Schedule of Events

Garden Center Executive Summit

Times, sessions and speakers are subject to change.

1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Registration Opens
2:00 PM – 2:15 PM
Welcome Remarks
2:15 PM – 3:30 PM
Opening Keynote: Strategy to Survive, People to Drive and Culture to Thrive – Part I – Hiring for Success

Chris Taylor, president, CEO and co-owner of Fisher’s Technology in Boise, Id., an office technology company, will explain what he has done during the past decade-plus to attract and hire driven people, build and maintain a culture that focuses on staff longevity and success and how Fisher’s developed and executed a strategy to continue to support its employees. In part one of his keynote, he will detail the fundamentals of hiring for success, such as continuous recruitment, three must-have characteristics for every hire and onboarding new employees.

3:30 PM – 3:45 PM
Networking Roundtable

Breakout roundtables to discuss hiring strategies and other topics addressed during opening keynote.

3:45 PM – 4:00 PM
Networking Refreshment Break
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Opening Keynote: Strategy to Survive, People to Drive and Culture to Thrive – Part 2

Chris Taylor, president, CEO and co-owner of Fisher’s Technology in Boise, Id., an office technology company, will explain what he has done during the past decade-plus to attract and hire driven people, build and maintain a culture that focuses on staff longevity and success and how Fisher’s developed and executed a strategy to continue to support its employees. In part two of his session, he will discuss building and reinforcing culture, the difference between a smart organization and a healthy one, and the importance of constructive conflict, among other topics.

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Welcome Reception
Sponsored By
7:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Registration Opens
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM
Continental Breakfast
Sponsored By
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Keynote: The Lean Garden Center: How Owners Can Incorporate Lean Business Practices to Improve Customer Experience, Culture and More

Making your business more efficient does not always require a technology investment. During this keynote presentation, Mark Graban, an internationally-recognized consultant, published author and professional speaker, will provide an overview of lean management strategies and how garden center owners can implement them into their businesses to improve processes, boost employee morale, trim expenses and create a better customer experience.

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM
Panel Discussion: The Employee Experience: How to Attract Career Staff and Create an Environment and Culture Where People Want to Work

How do you answer candidates when they ask, “what is the culture like here?” Culture fit in an organization is very important to employee and a company’s overall success. How do you make culture tangible and use that information to build a better team? How can you create an environment where a new generation of team members wants to work and is motivated to stay and succeed? Learn from garden center owners who have tackled these questions and made the employee experience a priority at their businesses.

10:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Roundtable Discussion: Company Culture
10:45 AM – 11:00 AM
Networking Refreshment Break
Sponsored By
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Panel Discussion: Why I Bought a Garden Center: Setting a Direction for a Newly Acquired or Created Business
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Networking Lunch
1:30 PM – 2:45 PM
Measuring what matters: The 5 most important metrics garden centers track and key benchmarks for the industry

Which metrics should independent garden retailers be watching consistently? How does your company's performance compare with your peers across the country? What are the key benchmarks for the industry? Where are the national trends? Ian Baldwin, veteran retail consultant with more than 30 years in the industry, will help answer these questions by highlighting the 5 most important numbers leading garden centers regularly track, factors that lead to successful, healthy organizations and how to determine how your company compares with others in the industry. He will also show attendees The 5 Numbers Project - built on the key numbers his clients have been using for over 12 years. Come and learn how you compare to other businesses in both profitability and productivity - the things that really matter. 

2:45 PM – 3:00 PM
Networking Refreshment Break
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Dialect, Democracy, and Instagram: Building the Conversation Across Multiple Generations of Gardeners, or Plant Parents, or “Whatever”

Who should we be talking to? How should we be talking to them? And how do you do it authentically? There are several conversations happening right now in our industry. The customer of the last several decades is aging, and the potential customer of the next several is starting to show up. And they have different ways of communicating. Sarah and Mick will explain the work the Mulhall’s team has done to try to bridge the communication gap in both their physical store and the digital space that surrounds it – through the specific lens of David Foster Wallace’s work on language norms, dialects, and the role both play in fostering a sense of belonging. 

4:00 PM – 4:45 PM
Developing a Mission, Vision and Core Values: The Process of Creating and Implementing Guiding Business Principles

Creating a mission, vision and core values for your garden center is important to help guide and drive multiple aspects of your business, but moving from the philosophical ideas to the tangible implementation can be challenging. Jessie Jacobson, president and owner of Tonkadale Greenhouse in Minnetonka, MN, went through this process at Tonkadale after she purchased her family’s 70-year-old business in 2016. In this session, she’ll explain why and how she hired a consultant, what the process was like, how she implemented these guiding principles, what the impact has been and how employees responded.

