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Relational Selling & Marketing By Eric Foertmeyer

We all know that without our customers, our business is sunk. But how many of us really take the time to get to know our customers? One of the most exciting things about my job is meeting new customers. I enjoy learning about them, their journey, what they’ve done in their lives to reach their goals and to become successful. There is so much to be gained by understanding your customers and by validating their successes.

…One of the biggest mistakes business owners tend to make is assuming they know more than their customers… The key to getting to know your customers is to listen. As David Oreck, founder of Oreck Vacuums, notes in his book From Dust to Diamonds, “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.” Before I ever mention the product I’m selling, I ask my potential customer basic ice breaker questions. I find out what’s important to them and to their community, what their values are, and what they’ve done to become successful in their own community. I find the connection between their world and mine —do we have similar hobbies, interests, and goals? How can I help them with their success? It’s important for the customer to know that you’re interested in them and not looking at them like a paycheck. The interest has to Connect: An AmericanHort Member Benefit

be genuine. People can tell when you’re just putting them on. Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customer, says to think about your customers’ needs and interests with as much interest as you do your own hobbies. Think about it: if you really took as much interest in your customer and what makes them buy or what makes them say yes to you and your products as you do your golf handicap or fantasy football team, what you could accomplish with your customers would revolutionize your relationship with them and, of course, your bottom line. By focusing on your customers, they will in turn sing your praises and turn into evangelist marketers. more on page 11…

What’s Inside: Relational Selling & Marketing


Creating Effective Construction & Landscaping Contracts


Do You Know Your Green Wall Lingo? 4 Tips & Tricks to Avoid Trade Show & Event Pirates


Member Spotlight: Decker’s Nursery


Business Solutions Organized for Your Business Interests The AmericanHort Knowledge Center is your go-to-resource for information you and your employees need. Visit AmericanHort.org/Connect for more business-building solutions.


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Creating Effective Construction & Landscaping Contracts By Jared Nusbaum

In the world of construction and landscaping, proper contracting skills are a must. This can seem like a daunting task to undertake while you’re busy running a business, but in the end having a good contract and using it effectively can save you time and money, as well as increase customer satisfaction and reduce disputes. The contract is about defining the relationships, roles, and responsibilities of each party. It will determine what is to be done, when it is to be done, where it is to be done, how much it will cost, and will define who is performing the tasks. In the event of a disagreement, parties will look to the contract for how issues will be handled. Every project is different, so it’s important to complete the fill-in portions of the contract accurately for each job. Additionally, review the fixed terms in your agreement to make sure each term applies to each specific situation. If a dispute arises, all parties will look to the contract for the terms.

Example Party A contracts with Party B for Party B to complete a build a retaining wall on Party A’s property. But neither Party A nor Party B specify a time frame for the project to be completed. Party A is anticipating the project would be complete in three weeks’ time and makes a payment based on that analysis. Yet Party B was never planning on being able to complete the project that quickly. Because Party A does not have what it wanted, it terminates the contract. Would Party B be required to return the money paid? While the answer may seem obvious, the real answer is, look at the contract. What if Party B believes it was wrongly terminated? Was Party A justified in terminating Party B under the contracted for terms?

Contract Fields that Should be Included As you can see, disputes often lead to rabbit-hole types of questions, but those questions will need to be answered. And the best way to get those answers is to have a well-written complete contract by developing good contracting skills and utilizing proper contracts. Your contract should contain fields that you complete for each job, such as the scope of work, materials list, dates for estimated start and completion, etc. Your contract should also include standard provisions that will apply to most or all of your jobs. For a construction or landscaping contract, these can include:

1. Utilities clause that lays out who is responsible for marking private and public utilities; 2. Promotional use clause that allows you to take and use pictures of the job for promotional purposes; 3. Attachments or mergers clause that references and includes related documents, such as a bid sheet, diagram, change order, or other important document; 4. Termination clause that states how the parties can end the contract if necessary; 5. Governing Law and Choice of Law provision that determines what state’s law is applied to the contract as well as where any disputes will be litigated; 6. Notice Provision specifying the location where notice of any disputes can be sent; 7. Warranty and Indemnity Clauses specifying that one party may hold the other party harmless for certain activity or legal purpose; 8. Amendments specifying how changes and modifications to the contract can be made.

