THERE'S OPPORTUNITY IN 'THEM THERE WALLS'
Joe Zazzera, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), is probably way too young to remember the cartoon character Yosemite Sam. Yet, like this Warner Brothers creation, he, too, sees golden opportunities. His, though, don’t reside in the western hills; they reside in urban landscapes in virtually every city in the country. Zazzera, president and CEO for Arizona-based Plant Solutions, is excited about transforming interior walls into plantscapes. “At one location, we’ve installed a small green wall to replace our client’s use of cut flowers,” he explains. “Live-plant walls are different, pique interest, and they are a practical use of available space.
“With real estate costs going up, architects are designing away atriums and other garden areas in favor of revenue-producing space. Live-plant walls don’t take up valuable space. They are also very attractive and functional, providing the same air-quality benefits that other indoor gardens provide.”
Zazzera notes that interior plantscapers can employ any of several different methods to install green walls. One of the favorite methods takes advantage of biofiltration. The green wall is constructed of a special, foam-like medium. Water is circulated through the medium via a small water fountain beneath the wall. In this scenario, the customer gets the benefits of two features — a green wall and a water feature.
“Green walls are new and exciting, and they’re not budget breakers for clients,” Zazzera goes on to explain. “In some cases, if you’re replacing cut flowers with a small, live-plant wall, the cost is already in the budget. On average, it will cost your clients around $100 per square foot for installing a green wall, or they can choose to lease one. As always, maintenance is key.”
Riding the green wave
Green walls are not the only new opportunities for interior plantscapers, says Zazzera, who is actively involved in trying to get interior plants into the LEED rating system. Installing and maintaining green roofs has potential for industry members, as well. “We already have a working relationship with architects and building owners,” he emphasizes. “The truth is that intensive green roofs, those that are heavy and require additional engineering to install, are less common today than their extensive counterparts.” In other words, you don’t have to be an architect or engineer to install every green roof, says Zazzera.
Green roofs come in all different shapes, sizes, and complexities. They do have their challenges, he emphasizes, not the least of which involve safety concerns working on roofs and maintaining plants in a sometimes hostile environment. A good place for beginners to start is to access the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Web site, greenroofs.org. The group is a valuable resource for learning about installing green roofs, and obtaining its Green Roof Professional designation will help interior plantscapers get their “foot in the door” of prospective clients.
The fresh opportunities presented by green roofs and green walls align with growing interest in sustainable landscapes and environments. As Zazzera relates, buildings already receive LEED credit points for having green roofs that reduce water runoff, provide additional insulation, and reduce the heat island effect. He chairs an advocacy group that’s lobbying the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to award LEED credit points for interior plants, also. When that day arrives, he points out, green walls and green interiors overall will be even more attractive investments for building owners.
HOLIDAY SALES WILL BE BRIGHTER THIS YEAR
Last year was an election year, Thanksgiving came late, and the economy was in a nose dive. That was not a good scenario for holiday sales. But this is a different year and holiday sales will be up, predicts Mike Marlow, vice president of member development for Nebraska-based Holiday Bright Lights. “This will definitely be a positive year,” says Marlow. “There is more optimism about the economy, the election isn’t taking center stage, and Thanksgiving is early, lengthening the holiday decorating window.”
Interior plantscapers will have plenty to talk about with customers this fall, including sharing the always-evolving new technology, he adds. “LED lights continue to gain in popularity. They use only a tenth of the power that incandescent lights use, and they don’t run hot. Three-dimensional figurines will be popular, evidence of growing interest in decorations that display a truly artistic touch. Colorful garlands and wreathes will also likely be on your customers’ want list.”
Marlow, who operated his own holiday decorating business prior to joining Holiday Bright Lights, emphasizes that the holiday sales business is far from reaching the mature stage. There remains plenty of growth potential in both the residential and commercial markets, with this caveat, he relates. “Holiday decorating is more of an emotional, personal experience for homeowners, compared to more pragmatic commercial customers who decorate to please their customers, raise employee morale, and be part of the community holiday spirit.”