4:45 PM – 6:00 PM
How Garden Center Owners Can Adapt to Rapidly Evolving Marketing Strategies

Marketing your garden center can be a minefield when you are trying to navigate quickly changing tactics, and it can be challenging to determine where to invest your time and money.What works best in one industry does not necessarily translate to another. Rob Sproule lives in two worlds: he owns a large independent garden center and also leads a digital marketing firm that helps businesses promote their brands. During this session, he'll answer questions like "are my radio commercials working?", "is it worth posting on Instagram?", and "what is SEO anyway, and why does it matter?" He'll break down marketing so that you walk away understanding the best tactics for our specific industry. The focus will be on actionable examples that you can use to build a more effective strategy for 2019 and beyond.

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Top 100 Awards Ceremony and Reception
Sponsored By
7:30 AM – 12:45 PM
Registration Opens
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM
Continental Breakfast
Sponsored By
8:30 AM – 9:15 AM
Keynote: Staying Relevant in a Quickly Evolving World: What Are Other Retailers Doing and How Can Garden Centers Compete?

The retail industry and customer expectations are changing fast. How do garden centers continue to be exceptional employers, provide inspirational customer experience and compete with retailers in other industries vying for consumers’ time, interest and disposable income? These are all questions Julie Kouhia, CEO of Molbak’s Garden + Home and the team at the Woodinville, Washington-based garden center have carefully considered and addressed to be sure the business evolves with the times and its customers. Julie will explain the work Molbak’s has done to make sure various aspects of the garden center, including employees’ wages and salaries, company culture, customer experience and the overall store design, exceed expectations.

9:15 AM – 10:00 AM
Letting Your Customers Shop How They Want to Shop: The Pros and Cons of E-Commerce

Giving your customers more ways to purchase items and making shopping as convenient as possible is increasingly important. During this session, attendees will hear how Richard Christakes established an e-commerce platform at Alsip Home & Nursery, with three locations in Indiana and Illinois, the pros and cons of selling products online, pitfalls to avoid, and how to provide other options like in-store pickup and delivery.

10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Roundtable: 30 ideas in 30 minutes

Don’t forget to “pack” one great idea to share! During this session, every attendee will have a chance to share one business strategy that worked well at his or her garden center. At each table, garden center owners will have 10 minutes to share one quick-hitting, tangible idea that worked for them at their business. Once everyone shares one idea, attendees at each table will informally vote for their favorite to then share out to the entire conference. Attendees will walk away with dozens of tangible, tested ideas that they can potentially implement at their business.

10:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Networking Refreshment Break
Sponsored By
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
Panel Discussion: What’s Driving Consumers: Authenticity, Transparency, Education and Experience

Many independent garden centers are already committed to investing in their customers and their communities, but how can we as an industry build upon that commitment and position our businesses as gathering places for people to learn and participate regularly and year-round? Hear from a panel of experts, including Lindsay Squires Chrisp, events and community outreach coordinator at Tagawa Gardens in Centennial, Colorado, who applies her prior experience working with a community development organization in Romania to her current role in creating this environment at the garden center. During her portion of the presentation, she will share five key concepts of community development that garden centers can implement in their businesses, what's worked at Tagawa, and how to reimagine the role of garden centers within our communities. Jennifer Schamber, general manager of Greenscape Gardens & Gifts in Manchester, Mo., will also discuss how she and her team have built a community around Greenscape Gardens by engaging customers in meaningful ways and building loyalty through more than just discounts. 

11:45 AM – 12:45 PM
Q&A: Lessons from the Cannabis Industry: Creative Marketing, Customer Support and “Big Box” Competition

As a cultivator and retailer in the cannabis market, Amy Andrle faces some of the same challenges found in the independent garden center industry. Andrle, co-founder of L’Eagle Services, a vertically integrated cannabis operation in Denver, Colo., will discuss how the company has used creative marketing tactics when traditional advertising wasn’t an option, how they’ve built customer loyalty through service and education at its dispensary, what they do to support staff who’ve gone above and beyond and other lessons. Andrle will take attendee questions throughout the discussion. 

12:45 PM
Close of Conference