All in the Family

August 12, 2011
Written by
In today’s garden centre industry, it’s common to have different generations of the same family working in the same greenhouse. The nature of the business lends itself nicely to a family setting. Often, when the busy season hits, all hands are required on deck and what better way to source employees you trust than from within your own bloodline?

The problem with this is that working with the people you love isn’t always easy. There’s enough stress that comes along with running a garden centre. Having your mom or your younger brother boss you around and challenge your decisions only adds to this pressure and creates tension in the workplace. There’s also a lot at stake in a family business, including relationships and a family’s livelihood. Our cover story, “It’s All Relative,” on page 16 offers guidelines to follow and pitfalls to avoid when working with family members in tight quarters.

Related to these types of businesses, there’s also the issue of who will take over when the first generation of a family business decides to retire. As more baby boomers throw in the trowel after years of hard work and dedication, succession planning becomes of greater importance, especially for companies with no clear successor.

Michelle Brisebois’ article on page 18 helps you put a clear plan in place, whether you’re passing the business to a child or to someone outside the family.

Despite these challenges, there are plenty of benefits to keeping it all in the family. While it might be frustrating to have your dad always peering over your shoulder, the fact is that sometimes Father does know best. He has the knowledge and experience you need. When hard times hit – great examples are the last recession and the rough spring season that occurred in much of Canada this year – chances are, the first generation has lived through this and can offer sound advice that will help you get the business back on track.

The younger generation also has something to offer. That smartphone that seems attached to the hands of your 20-something daughter and the social media websites she can’t go an hour without checking are the key to your future customers. Being new to the business, young family members can also present a fresh perspective on the promotions you’ve run, your advertising methods and how you merchandise or set up the garden centre.

When you bring different generations of flesh and blood together, the key is to pinpoint what each family member does best and take advantage. By combining the expertise and advice of the first generation with the energy and enthusiasm of the next, family businesses can present customers with not just the perfect mix of plants, but also the perfect mix of service. Just don’t forget to throw in a little patience and respect – after all you can’t choose your family.

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