No matter who your target customer is, the biggest challenge is to get your name in front of them, says Marlow. “You don’t want to be a dabbler in this business. To be a success requires having vehicle graphics and an attractive holiday logo. It means networking through your local chamber of commerce and being fairly aggressive with marketing, including making the best use of direct mail.” Don’t just mail to everyone, he emphasizes. Narrowing the demographics will save on mailing costs and work to prequalify leads.
Hints for success
When asked about other success-building strategies, Marlow points out three important ones: selling a quality product, working with suppliers who will offer support, and being savvy about presenting your product to the market.
New technology allows interior plantscapers to actually show their customers what their property will look like all decked out, he relates. Seeing is believing and presenting customers with several images of their property with lights, figurines, and foliage will help prime the sales pump. “Don’t forget your own aesthetics,” Marlow adds. “I think back to the time when I owned my business and was decorating a residential property. My employees were wearing their uniforms, which included bright red shirts. Upon returning home from work, the husband walked up to me, pointed to my employees, and said simply ‘nice touch.’ Those two words spoke volumes about how important it is to look and act professional.”
Marlow offers his own one-liners about being a success in this business. “This is a simple business, with a lot of details,” he adds. “Mastering the details is imperative.” And, like most everything in life, with holiday sales, “the more you put in, the more you get out.”
NOW LET’S TALK MARKETING
Judith M. Guido, principal of Guido & Associates, a national leader in strategy, sales and marketing, and mergers and acquisitions, will present a free, interactive marketing workshop to help you generate revenue, promote your company, and grow your business. Guido will touch on how to analyze market dynamics, target qualified leads, and develop a cost-effective, integrated marketing communications plan using social media, and more.
Join Guido and your industry peers for the “Proven, Successful Sales & Marketing Techniques for Any Economy: What Your Competition Doesn’t Want You to Know!” workshop on Thursday, October 15, 2009, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT.
This free workshop is one more way that PLANET continues to bring value to its members and the green industry. Take advantage by registering now.
INCREASE INTERIORSCAPE MARKET SHARE USING TWITTER
By MJ Gilhooley, Gilhooley Consulting
If you are an interior plantscaper who has been overwhelmed when it comes to fully jumping on board and exploring social media channels, I have good news. Simplicity is what Twitter is all about. It is a text-only service where users’ posts are limited to 140 characters at a time. Each user generally sees messages (called “tweets”) only from those whom the user specifically “follows” and vice versa. Once you take the dive and get a little wet, you’ll also have the option to see all users’ tweets on a Public Timeline.
Posting something to Twitter is as simple as typing and clicking, and can be done from a computer, a cell phone (via a text message to 40404 from the user’s designated cell number), or a smartphone (there are multiple Twitter programs for all major smartphones, including the Palm Pre, iPhone, and BlackBerry).
While many users access the service via the twitter.com Web site, Twitter has enabled third-party software to connect directly to the service, which has been the key to business use of Twitter. In fact, these stand-alone tools and their sophistication are what can make this platform payoff for interior plantscapers. Explore the available stand-alone software and play with the different ways to filter, search, easily customize, and even manage communities — all of which Twitter itself does not include.
Whether through desktop items like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop, following (and connecting with) building and facility industry leaders and architects is much easier and more effective on Twitter than with many other channels. Twitter communications are not impacted by e-mail spam filters — and once your business gets customers to follow it, your messages are automatically pushed to those customers rather than requiring them to visit a Web site.
Become familiar with “retweets.” Here, a user will forward an interesting tweet to his or her own network of followers. It is wise and easy for your business to retweet messages. Be aware that when forwarding each tweet, the original sender’s Twitter ID as well as the message adds to the length of the tweet.
Beyond marketing, Twitter users are often the first to report events and articles of interest, allowing a business user to stay on top of critical developments in his or her industry or community, without having to follow multiple news services, blogs, or Web sites. And, for now, Twitter is completely free.
