Guest blogger & well-known industry consultant Neville Stein gets passionate

7 June 2022
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I recently took a group of mature horticultural students to visit a specialist retail nursery in East Anglia. The nursery in question, - along with Twining Valley Nursery in Hamilton, New Zealand - is one of my all-time top three favourites. The other nursery making the top three will remain a tantalising secret unless I blurt it out in another blog!

The owners of the nursery we visited in East Anglia grow a large amount of their own stock for re-sale, are imaginative, original, and have created a unique and wonderful ambiance, including an ornamental walled garden. Most importantly, this nursery, along with many retail nurseries dotted throughout the UK is owned by genuine plant enthusiasts. You all probably know the types of nurseries I am talking about. Most of them are small businesses, often owner operated, and in my opinion they form the backbone of our industry. Together they are responsible for an enormous amount of horticultural production and genuine plant enthusiasm, but perhaps the overriding characteristic of all these businesses is that without exception, the owners are driven by a huge amount of passion.

The great thing about passion is that it is an attractive and rewarding quality! Passionate people are inspiring, motivational and of course enthusiastic, and passion can be contagious, passing on to staff, customers and suppliers in equal and beneficial measure. Most importantly however, passion is essential as it can be the secret ingredient that separates your business from your competitors. Passion sells, and if you want to sell more products then you have to have passion in what you are doing, and belief in the products you sell.

So, how are your passion levels for your business and your products? Rig yourself up to a theoretical ‘Passion-ometer’ and consider what passion level you would measure – low, medium, high, diminishing? Of course at the moment at times of increasing competition and tough market conditions, it is easy for enthusiasm and passion about the products you are growing and selling to diminish. We understandably tend to focus on the mechanisms of a business when the going gets tough, concentrating on the body rather than the soul of it all. But I would argue that reconnecting with its soul, and with your passion for what you do, is of equal if not prime importance. Enthusiasm is contagious, and so is low morale and disenchantment. You need to try and lead from the front and convey your passion and belief to your staff and customers. How? Remind yourself why you are in this business. Try to reconnect with your interest and love of the plants and products you sell. Visit inspiring places like gardens, nurseries, and people who still have this passion, read inspiring business stories and indulge in positive encouraging social media. When you meet passionate people, learn from them and catch their enthusiasm. Find a role model or mentor and hang around these positive people. Tend to your own garden if you have time, and remind yourself of the miracle we are part of. We are literally the guardians of this wonderful plant-life knowledge and the joy and benefit it brings.

Of course you still need to focus on the mechanics of your business. Many economic analysts are talking about the UK entering a recession and we need to be prepared. Normal rules apply when trying to manage a business during a recession – control costs, maximise sales, increase productivity etc, but the ingredient that will make the difference between survival and prosperity is passion.  Donald trump said in a rare insightful and rational moment “without passion, you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing”, and I would definitely agree. If you feel tired, jaded and lacking energy for your business you must reignite your passion, and guard that flame like an Olympic torch.  We may be entering dark times but your passion can shed some light.