Organic Green Opportunities – Growing Green Gardening Industry

Strategy Plan One

March 11, 2012

green gardeningSpring and the growing season will soon be upon us.  Many will flock to garden and flower centers to spend on gardening necessities to either spruce up your property or get a jump on planting those vegetable and fruit gardens.  It is big business and entrepreneurial opportunities are plentiful if you know the gardening industry, conduct your own research, and find your niche.

Gardening Industry Statistics

According to First Research, the US garden center and farm supply industry is a $30 Billion, 16,000 establishment industry.  Those 16,000 businesses generate much employment for the US, with the US Census Bureau estimating well over 350,000 employees, with total payroll salaries exceeding $10 Billion.

In Canada the statistics are proportionate as well, with the industry approaching $3 Billion in revenue annually, with relatively similar levels of employment and salaries.

Gardening Industry Challenges

Most research firms have identified key industry challenges including competition across the industry, changing regulations with products, and economic ties to the housing market.  Consumers are also very cautious with expenditures, such as outdoor plant and landscape product spending, that would tend to be on the discretionary expenditure side.  However, where there are challenges, opportunities open up and exist for new entrants in niche areas.

green gardeningGreen Gardening Industry Opportunities

Along with the sale of normal bedding and landscaping plants, garden and nursery centers are expanding to offer new breeds of tropical plants that can withstand some North American climates.  Genetics plays a role in some of these new strains of plants.

Garden centers have also diversified their product lines to add in different decorative garden supplies and new composite concrete products for landscaping.  Product offerings extend into the indoor plant and decorative arena, as these sales help offset the off-season, low sales period of outdoor plant and garden sales.

Opportunities and Growth in Niche Green Gardening

Another gardening industry area that is experiencing growth is in green gardening, environmental gardening, with use of safe products and growing interest in organic gardening.  Growth in organic green gardening is estimated to be in the range of 5-10% annually.  One of the most relevant reasons is the changing consumer attitude and landscape towards the use of herbicides and pesticides.   Organic green gardening is completely void of the use of any herbicide or pesticide. Not good for herbicide or pesticide suppliers, but excellent for garden centers who promote, sell and are specialists in organic gardening products and techniques.

Todays Garden Center identified many key growth areas in niche green gardening. In one detailed blog, the author highlights the following niche green gardening areas:

  • Organic Pest Control
  • Composting and Recycling
  • Natural Grub Control
  • Easy Organic Gardening
  • Grow Your Own Fruits & Vegetables
  • Sustainable Gardening
  • Safer, Natural Lawn Care

If you are an entrepreneur searching for opportunities in the gardening and garden center industry, as always, conduct your own due diligence and plan well.  Although challenges exist, so do opportunities, especially in niche areas.  Adequate research and business planning will be required.


Strategy Plan One

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One




Power of Retail – Staggering Economic Numbers

Strategy Plan One

February 27, 2012

The National Retail Federation (NRF) website is an excellent source of information on the retail industry in the US.  Here are some amazing statistics, courtesy of NRF:

 Retail Jobs and Industry Statistics 

  • Retail Establishments                     3,617,486
  • Direct Retail Employment             28,113,476
  • Total Retail Employment Impact   41,620,604
  • Direct Labor Income                      $770 billion
  • Total Labor Income Impact          $1.49 trillion
  • Direct Impact on GDP                    $1.2 trillion
  • Total Impact on GDP                    $2.48 trillion

 Retail Job Information  US Retail Jobs Information Cloud

Retail supports 1 in 4 American jobs.

Retail is directly and indirectly responsible for 18% of the U.S. GDP.

Retail directly and indirectly generates 17% of the U.S. labor income.

Retail Jobs supports 41,620,604 jobs in the U.S.

Strategy Plan One

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Free: The Benefits of Free or Trial Samples

Strategy Plan One

February 2, 2012 

If you are in a goods or services business, you obviously have reviewed several possible, different marketing activities to build customers.  In this batch of activities, one of the most effective marketing outreach activities may include providing free or trial samples.


You may think or ask yourself, why provide free samples. Or you may be thinking “this is going to cost me a fortune”.  You may be surprised at the results.


The context and delivery is different whether there is a physical location or a location off the track.  Websites or software that offer trial periods, take on another dynamic as well.  All have similarities in terms of benefits that can result from these activities.


