Our Industry’s Future Part 1: Excuses Never Lead to Solutions

By Matt Edmundson, CHREF Board President

I was sitting at the back-corner table, scanning the room and feeling pretty skeptical about the presentation I was about to hear, wondering how I could avoid demonstrating my apathy and counting the minutes until the bar would open.

I hadn’t been to one of these meetings in a few years since my last term as a board member for CNGA had run out. Those were a few years in a row of very tough times for myself and my business—we had seen our way through the death of my father and nearly the death of my company. Now that things had turned around, it was time for me to once again serve on that board, but I didn’t have much sense of the lay of the land since I left.

It was 3 p.m. on Friday, November 3, 2017, at the CNGA Owners and Managers Leadership Retreat in Breckenridge, Colo. I looked around and saw many familiar faces, most of whom I knew. I noted a few owners, many of whom were leading legacy family businesses like mine and continuing the proud traditions of the previous generations. The group included managers, who often stumbled into the business as a result of their first summer job in high school or discovered this path as a second or even third career.

Looking at the presenter, I thought: what does this guy know about our industry? First off, he’s wearing a tie — suspicious. Second, I bet his hands are soft. I doubt he’s ever dug a hole, pruned a tree, or done much else in terms of “real work.” Has this guy ever worn four hats at once, because that was what was needed to get the job done? Has he ever used wire and duct tape for anything other than what they were expressly designed to do? I doubt it.

About two thirds of the way into the presentation, I just couldn’t hold it in anymore (that’s one of my challenges in life: keeping my opinion to myself). This guy was making recommendations that had worked for Costco and Home Depot! Does he even know who he’s got in the room right now? We don’t look to big box stores for advice. What do they know about plants other than how to screw their vendors? Our members can’t afford to hire people part time and give them benefits! Doesn’t he understand our industry is different? The visa programs for us and our customers are riddled with red tape, expensive or a political hot potato. No one is raising their millennial to actually “work,” especially not for the wages we can afford. Who wants a seasonal job for low pay?

I left that presentation with more questions than answers, you know that nagging sense when there is a riddle to solve and you can’t let it go? There was something to what he was saying that we could somehow apply, but how? Then one day, in casual conversation, the answer just blurted out of my big mouth!

Would you like to know the solution to the riddle? I’m going to share with you the epiphany I had, and more importantly, I am going to show you how this may help solve one of the biggest challenges facing our industry! So, stay tuned for the next Looseleaf!