This past January I went on a trip. I didn’t need any luggage, though I brought plenty of baggage. I didn’t need a map, in fact I was confident I could make my own. I didn’t even need transportation, it was all in my head. Worry and panic replaced reason and logic. I convinced myself that to make money this year in a down market I needed to expand into vegetable production. My logic? Bringing more “non-luxury” items to market would increase sales, help me diversify my agriculture portfolio and thus reduce overall risk. More is more, right?

As I would do with any trip, I looked for the best deals and consulted with experts, flower growers who’d been there and done that. Most were encouraging, some were cautionary and I listened as they all said “It looks like rain, be prepared,” as I ran headlong into research without an umbrella. I swam in facts and figures like I would in the most exotic and elaborate resort pool.  All too often I found myself floundering in the deep end, barely above water, debating over heirloom tomatoes varieties and coordinating succession planting schedules. My business  survival instinct was powerful, adrenaline kept me afloat. Yet in that large ocean of unknowns, my confident strokes began to slow, my legs began to tire and I sent up a flare.

My rescue boat arrived oddly enough in the form of the television show “Kitchen Nightmares”. World-renowned chef and restaurant owner Gordon Ramsay visits drastically failing restaurants around the globe, and works side by side with their owners and staff collectively to confront their egos and in some cases apathy toward owning and operating a successful business. It would be a pretty boring show if all Chef Ramsay did was “throw money at the problem”, and wave his hands shouting “Fire the chef!”. He confronts the most stubborn owners and employees around. At best they are obstinate, resistant, and rude. At worst they are openly disrespectful, lazy, arrogant. In all cases they are deluded. Their belief that they are “doing the right thing” despite obvious financial failure is so powerful they are unable or unwilling to change.
I realize what motivated my desire to expand into vegetables was not a calculated test into a new market from a strong flower base, it was a whole new market base altogether. Actually, it was horticultural gambling. If I had known my little head trip was to Vegas, I would have taken in a few shows.

His goal is simple: to create common ground from which all can contribute, be held accountable and grow. To do this he imposes order out of chaos using two methods. First they clean up the physical mess. Second, he defines a new simplified menu that can be prepared and served by all at the highest level. Essentially, if you are going to sell mashed potatoes, make them the most amazing mashed potatoes there are. This process allows all who may have removed themselves mentally from the previous “chaotic negative environment” to rejoin it on a base level. In the end, with few exceptions the  team is empowered, proud and profoundly thankful to Chef Ramsay for his help.

Personally, this show is at times particularly painful for me to watch. I can identify with the power of personal beliefs and the fear and uncertainty of change. Professionally, it’s been an unbelievable learning experience.

So I’ve returned, a little jet-lagged and waterlogged, to our core beliefs. If we focus on growing the best possible flowers & refocus our energies on marketing our flowers and design services to the best of our abilities we will succeed. We’ll make order out of chaos, we’ll simplify our menu, we’ll find, fertilize and protect our common ground. And maybe we’ll grow 10 tomato plants rather than 100.

And we invite to join us for the re-launch of our “restaurant”, make your reservations now for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting on April 27th.  We look forward to serving you.

Andrea Gagnon

LynnVale Studios [email protected]