I work long hours. An average day is 12-13 hours. Usually 11 to 12 hours at the nursery and 1 to 2 working on domain investments and the blog. Of that time I would say that only 8 to 9 of the hours are truly productive hours but what I can get done in those 8 hours would have taken me 12 hours just 15 years ago.
Technology has taken communication to a whole new level. My computer and iPhone has made me so efficient that I now can get a few hours each day to “think big”. The smart phones alone have knocked my travel time down by 5 hours a week. Customers can now send me pictures of plants that are struggling or areas of the yard that need a few plants. I used to have to drive to the locations in the past. The sharing of information between employees and myself has made all of us more productive and that gives me more time to sit back and think.
It’s one of the most important things I think a business owner can do. To be part of the daily operations, watch and work, but then have that free time to get away. When I say get away I don’t mean leave or not be a part of work. Rather, time to read and talk to others. Gathering information that may help create that next source of revenue. Or perhaps a way to cut costs or squeeze a bit more out of a program. Sitting and talking to a person about their business and “shooting the shit” is not a luxury that everyone has. I do it almost every day. I talk to another landscape owner or a vendor and pick their brain about the positives and trends they are seeing. I gather information about broad topics that may lead to something that can make my business more profitable. My friends and employees always ask me how I know so much about such random things and it’s merely because if I want to know about something I just plain ask. I seek about the people that will have the answers. It’s how I became involved in domains.
I had one customer talk about Dave’s Garden (davesgarden.com) and how every time he was looking for a plant they seemed to come up first. This was back in the 2002 era and I had already started buying lots of domains but most were brandable types. Immediately after I started buying plant names because after some Internet searching I was pretty confident I could beat out Davesgarden on Google on a plant by plant basis. It all was a result of one lengthy conversation with a customer. Conversations that my employees see me doing regularly. I am in a University town and surrounded by brilliance. I have a very high percentage of customers that are professors and researchers. The amount of information and ideas they reveal is amazing. It gets your mind turning every day. But I still have a lot of work to do each day so I have to be efficient in my work in order to create the time to learn and listen.
Buy the rumor, sell the news is an old saying in trading but I have tried to hear the rumor and do my best to find out if it’s true. Then I can play that rumor before everyone else. Someone had given me information that a local competitor would be closing at the end of the year. The closing would mean more business but I needed to add greenhouses and prepare to truly take advantage if it were true. A few phone calls and a few days later I found one of their employees that had been told that they would be closing that location in December before Christmas. We had never done a Christmas tree program but they had always done a great job and we had a great possibility to fill that void. . They only did high end trees but sold a good amount. We let it be known that we were going to hire a few of the employees from the closing store but hinted at the fact we could use some information on what products did well. It was almost like they started giving info in hopes of becoming a better candidate for the new jobs in the spring. Long story short, we copied much of what they had been doing and had a pretty good Christmas program. We did a ton of advertising and actually came close to breaking even which is generally unheard of in the first year of a Christmas program when you have to spend more than normal to get the word out.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times there is no time to do anything but work and keep moving. In May and June my wife becomes a nursery widow. I work 7 days a week 12 hours plus a day and come home to eat and sleep. This month (if I wasn’t training for triathlons) I actually get two days off a week and have time to do what I want outside of plants. It’s months like August and December that I cherish. Time to fly to Oregon to look at plants and talk to growers. Time to read magazine and websites gather information. To some it looks like playing but with the Internet I can turn almost anything I am doing into a profitable business. Even reading sites like Reddit can lead to profits because it spurs my creativity and thoughts which translate to new articles or websites.
So the reason that I am always smiling and looking like I’m having a good time is because I am. I truly enjoy having the ability and luxury of being able to listen and learn. I can work hard and play hard all while working.