Here are some potential benefits in providing free samples:


– Drives traffic to your location, website, etc

– Gains initial interest in a part of you suite of products, goods or services

– Builds brand recognition

– Gains interest from non-customers in close proximity

– Builds a higher conversion rate from pedestrian or visitor to consumer

– Builds relationships

– Builds immediate awareness of product or service

– No investment, no risk on the consumer side

– Experience is the richest, as opposed to an ad in a newspaper (different purposes)

– Free sampler turning into a consumer is a repeat customer

– Free offers spread like wild fire, as one customer will broadcast to others quickly

– Less costly than other forms of marketing

– “Free” is a motivator to try, later converting to buy

– Builds a database of potential customers if asking for basic info (such as a website providing trial provided you give email address)

– Providing free samples is a non-intrusive method of marketing

– Staff generally like to provide give-aways (differing operational activity)

– You convert lag or down time in your business to productive time, eventually generating more customers, more revenues and a stronger business



  1. Plan for this – write out a strategy, goals, operational issues, budget, method to capture data and results, etc.
  2. Remember to put your best foot, best product, best sample forward (i.e.: bakery sample of fresh bread, not liquidating days old bread)
  3. Ensure the free sample will be consistent with the paid product.  Do not mislead potential customers.
  4. Control your costs and scope on the offer (you know you will be able to budget for X number of free samples)
  5. Keep track of your data, results, and all important – how many new customers you gained out of this activity


You will be surprised at the Return on Investment with this marketing activity of free samples.  Keep track of the event or offering, provide a secondary offer and keep in communications with those clients, as you have created relationships.


Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Strategic Tips to Improve Employee Performance


Strategy Plan One

January 27, 2012 


1.             Frequent and consistent recognition

Employees always want to know that they are appreciated for their efforts.  Recognition is one of those things a leader can do that can have a major impact on employees, and it doesn’t cost a dime.  For some low performing employees, this exercise may be difficult, but tactful handling will provide results.  By noticing and informing an employee of positive small steps, that employee may turn into a star performer.  Communicate with employees frequently and create a positive environment by recognizing all efforts.


2.             Empower employees to take the lead on projects

As an employer, you have already taken adequate steps to identify and hire the right people.  As a leader, you will need to let go of some of the hands-on operational projects.  Empower and encourage your employees and subject matter experts to take the lead.  Those employees will feel valued and will take ownership of a project.  Employees will be motivated to meet a company objective along with a personal goal in leading a project from initiation to successful completion.


3.            Involve staff in the decision making process

Make employees feel valued by asking them to become involved in the decisions of the company.  Once employees know that their efforts have been recognized and considered in the decision making process, employee behaviour will switch to becoming more involved and participation will increase.


4.             Provide constructive, positive tone feedback to employees

It is sometimes difficult to approach an employee about low performance.  Instead of an initial attack or criticism of the performance, a better approach would be to provide constructive feedback.  An example:


Bob’s track record on assembly line A was lower than the other employees.  Management approached Bob, recognizing the small efforts first, mentioning performance issues, ending with compliments to him as a valued employee.  Management stated they valued his opinion and asked for his feedback for improvements.  Bob reacted positively and performance increased.


5.             Conduct regular employee performance appraisal and development sessions

As part of your regular human resources core functions, structure employee performance appraisals and personal development procedures into your human resources plan.  On a quarterly or semi-annual basis, schedule employee performance appraisals.  Structure those sessions to include mutual feedback between the manager and the employee.  Go over the things that are working well and the elements that need improvement.  In areas that need improvement, a leader must encourage employee development and the manager must dedicate the resources to improve the deficiencies.  The appraisal process should also be an opportunity for the employee to provide feedback on the organization and management.  The manager should embrace an open environment where all constructive feedback is encouraged.  Employees will buy-in to an open appraisal method and performance will improve as the employee develops.


Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

4 Key Sections of a Business Plan

Strategy Plan One

January 25, 2012 

When considering business plan development, there are 4 key sections or components to business plans:


1.       Business Plan


Your first emphasis should be on the content / body of the business plan.  This section of the full document contains the descriptive body of the business or venture.  As you develop this, add in content from research, outside consultations, and your own views, opinions and information.  Keep in mind to write this as objectively as possible, rather than your own biased, subjective views.  It may be easier to write each section separately to begin with.  Later link the sections together.


To make the business plan stronger, research all elements thoroughly before writing.  Sources of information include info from successful business people, the internet, library, local business development agencies or business advocacy group, competitors, industry expects, or consultants.  Strengthen your business plan by quoting your source of information.  In a logic sense, you should support any outlining assumptions with factual information.  Use clear and plain language that your reader will understand and will grab his/her attention.  As you work on sections of the business plan, write out ideas completely and clearly, otherwise you may get lost, loose direction or focus.


