Celebrating the Small Greenhouse Business

May 5, 2016

Mick in the greenhouse


I hear it all the time. I heard it again from a customer this week: “We’re just a small greenhouse.”

I don’t know about you, but as a small business owner, I often feel trapped in the “little brother” complex. I crave to get bigger, to “grow up,” to be like the big players that I see in the industry. You may see us a big place, but here is a dirty little secret: we all want to be bigger.

Someone once asked Warren Buffet, who is worth $66.7 Billion, how much money is enough money? His response, “Just a little more.” We all want to be bigger, no matter our size.

A Healthy Self-Image

One of the things that we at North Carolina Farms have talked about a lot lately is the image that we as owners have for our business and how we want to convey that image to our team members and those who interact with us. We’re convinced that, as leaders, until we’ve developed a healthy confidence in our business and our product, we’re not really able to create clarity for the people around us. We are also convinced that our teammates and our customers crave it. Who we are and why we do what we do is an extremely important message, and it deserves fleshing out.

The Importance of Perspective

If you struggle with the “little brother” complex, too, consider that we small businesses have an extremely important place in the economy. Here are some statistics that may help put things into perspective:

  • Small businesses (those with 500 employees or less) make up 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, employ nearly 50 percent of all private-sector workers (48.5 percent, to be exact) and create 63 percent of the net new private-sector jobs in the country.
  • While there are more than 27 million businesses operating in the United States, only 655,587 of them employ 20 or more employees. A whopping 3.7 million have only 1 to 4 employees.
  • In the agriculture sector alone, 64% of employment is provided by companies with less than 100 employees.

Small businesses in general, and small floriculture businesses specifically, have a significant impact on our nation’s economy, not to mention its beauty. We should be proud of that position. Small greenhouse businesses like ours also bring flexibility, attention to detail, and personal customer service to the marketplace. In a large, bustling world, doing business with “the little guy” can be refreshing. The entrepreneurial passion that drives us to invest ourselves is what draws people, and if harnessed properly, it’ll keep them coming back.

The entrepreneurial passion that drives us to invest ourselves is what draws people, and if harnessed properly, it’ll keep them coming back.

It’s Not Easy

We’re not just growing plants and working with our hands, we’re juggling payrolls and accounts receivable, production programs and customer service. I don’t know a single successful entrepreneur who isn’t working at least 60 hours a week (and I know many of you are working closer to 80). A lot of you, like my dad in his early days with our business, are working your regular job and then coming home to build your dream in your “spare time.” That work is important. You’re taking care of your employees; you’re providing for your family; you’re creating beauty and order and producing something good.

A Higher View of Work

Timothy Keller, in his book Every Good Endeavor, says of the value of work:

“We share in doing the things that God has done in creation—bringing order out of chaos, creatively building a civilization out of the material of physical and human nature, caring for all that God has made. This is a major part of what we were created to be.”

We all know that if you just take a job for money you’ll eventually get bored, feel trapped, and fizzle out. But if you work from your passions, participating in this creative work, then the days are energizing, the labor is fulfilling, and work doesn’t seem so much like… work.

Similarly, if we are consumed with being bigger, then we can easily get sidetracked and frustrated and ultimately burn out from our lack of focus on the thing that energizes us. But if our passion is growing a great plant or improving our business culture, or having outstanding customer service or really getting to know our clients, then those things will remain true of our business whether we’re big or small.

If we focus on perfecting our passions, then profits and growth will come as a byproduct. We must look at tending our business like we tend our gardens: sowing, watering, patience, and trust that the harvest will come. Keller also draws keen parallels between the value of sound work and gardening:

“[W]e are to be gardeners who take an active stance toward their charge. They do not leave the land as it is. They rearrange it in order to make it most fruitful, to draw the potentialities for growth and development out of the soil. They dig up the ground and rearrange it with a goal in mind: to rearrange the raw material of the garden so that it produces food, flowers, and beauty. And that is the pattern for all work. It is creative and assertive. It is rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish. … Whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw our creative potential, whenever we elaborate and ‘unfold’ creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.”

So Get Out There!

If you’re a greenhouse business owner, there is dignity in your work no matter the size of your business. As an entrepreneur, you help make the world work. We here at North Carolina Farms want to do everything we can to help you be successful. Much depends on your business—so get out there and make it great!