Jared Nusbaum Zlimen & McGuiness, PLLC jnusbaum@zmattorneys.com zmattorneys.com | (651) 331-6500 1216 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55104

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Do You Know Your Green Wall Lingo? By Mark Ostendorf While my primary focus is blogging about interior living walls, I think it’s time to identify all the different green wall technologies that exist inside and out. Green wall industry experts actually have specific lingo for differentiating the categories and sub-categories of green walls. So here is a little vocabulary lesson to help you communicate clearly with clients and colleagues.

©Patrick Blanc

The term “green wall” is the best term when speaking broadly about vertical vegetation systems. It might also be called: • Vertical Garden • Living Green Wall • Greenwall • Vegetated Wall • Living Wall • Vertical Greenery • Eco-wall But be careful. According to green wall industry experts, certain terms may actually be more appropriate for specific types of green walls. For example, a living wall is a type of green wall, but a “green wall” isn’t necessarily a living wall. Confused yet? Let me explain. As the green wall trend caught on worldwide, great strides in research and relentless product development have taken vertical greening to a whole new level. Particularly in the last 30 years, innovation in product design has spawned green walls for several different applications. Unsurprisingly, then, several terms began to surface to describe the green walls. There are three main categories of green walls: green façades, living walls, and green retaining walls. While all of these green wall types seek to vegetate the vertical plane, they go about doing so differently.


Green Façade Green façades usually feature plants climbing from ground level soil or from planter containers. Green façades can be sub-categorized as directly-attached or indirectly-attached. A directly-attached green façade simply refers to climbing vegetation (e.g. Boston Ivy, English Ivy, Virginia Creeper) growing directly on the wall structure. This is as simple as a green wall gets, and the effect can be gorgeous. On the other hand, the generally aggressive plants used might hinder maintenance and possibly damage the building envelope. Addressing those concerns is the indirectly-attached green façade, which utilizes a climbing structure to facilitate plant growth. The climbing structure might be a trellis system or a strong cable, wire, or rope. A couple great examples are Greenscreen and Jakob Rope. I would think that green façades are limited to exterior applications, but indoor greening might be feasible under the right conditions.

©Filtrexx International

Living Wall

Green Retaining Wall

Living walls are what I’ve been specifically blogging about. Living walls use modules or layers affixed to a wall or structure to hold plants on a vertical plane and are appropriate for indoor or outdoor applications. Living walls can be sub-categorized into modular living walls, vegetated mat walls, and biofiltration walls. Modular living walls (or modular green walls) use specialized trays, panels, or modules filled with an engineered growing medium. Examples include GSky and Modulogreen. Vegetated mat walls feature layers of synthetic fabric and a hydroponic system to support the plants. Sometimes called Mur Végétal, this type of system was pioneered by Patrick Blanc*. Biofiltration walls are designed to improve air quality and regulate indoor air. It’s not news that plants passively improve air quality indoors. But biofiltration walls can actively filter air and support the HVAC system. A great example is the Nedlaw system.

The green retaining wall (aka living retaining wall, living landscape wall), sometimes considered a sub-category of living wall, has a very unique application. Green retaining walls serve the dual purpose of stabilizing a slope, thus creating more developable space, while accommodating vegetation as a green feature. Green retaining walls are typically modular, and contain pockets designed to hold volumes of growth medium and support vegetation. Depending on the system, green retaining walls can facilitate groundcovers, perennials, grasses, and even small trees and shrubs. Filtrexx International is one provider of green retaining walls and slope reinforcement systems.

Bottom Line In an industry this new, the nomenclature is still up for debate. But unless your business wants to install and maintain interior and exterior green walls (not a bad business model!), it’s still good to know the difference between a green façade and a living wall when talking with a project lead!

Mark Ostendorf

Article first appeared in the NewPro Containers blog on December 1, 2015. (newprocontainers.com/blog). No endorsement is intended for products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. *Patrick Blanc will be a speaker at Cultivate’16 in Columbus, Ohio. AmericanHort.org/Cultivate Mark Ostendorf Mark is an accredited LEED Green Associate with vast knowledge in environmental science, sustainability, ecology, green infrastructure, and green building. Mark currently volunteers his time as a Grow Native! Committee Member and as a Sierra Club Executive Committee Member and Program Organizer.