In your own process, you should write drafts first, then edit for a final product.  For the final draft, ensure the product in smooth and error free.  An error-filled document shows incompetence or unprofessional work.  Proof read to eliminate errors, typos, of confusing grammar.


2.       Financials (In pro-forma format)


The four essential financial documents:

–          12 month cash flow projection

–          3 year cash flow projection

–          3 year projected balance sheet

–          3 year projected income statement

Funding agencies, investors and lenders will need these documents to base a funding or investment decision on.  These documents will demonstrate if a project is projected to be viable, profitable, and/or meet financial goals.  Financial ratios and indicators are important financial measurements of the business.


3.       Executive Summary


The executive summary is the upfront section of the business plan that highlights key features of your business.  This section summarizes the body and financial sections of the business plan.  It is the first section of a competed business plan intended to grab the attention of the reader.  It should summarize sections in bold, colorful, and brief wording.  Usually a page or two, the executive summary will highlight the merits and benefits of your business or project.


4.       Appendices


The appendices contain the supporting documents, such as resumes, certificates, diplomas, letters of reference, equipment and supplies quotes, letters of intent, partnership agreements, Articles of Incorporation, maps, photos, product/service samples, and other documents that will support your business plan.  Organize this section, labeling each appendix.  Make references in your business plan to the specific appendix.

Financial funding agencies and, commercial lending institutions want to ensure that you are actively involved in the business planning process, especially if you acquire the assistance of a professional or consultant to help you develop a business plan.  You should fully understand the business plan and its implications as a guiding tool for you.  As a final note, business owners who develop and write business plans have a better chance of succeeding than those individuals who did not.


Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Advantages of Partnership Building & Collaboration

Strategy Plan One

January 23, 2012 


Entrepreneurs and start-up businesses sometimes, in a flawed approach, consider going it alone at the onset of operations, or when it comes to new opportunities.  If your business has valued opportunities or access to a resource, then others will be interested. Likewise, you may find external opportunities with companies that may have synergies with your business and your lines of products and services.


In a few case examples, if a new business venture has operated in isolation, the competition in that industry had little interest other than keeping track to ensure the new start-up wasn’t encroaching on their market share.  As you may be preparing to launch your business, the time might be right for you to work with outside firms to further mutual business objectives, and enjoy mutual benefits.


Developing close working relationships with partners may result in many potential advantages for your business, including:


  • Greater benefits gained through economies of scale


  • Sharing of risk associated with a new project, product or service


  • Use of your partnering firms’ supplies and equipment, versus your business having to supply all infrastructure and paying for all costs associated


  • Use of firms’ working capital, reducing the need for you to obtain financial resources


  • Capacity and skill transfer, drawing upon existing expertise in operations and management


  • Collaborative marketing, rather than having to develop all of this intelligence in house at the onset of operations


  • Access to more partners


The potential benefits of working with the partnering firms and companies may potentially outweigh any negatives, and should be investigated and considered.  Many successful businesses have noted key success factors including developing strong partnerships and joint ventures.  However, ensure that you spend the time to develop relationships, demonstrate business cases, and build trust with partners.


Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Financial Resources for your Business

Strategy Plan One

January 22, 2012 

Your Own Money

Yes, you will most likely need to invest some of your own hard earned cash for your start-up or for your business expansion.  Usually it’s a smaller percentage of the overall funding requirement, but it all depends on the size of the project and the size of the financial requirements.  A good starting point would be to set aside your own savings that would equate to 10-25% of the project costs.  It will also depend on what the lenders or other agencies require, and what other sources will round off the full financing package.
Commercial Loans
Business loans are the most common financial source for business projects.  Loans are usually at a higher percentage rate as the risk associated with business loans is higher than with car and home loans.  Most commercial lenders will require a detailed business plan, will conduct a credit check on you, and may ensure that you have collateral or security to back the loan.
Business Grants
If you do some homework and research, you will find that you may be eligible for business grants in the US and in Canada.  Grants usually exist in two formats – repayable and non-repayable.  Repayable grants involve the gradual repayment of a grant over a period of time.  You do not have to repay a grant from a non-repayable grant program.  However, keep in mind that each program will have terms and conditions, and in most cases if you don’t stick to the terms and conditions, those grants could become repayable.  In this current economic climate, it has become harder and harder to acquire grants, and each program has become highly accountable.  If you are privileged to be a recipient of a grant, it is worth your while to follow through with your commitments and adhere to the terms and conditions.
Other Sources
You could also obtain other sources of funds for your business through a small line of credit, loans from friends or family, investors, or from credit cards.  Be extremely cautious with lending sources or credit companies that carry high interest rate terms on the principle amount – these sources would be the absolute last resources for funding your business.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur