career advice needed asap re garden center job

watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)March 5, 2009

I posted a while back about garden center career paths and earnings here:

I just came from an interview with a garden center right near my home, and it looks like I've found my dream job. Part-time 20 hours a week at least 9 to 10 months a year. Getting in on the ground floor with a new garden center, to be run by an existing local company of 20+ years that already does ponds, swimming pools, natural lawn care, and a pesticide company.

Upside? Love the hours, love the people there, love the location, love the niche they are looking to fill. I'd be getting in on the ground floor of what could become a really nice business, with a lot of potential for advancement. They need people with the kind of plant knowledge I have.

Downside? These people have never done retail or a garden center before. I have a good feel for the local market and could help them out a lot, but it's scary committing myself to a new enterprise. Especially one trying to make a go of it in this economic situation. Plus it would be a pay cut, but when I factor in the 70 mile daily commute I'm making now, it comes out almost even.

Am I a moron to quit my existing part-time job, which is reasonably secure but boring and no room to move up, to go after my dreams?


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I was wondering about the part-time for most of the year and then you said they haven't had a garden center before.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 5:09PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

They have a full-time manager and are looking for a handful of people with some plant knowledge to work part-time to cover all the hours that they are open.

bboy, are you saying you think their plan is unrealistic?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 5:28PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

"Handful of people with some plant knowledge" sounds like low pay seasonal clerking rather than something with meat on it. Especially if they aren't even asking for lots of plant knowledge, which they might perfectly well still do even when offering low pay and a short working year.

One place I worked at one year when things began to hop I soon learned they had been paying a retired English couple to come in and help each year during the spring rush. Probably thought since they were English they must know all about gardening - or their clientele would at least think so. Point being employee knowledge is usually a high priority when garden centers are thinking about how they present themselves to the market. Even Home Despot advertises that their garden center clerks are gardening experts.

If I were you I'd be interviewing them seriously before making a commitment - should a position be offered.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 11:30PM
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I agree about interviewing *them* seriously too. Since you'd be leaving another job and know they getting something new off the ground during this economy, if they act offended that you're asking serious and probing questions you may have your answer there. I'd want to know more about their plan, whether they have capital to take a loss for a couple of years (as any business should), and why they decided to do this (ie, it was their next logical step, or they thought it would be cool, or their market research pointed to this being very profit making). Can they give you a reasonable expectation that htey're not going to lay people off in July after sales drop off? Or November? If you can get through a whole season with them and THEN they close, then maybe you can get your old job back, or a new one.

What does your gut tell you?

It *would* be exciting right?! (well, as long as it works)

Me, personally, I'd be torn too, but I'm Desperately Seeking Security right now. I just took a crappy paying part-time job with Bell Nursery for that very reason. (less pay, no commute, leaving me more time for--hopefully--regular priced billable hours). Things are starting off slow.

So, if you end up working there, let me know if you guys need vegetable and herb starts ;)

good luck, and let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 12:12AM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Well, I won't be taking the job after all. The manager made it sound like I had the job all locked up, I was exactly what they needed, etc. I was just asking for a tad more money. He said he's talk to the owner about that and let me know.

So today he calls me to say that, not only could he not get the extra money I was asking for, he found someone "willing to work for a lot less, so we won't be needing you."

Harrumph. Good thing I still have my old job!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 7:09PM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)

Wow, that stinks. I had that happen too in a couple of job interviews in the past.

Hope things pick up for you with the business.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 7:16PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Continues to sound like an unattractive situation.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 12:14AM
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I'm hoping the new enterprise was looking at other things than just the bottom line on a wage, because you pretty much get what you pay for. I have worked with a lot of nursery and greenhouse personnel who did very well with supervision, but were totally unable to look ahead to cause and effect and make good judgements about important issues in the present and paid for it in the future. They gladly work for less.

When I am scheduling crops, or placing them in different g'houses or benches, my mind is cranking continually about things like light exposure and whether if I had to fog a house, if there might be stock in there I'd have to yank and re-bench somewhere else. IOW, the business is labour intensive enough, and doing a job really well, with less man hours might make all the difference between profit and loss.

Sorry you didn't get the job, but I cannot think of one time in my whole career where a part-time job panned out for career expansion. Part time in the green industry is percieved as grunt work, whether it is or not. Also, I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard an employer who is not familiar with the green industry plan their staff's hours. In springtime.....anyone who can breathe and tote a flat is expected to stay until the job is done, and that's often twelve hour days and more. Been there, done that.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 4:59PM
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How about looking for a job unrelated to the green industry that is likely to put yourself in contact with some people who may be potential future clients for your growing business or where you could otherwise build some networking that could be useful later?

I feel like there might be too much of putting yourself in a position where you won't be able to do those things at a nursery as it would be a conflict. Also, you might wind up pigeon holed like Cinderella as a laborer at the nursery and not get invited to the ball, if that makes sense.

It is always easier to move sideways than up. Meeting contacts that are well established by someone else in a different industry can be a good thing for you with no harm to your employer.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 9:58PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Thanks, everyone.

bboy, I commend you on your intuition right from the start!

calliope - I think you hit it right on the head - I'm never going to move up anywhere careerwise working part-time. Until recently, I had been very intentional about working only part-time due to various family obligations. Also, my husband was pondering early retirement, so I preferred part-time work in the hopes that we could spend more time together when he retired.

So I started my part-time interior landscaping business, with the intention of eventually growing that into several days a week and quitting my other part time job.

My interior landscaping business is doing much better than I had hoped, but growth is stalled out now with the economy. Husband will not be retiring for quite a while, also thanks to the economy. So I'm kind of stuck. If I take a full-time job, I won't have time for my own business. If I take a part-time job, I'll never go anywhere, and the choices are much more limited.

laag, I quite understand what you are saying about being pigeonholed as a laborer. I don't quite understand what you mean about "putting yourself in a position where you won't be able to do those things at a nursery as it would be a conflict" - can you elaborate, please?

I have actually looked for other part-time work in a totally nongreen industry just to broaden my choices. But laag, you do have a point about making contacts. Any suggestions on what might be relevant industries to consider? I don't have a lot of current experience or interest in many other industries.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 1:19PM
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