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Tips & Tricks to Avoid Trade Show & Event Pirates By Margaret McGuire-Schoeff

AmericanHort’s largest event of the year, Cultivate, is coming to Columbus, Ohio July 9–12, 2016.


With over 120 education sessions, tours, learning experiences, and 8 acres (and counting) of trade show, it’s the can’t-miss event of the year. Trade Show and event pirating is becoming more and more frequent in the meeting and event industry. Here are some tips and tricks to avoid being scammed and have a smooth registration experience. • Housing and Registration for Cultivate’16 opens on March 8 at 11 a.m. EST. There is no early registration so anyone who contacts you before that date is not contacting you on behalf of AmericanHort. • With any event it’s important to know who the host organization is actually sanctioning to do the services for the show. For Cultivate’16, our authorized housing bureau is onPeak, no one else. OnPeak will never solicit business from our exhibitors and/or attendees. • Some of the companies who contact you are viable travel companies, but most are scams and often they don’t even have the hotel inventory they are offering. Bottom line: they are looking to get your deposit and take your money.


• AmericanHort puts a lot of effort into getting the best prices and best deals for our attendees. We know the importance of utilizing your dollars wisely. A key step in preparing for the event is to pay attention to any information regarding hotel reservation open dates, cancellations, deadlines, etc. Doing this will ensure a smooth experience and help you avoid being scammed. • Our hotel reservation partners for the event are Columbus Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott Columbus Downtown, Crowne Plaza Hotel, DoubleTree, Drury Inn & Suites, Hilton Columbus Downtown, Holiday Inn at Capitol Square, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Red Roof Inn, Sheraton on Capitol Square, and The Joseph. Please note that the only way to make a reservation for one of these hotels is through onPeak. To book your room, visit AmericanHort.org/Cultivate or call (866) 281-3554.

Brought to You by AmericanHort.


more on back cover… 6 | AmericanHort.org


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Member Spotlight:

Decker’s Nursery Groveport, OH Mike Miller, General Manager

Tell us a little bit about Decker’s history and background. Brian Decker is a third-generation owner and nurseryman. Paul Offenberg came over from Holland in 1921, having been the Royal Garden Advisor for Kaiser Wilhelm prior to the beginning of World War I. The business was named The Paul Offenberg Nurseries and was located in Columbus, Ohio. As the city has grown and moved out, so has the business. Bernard Decker, Brian’s father, started the nursery in its current location in the 1980s. Then, since the early 90s, Brian has been running the company. When we started, we started where most businesses did—doing everything from growing plants, landscaping, propagating, and operating a retail garden center. We’ve become more finite since then by doing away with everything but the wholesale nursery side. We’ve always been propagators, and that has always been the backbone of the company, through it all. As we’ve eliminated certain sections, propagation has taken on an even larger role. We recently purchased about 100 acres and in 2004 opened new greenhouse facilities. We’re currently looking at expanding over the next three years to nearly double our production space. In the last seven years, we’ve become more propagation-oriented. We still sell on a regional basis finished product. We ship our liners across the country (34 states)—that’s our national footprint and that’s the focus of where we’re seeing growth. We probably never will phase out selling finished product. We’ve mechanized the container side and 8 | AmericanHort.org

streamlined it. It also supports our liner production by giving us stock plants and trial blocks. But that area isn’t our growing segment. Our liner department is where we see growth and where we plan on supporting that with infrastructure.

What are Decker’s goals and visions for the future? We want to be a better nursery tomorrow than we are today; and we want to be a better nursery today than we were yesterday. We want to be respected by competition and customers alike. And we want to be well known as a quality nursery producing a quality plant. That’s just in the big scope of things. In the small scope, we’re really pushing to grow our liner production and for that to be what we’re known throughout the industry for. We’re always focused on growing, being profitable, and being a well-run company. We’re looking at gradual and sustainable growth while gaining national attention for our quality products.

What sets Decker’s apart? We try to make our company constantly improvable—no matter how big or small the process is, we want to always be analyzing it for areas of improvement. We look at our company from top to bottom annually and actually talk about what we’re doing. “How do we invent a better mousetrap” in a sense. It’s a continuous cycle and a continuous process. We’re always looking at other companies in the industry and outside of the industry, as well. To that end, we do some fun stuff in the name of improvement and advancement. We’ve worked a lot with a pot-fork system to move 1-, 3-, and 7-gallon pots around the nursery, pot them, and not have a person touch them in the process. We use a trike and a pot-fork to set plants down, mechanically fertilize, and space plants, all with just one person facilitating in a low impact role. We get more done, and people are a lot happier with processes like this. Then, these processes always get incorporated with other processes. For something as simple as trimming a boxwood, we’ll use two to three pieces of equipment to make it more efficient, increase quality, and reduce the amount of manual labor for our employees, which makes them happier and our company stronger. Currently, we’re going through a new expansion— we’re building new greenhouses and as we look at them, we’re really looking at the functionality of each decision. For example, we’re selecting driveways to account for machinery to move pots instead of people. We look at the building to account for the processes we intend to implement. These things get built upon and then built upon again, making things less labor intensive and more

efficient along the way. Our 3-year goal is to have a 3.5-acre, efficient greenhouse built. It’s a twostage process, and as we go along, we analyze it and think “how can we do this based on wanting to use machinery, conveyor belts, and trimming machines?” The goal is more efficiency, same or better quality, and reduced labor.

What are some of Decker’s biggest challenges and what are your strategies to achieve success? The biggest challenge of our industry as a whole is labor. It’s hard to find and to keep, and it’s expensive to maintain good labor. The two major challenges that we see specifically here at Decker’s is labor and market volatility. Regarding labor, it’s expensive to keep employees. It’s not getting any easier. And it’s also challenging to find good labor. One of the areas we focus on when making decisions is reducing labor need. We see it as investing in our future, acknowledging that the challenges we have now will either support or hinder that future. That’s one thing we do—we bank on our future heavily. We’re willing to spend money today with the knowledge that it will pay itself off in a few years. If we save small amounts of labor dollars with mechanization, then that pays for itself. And the equipment will remain. We want to cut labor and to be more efficient. When we say efficient, it’s in terms of still accomplishing the same goals—quality plants and good customer service. We’re investing in the things that make us more efficient while maintaining our values. more on page 10… 2015:2 | 9

Member Spotlight…continued from page 9 Regarding market volatility, up until 2008, people looked at our industry and thought we were fairly stable. After the Great Recession, we realized how vulnerable our industry is from customers to vendors, suppliers, and competitors. It made us realize how vulnerable we are and hesitant now to extend ourselves too much. At Decker’s, we’re going to bank on the future, but we’re going to do it smartly—investments need to make sense for getting the job done more efficiently that turns into great financial stability. We’re securing a future for ourselves to see us through presidential elections, economy spikes, and more. We look at every financial investment in short terms and long terms. We look at them in terms of plant production—how much do we increase? What can we do to maximize production to take advantage of market increases? We’ve seen that the last two year. There are fewer plants to match the demand, where before we had too many plants for the demand. We want to be progressive in those situations, but also smart. We have to be cautiously aggressive in the way we’re attacking the market to make sure that market volatility is addressed and accounted for and that we’re in a better position to take care of it. If the market goes up, we have the plants. If it goes down, we have the resources to handle it.

Relational Selling & Marketing… continued from page 1 Alex Goldfayn, author of The Revenue Growth Habit, says our customers can sell us better than we can, so let them! When customers describe us, they focus on our relationship, time, savings, business growth, trust, dependability, reliability, support, and other emotional factors. This means you don’t have to sell yourself to new customers because your current customers are doing it for you! Make your customers feel welcome, comfortable, and valid, and they will return the favor. When you have a strong relationship with your customers, pricing doesn’t matter. They’ll come back to you because they know you’re just as invested in their success as they are. recession, we were actually growing. We became short on plants by getting rid of overages (waste) early on. The great success is that we as a company realized how bad the recession was going to be. Halfway through, we attacked it and spent a lot of money on innovation and mechanization, realizing that we were going to grow again. We wanted to grow into the company post-recession that we wanted to be and not that we once were—that is, mechanized and more efficient. To do that, we had to get equipment: conveyor belts, machines, trikes, trailers, forks, and more. We got rid of houses that we didn’t need and added open space to have machinery. When we started to grow out of the recession, we were good on a couple of fronts: we had more inventory (more plants) and less labor. We still have a labor problem, but it wasn’t our limiting factor because we had done a good job of becoming mechanized and efficient. If you go back pre-2008 “Glory Days” to compare, our sales were up 15 percent over anything we’ve ever done, and our labor was 43 percent lower due to the mechanization steps taken.

