly tuning into how their plants are produced and their impact once they’re brought home, reports Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape, a 50-year old award-winning business in Chicago. Plants naturally improve air quality and cool the earth, but much more is possible, he says. “The businesses that employ sustainable business practices, such as the use of bio-diesel to fuel trucks and 100 percent organic lawn care program, are the ones driving the future of the green industry, because it’s what customers want, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Trend #2: Letting Employees Hire For You
Hiring and retaining employees is one of the top expenses of any green business, which is why letting top employees have a key role in hiring continues to be a cost- and time-savings approach, according to Tom Shay, owner of Profits Plus and an author, coach and speaker who is a fourth generation business owner. Candidates tend to be more forthcoming with peers, and employees are less likely to overlook the candidate’s potential weaknesses. In addition, prospective co-workers can best gauge whether the new employee will be a cultural fit. Once hired, assign a coworker coach to help the new employee acclimate, serving as a mentor over the next six months to smooth the transition. This helps with retention as well, addressing one of the costliest challenges a green business will face: turnover.
Trend #3: Pursuing Customer Research
Business owners need customer research to drive their businesses, explains Dr. Bridget Behe, Professor, Horticultural Marketing at Michigan State University. “Research into consumer behavior is critical. Now we’re conducting studies using eye tracking software that shows researchers how consumers react to a garden as they look at it.” Recently Behe led a study that determined that consumers prefer diverse types of planting pots.
Trend #4: Embracing Challenges and People to Change Outcomes
The business that chooses to take a proactive approach by facing challenges and looking more closely at business and sales strategies, employee growth, financial management, and evaluating details from equipment to training will dominate a changing marketplace, according to Jim Paluch, president of JP Horizons, Inc., national business coach and developer of People Solutions for business performance, A Better Way 2 Learn and the Working Smarter Training Challenge. The results can be profound, he says, where companies can experience not only marginal growth in profits, but best month or quarter or year they’ve ever had. The key? Know where to cut back, and know where to invest.
Trend #5: Embracing New Technology
In 2010, Dr. Michael Dirr, legendary author, professor and horticulturist, introduced an iPhone application that enables plant aficionados to enter in up to 75 plant characteristics to learn more about the conditions under which the plant would flourish. “Technology fuels business by better connecting consumers and green providers, “ He explains. Examples include encouraging the use of social media tools by giving best customers free products and encouraging them talk about them, or holding recipe competitions using garden center edible plants on your Facebook page.
These experts are among featured speakers during the CENTS Marketplace slated for January 14-16, 2013 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. CENTS is offered annually to green industry professionals to provide business knowledge about sales, operations and profitability along with continuing education through the esteemed The Ohio State University Nursery Short Course. The convention draws exhibitors and attendees including: growers, independent garden centers, landscape contractors, arborists, turf, and pest management professionals. For more information, call (800) 825-5062 or visit www.onla.org.