Ever dream of quitting your day job and pursuing your passion for plants? Do what you love and the money will follow, that sort of thing?
Well. We here at GardenRant World Headquarters know quite a few people who have done just that. So we called them up and asked them to tell us what it’s really like. Whether you’re just window-shopping for a different life or seriously considering a career change, we hope our new feature, which we’re calling “Get a Job,” will–you know–give you a clue.
What do you do for a living?
I am a nurseryman, and garden center owner.
How’d you get started?
I was hired as a truck driver for Christensens Nursery in Belmont, California. I would deliver plants that customers had bought at the store. It was fun as it got me out on my own, and the addresses I delivered to where some of the most expensive on the San Francisco Peninsula. Soon the owner thought I would do better in the sales department. Thus my career as a nurseryman began.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Open the store for business, check my e-mail for mail orders which I will then pack and ship. Water the plants in the nursery. During this time of year that takes about an hour. Any grooming of plants or cleaning of the nursery takes place. Restocking the fertilizers and other products for sale. Answering the phone takes place all day long, as does checking on the Internet . Keeping our Facebook page, Twitter feed, e-news, and my blog up to date happens somewhere during the day, if possible. Closing the store and doing the books ends the day at the nursery. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that depending on the time of year helping customers is my most important job. In spring it’s all I can do just to make it through the day still standing when it’s all done. During the winter it’s not as hectic. In spring being with customers can take up almost 95% of my day. In winter it might be 25 to 50% of the day is spent interacting with customers both online and in person.
What’s the coolest thing you do at work, and the nastiest, most soul-sucking horrible thing you do?
The coolest thing is helping a customer solve a problem. From that flows happy people who spend money, and nothing in retail is as nice as being rewarded for helping people do better.
The nastiest thing is just trying to keep the doors open during this economic slowdown, re-jiggering, or whatever you want to call it. All the things that seemed solid in this business are changing, like many trades. While I enjoy the exciting changes taking place as well as seeing the incredible opportunities available, the constant “making ends meet” is getting a bit tiring. I hate doing the “paperwork” involved with owning your own business.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
“You spend the day playing in the flowers and talking to people.” You do, but sometimes playing in the flowers when it’s 100 degrees F and not too comfortable. Still have to water and tend to the plants. The physical part of loading bags of soil, dealing with heat and cold (it’s an outside job) are the hardest for most new nurserypeople.
What does the future look like for your job?
The nursery trade is shrinking to something more sustainable. Until then it’s interesting trying to figure out how to stay in business. If you’re nimble, stay smaller, and focus on your customers needs you can certainly make a go of it. I think once we reach a more sustainable size in the trade the remaining garden centers will be easier to grow. The craft of horticulture and helping people to be better gardeners is not going away. If you’re willing to sell what your customers want, and not insist on selling what you want to sell, you could have a nice little business.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking about getting into your line of work?
Go for it! Stay small enough to make changes as the public’s needs and wants change. Boot strap your business (I wish we had), and stay out of debt. People skills trump plant skills. Take some horticulture classes, but don’t bother with a BS degree, unless you just love school. Won’t help much with the business. Small is cool.