The first step to any successful marketing strategy is to know your customer. One of the biggest mistakes business owners tend to make is assuming they know more than their customers. It’s so important to ask your customers what they want and not to tell them what they want. If you listen, you can better build your business to accommodate them, and your revenues will rise. It’s vital that your employees also understand the importance of putting the relationship before the profit. If your customer trusts you and your employees, your revenue will rise naturally, over time.

You might be wondering how to market to get a customer into your business in the first place. Once again, relationship building should be at the forefront of your mind when you’re designing your marketing plan. The first step to any successful marketing strategy is to know your customer. This might require some research on your part to learn their habits and preferences, but it will pay off in the end. Remember that assumption is never a replacement for real world knowledge. By learning about your potential customer, you can personalize your advertising and make the biggest impact. So what are you waiting for? “Customers don’t love to be sold but they love to buy,” says Jeffrey Gitomer in the Little Red Book of Selling. Create an exciting, mutually-grounded atmosphere that can get your customers excited about your products and start creating those positive memories. Get excited about your company, your products, and how they can enhance your customer. Let your customers tell you what they like and don’t like, and the selling and buying process will turn into an event that you look forward to being a part of with your new customer. Eric Foertmeyer Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse foertmeyer@yahoo.com 5311 S Section Line Rd Delaware, OH 43015

How does being an AmericanHort member benefit Decker’s? What have some of your greatest successes been in the last few years? It’s hard to put it into words. We did a great job recognizing the great recession early on. Many had real problem coming to terms with how bad things were going to get. It wasn’t just three months; it was three years, and it wasn’t until 2012 that we started to creep out of the slump. Up until that point, many had been crippled by the recession and weren’t ready to grow. We realized in enough time how the market was going to change. We spent months throwing plants away because we realized that if we couldn’t sell it in two years, we were going to lose money. We went through a huge downsize, shedding plant material. That allowed us to weather the storm. On the very end of the 10 | AmericanHort.org

The steady flow of information through email is a huge benefit. With AmericanHort being in the national spotlight, it brings information down to our level to keep us informed and to help us stay on top of trends, opportunities, and challenges. The events like Cultivate are also huge networking opportunities. So for us the benefit is twofold: information and networking.

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© 2016 AmericanHort. All rights reserved. This material may contain confidential information and it is for the sole use of AmericanHort members. The information contained herein is for general guidance and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It cannot be distributed, reprinted, retransmitted, or otherwise made public without prior written permission by AmericanHort. Please contact the editor at (614) 487-1117 for permission with acknowledgment.

Editorial Staff Michelle Gaston Gina Zirkle Laura Kunkle, Editor Jen Noble

AmericanHort Connect 2016:2


(614) 487-1117 Main

2130 Stella Court Columbus, Ohio 43215-1033 USA

AmericanHort Mission The mission of AmericanHort is to unite, promote, and advance the horticulture industry through advocacy, collaboration, connectivity, education, market development, and research.

Margaret McGuire-Schoeff Business Engagement and Event Director AmericanHort MargaretS@AmericanHort.org (614) 884-1143

Here’s to another great Cultivate— we can’t wait to see you in July!

• You can also contact onPeak directly at (866) 281-3554 and they will be glad to assist you.

• When in doubt, don’t share personal information, payment details, etc.

• Call me at (614) 884-1143 or email MargaretS@AmericanHort.org to report the company. I will be happy to address the company, and we will include them on the list of reported companies on our website.

• Check the AmericanHort.org/Cultivate website for an updated list of “scammers” that have been reported.

• Request the caller to stop calling and remove you from their caller list.

What to Do If You Think You are Being Contacted by a Scammer?

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