If you want to first spend time listening, you don’t need an account to search at search.twitter.com. Listening can give you a sense of how to engage on Twitter. Search for your company and a few key topics, such as building management, property management, or plantscape industry.
If you decide Twitter is for you, you’ll want to read my next article in the November PLANET News Interior. I’ll give you instructions on how to get started, a rundown on Twitter jargon you’ll need to know, and ways to analyze if Twitter is right for your business.
ATTITUDE CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
By PLANET HR Consultant Bill Cook
Being a manager can be a tough job. When times are bad and everyone is in stress mode, it has to be the manager who sucks it up and takes the high ground. A manager’s state of mind has a great deal to do with his or her effectiveness as a leader.
As a manager, you have to present a positive mental attitude. When managers are scared, grumpy, or angry, their employees feel uptight and worried. When managers are pleasant, personable, and relaxed, their team is less stressed out.
In his book, Leadership Secrets From the Executive Office, author George Hathaway offers behavior tips for effective leadership and has much to say about attitudes. He provides us with the following 11 good tips on attitude and includes his favorite related quotation for each:
Chill out! In order to be successful, we managers will have to work very hard at assuring that each job does get done. But sometimes our intensity creates stress in others and has the opposite effect. Stop driving your people so hard. Chill out and have a little fun.
I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been a little more specific. — Lily Tomlin
Don’t take yourself so seriously. For most of us, nothing we are doing today will make a bit of difference in the world a hundred years from now. So why take everything, everyday so seriously? Relax. Laugh a little. More important, learn to laugh at yourself.
Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil. — Golda Meir
Keep your spirits up. There are few things more frightening to people than seeing their leader in a depressed state of mind. No matter how difficult the situation, always maintain a positive attitude and convey your certainty that everything is going to work out just fine.
Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. — Lou Holtz
Learn to fail. Author/Speaker Tom Peters has taught us much. He once said, “Learn to fail … but fail quickly.” In particular, he tells us to test our ideas before we invest in them. If we’re wrong, we should learn from our mistakes quickly before we’ve taken everyone too far.
Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work. — Thomas A. Edison
Leave your ego at home. Most managers have achieved their position through hard work, high performance, and recognized success. Now it’s time for you to help your employees to work, perform, and succeed. Remember, your success is now based on their accomplishments.
The bigger a man’s head gets, the easier it is to fill his shoes. — Henry A. Courtney
Make the coffee. Ever go to the break room and find an empty coffee pot? Someone took the last cup and didn’t take the time to make a fresh pot. If you don’t already know how, learn to make coffee. Do it whenever you find the pot empty. Others will notice and may even adopt the habit themselves.
You cannot be a leader and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow too. — Sam Rayburn
No screaming. No matter how bad things get, no situation warrants an angry response from a leader. Raising your voice or, worse yet, screaming at someone demonstrates a total lack of self-control. Your team will quickly lose faith in you as their leader. Curb your emotions or you may lose those manager stripes.
When faith is lost, when honor dies, the man is dead. — John Greenleaf Whittier
Repeat after me, “I can fix anything.” As a manger, you have a long track record of success behind you. You must continue to develop and demonstrate the confidence that you can fix a problem, do your best to find a solution, and find the serenity to accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world. Don’t get bogged down.
The man who has confidence in himself gains the confidence of others. — Hasidic Saying
Smile Boss. Look around you. Who are the people in whom you have the most confidence? It’s usually those who are relaxed and confident enough to smile regularly. When the boss smiles, everyone feels better. Give everyone a break and smile, boss.
Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile, a word of optimism and hope, a ‘you can do it’ when things get tough. — Richard M. DeVos
Take risks. It is reported that Lee Iacocca made decisions with only 60 percent of the information he needed. Talk about your risk takers! He knew that he was going to make mistakes, but he understood that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish. — Ovid
Tell good stories. The world is often too serious a place for us humans. You’ve been through a lot to get to where you are today, so share some of your humorous adventures with your staff. Your wit and self-confidence will demonstrate just how human you really are.
A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with other people, of getting things done. — Dwight D. Eisenhower