Greenhouse Canada

Business Management
Not just a Buyers’ Guide but also a Sellers’ Guide


December 3, 2009
By Gary Jones

Topics

Ever seen the Dragon’s Den program on TV? The essence of it is that inventors, or folks with great ideas or even a fledgling business that needs a cash injection, try to sell their genius “money-back-in-no-time” concept to a panel of highly successful investment experts for a (significant) cut of the spoils. Sometimes, they are annoyingly simple, “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas proposed by folks who clearly lack common sense. Sometimes, otherwise seemingly sensible, clear-thinking folks have just let an absolutely nutso idea get the better of their judgment.

Ever seen the Dragon’s Den program on TV? The essence of it is that
inventors, or folks with great ideas or even a fledgling business that
needs a cash injection, try to sell their genius
“money-back-in-no-time” concept to a panel of highly successful
investment experts for a (significant) cut of the spoils. Sometimes,
they are annoyingly simple, “why didn’t I think of that?” ideas
proposed by folks who clearly lack common sense. Sometimes, otherwise
seemingly sensible, clear-thinking folks have just let an absolutely
nutso idea get the better of their judgment.

Not often enough, there’s a combination of an “are you serious?” bad idea and forlorn sales ability – great moments.

Advertisment

Occasionally, it all comes together and a deal is struck.

So, what makes one person better at introducing a new idea than the
next person? How much is luck, how much is good skill or judgment, how
much is just perfect timing? In this Buyers’ Guide edition, what about
a Sellers’ Guide?”


WHY ARE SOME GROWERS MORE PROFITABLE THAN OTHERS?

Too many years ago now, I was “secretary” to a group of glasshouse
tomato growers in southern England. Each month, every grower sent in
their crop sales, grade and average price. Basic information, nothing
fancy. My job was to convert the numbers to net income per square
metre, or a similar comparable unit, and return everyone’s collated
information (no names attached) to all group members. It was staggering
how growers of similar technical ability could sell virtually identical
produce yet vary so greatly in their income. Clearly, some had achieved
an almost alchemist-like ability of turning tomatoes into more money
than other growers could. (Maybe we should do this here – want to join
a group? Let me know.)

The inaugural season of the Langley Community Farmers Market recently
came to an end. It went well, for a first year. It was a steep
(vertical?) learning curve for many on the board. Months of careful –
occasionally stumbling into strategic – planning brought opening day
with deserved excitement (resplendent with local dignitaries, sunshine
and an amazing cake) to over a thousand happy customers.

“Week two” brought major headaches, courtesy of nearly 1,500 visitors,
overwhelmed parking lots, and “sold-out” vendors. How fortunate to have
those kinds of “challenges.” Things calmed down and the market
meandered through a regular attendance of around 30 vendors and 600-700
regular customers before tailing off to steady attendance by the end of
summer.


WHY ARE SOME VENDORS MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN OTHERS?
Each week, vendors were asked to provide the market manager with a
simple “sales achieved” figure. Returns were anonymous, apart from
being identified by type of vendor (produce, crafts, etc). Within a
category, there were clearly vendors who could out-sell other vendors
of their type. What makes one market stall sell more (and at higher
prices) than the vendor next door? How much is product quality,
reputation, visual appeal or just having the best location at the
market?

I’m not sure I have the answers to all of these questions. No,
actually, I’m sure I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is
that sometimes we get so caught up in the technical aspects of growing
that it’s easy to miss areas of business where we can make significant
– drastic even – improvements to the bottom line.

Obviously, increasing knowledge and ability to control hungry pests,
energy-sapping diseases, to tweak crop growth, or improve product
quality are all vitally important. But when was the last time you
consciously spent any research dollars on increasing net income by 10
per cent through changes in marketing or sales abilities, or ways of
increasing the price of your product? How much difference would that
make to profitability? It’s easy to measure the success of finding a
new control of pest “x.” Maybe it’s not so “measurable” to do the same
with marketing and sales.

A couple of years ago I came across a website that promised to answer
why one person is better at introducing a new product than the next
person. I duly resolved to return and look at it when I had time.

I did so today.

Guess what?

The website is “For Sale.”