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Getting out the crystal ball: A glimpse into the future of floral

It's that time of the year when the fortune tellers of floriculture are asked to give their predictions for our industry's future. Surely, many of them must be scratching their heads about what to write about. Of course, accuracy is not normally a problem. Does anyone else save articles predicting what we will be like in five years?

In fairness, with the dynamic and rapid economic changes happening, it's difficult to predict what floriculture will be like in one year, let alone five or 10 years.

But suddenly my crystal ball has become quite clear and I can see the future with complete certainty. Our future will be exactly what each of us chooses it to be.

If the decision is to do little or nothing and accept the status quo, then the forces of our dynamic economy will be in control.

If, on the other hand, we identify and act on those elements that are under our control, then we can take charge of our futures and grow our businesses and our industry as well.

Here are several important elements that are within our control to do something about, resulting in a more profitable future.

Focus on the consumer. The last thing on the minds of most people in the floral industry is the ultimate consumer.

Sure, all of us are busier than ever and involved in a variety of day-to-day business activities. But we have to step back and ask ourselves what all of these efforts are ultimately for, and how they can be improved to better satisfy the end user.

Consumers need to start coming first. Every job in every floral business of every kind has a role in helping build consumer demand for floral products. Consumer thinking needs to be built into the mission statement of every company.

And I'm not talking about the kind of mission statements that appear on the president?s office wall and nowhere else. I'm talking about the statements that help every employee understand the importance of their role within the company and within the floral industry. We need to make flowers a greater part of consumers? futures by working together to deliver the freshest, longest-lasting flowers possible.

Acceptance of new technologies. "We've always done it this way."

"Our customers tell us we are already the best."

"I've heard it doesn?t work."

"Too expensive."

?Don't need it."

"I'm waiting for the research."

"Our customers won't let us charge more for using it." And so on.

The general rule in the U.S. floral industry seems to be a reluctance to accept any new technology, even with recommendations and research. This reluctance is contrary to how technology is accepted in other countries and other markets around the world.

An example is the pre-cooling technology offered by Vacuum Cooling Ltda. in Bogota, Colombia. That company offers services to properly cool all flowers leaving Bogota ? something that every expert says should be done to properly maintain the cool chain for fresh flowers. While nearly 100 percent of European companies use this service, the percentage of U.S. companies using Vacuum Cooling is zero.

Why not seize the opportunity and resolve to make properly cooled flowers part of your future? Information about this and other technologies can be found at:

Better communications. There are plenty of examples of hard-working entrepreneurs who have carved out niches within every segment of our industry and have enjoyed years of great successes.

But as important and meaningful as those past successes are, it is no longer enough just to master your individual segment and satisfy your immediate customer. We have to understand the entire distribution system from one end to the other and begin to affect positive change at every point.

Chris Berg, associate product manager of PanAmerican Seed, in Santa Paula, CA, is very much aware of this need. His company develops new flower varieties for the floral industry, and he decided that he didn?t know enough about what retailers and consumers were looking for from new varieties.

Additionally, he wanted to find more effective ways of letting retailers know what had already been developed. Mr. Berg found his vehicle for gathering and communicating this information at the Michigan Floral Association?s Regional Floral Event March 5 in Lansing, MI. His presentation will be part of the "Future Color Impressions" session.

Mr. Berg represents the future of our industry and the optimism of what we can achieve and how we can advance if we work together to take control of our futures.

(Terry Johnson is an industry consultant and can be contacted at [email protected])

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