This year has been a particularly unique year for the lawn & garden industry; winter seemed to make itself at home with no interest in making way for Spring, rain fell as if someone left the faucet on and went on vacation without turning it off, a whack-a-mole-esque number of lawsuits were filed against one of the biggest brands that dominate our industry's shelves, fires torched the west coast...and the Trump Tariffs provided the perfect the soundtrack to set the mood for the closing credits on a year that refused to get out of its own way.
In an industry that is disproportionately effected by weather like we are, the last thing we needed was the dark cloud of rising costs...yet that cloud started rolling in on March 1st and got continually darker throughout the summer. And while so many people in so many industries are battling the effects of these agents of a trade war, the effect it had on all of us was not immediately felt. Instead of a hammer that bluntly strikes an ill-placed thumb, with pain that have to be immediately treated, our industry was all but told that something popped up on a routine test; something that we would have to wait for results on to know if it was bad or not.
Decisions that would normally be made in the summer for the following Spring were delayed. The largest manufacturers worked to provide enough information to regulators that would validate exceptions (even the slightest of misprints could result in an undeserved denial and send applicants to the bottom of the ever-growing pile) while the mom and pop operations, unaware that such opportunities existed, factored in higher costs. And all the while, retail buyers continued to delay, put-off, hold off, and otherwise obfuscate their timelines and final decisions as if to wish the need for choice away, hoping players would fall away as millions were erased from company valuations.
And yet, our little engine that could continued to climb, ever so slightly, puffing away with a constant, "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can..."
There were emails, some polite, some attempting humor, asking for updates; phone calls based on anything but business to give the air of confidence; packaging changes, forwarded with the poorly vailed purpose of impressing their target; and all the while, we waited.
"I think I can...I think I can..."
Buyer-proposed deadlines came and went. Weeks turned into months. Days were spent staring at Outlook inboxes and pulses spiked with every *ding* only to disappointingly plummet with every notice from the latest offer to sell this week's trade show attendance list.
"I think I can..."
Finally it happened: today we got the call. In all of the upheaval of the year, status quo wins again, and to only add on to the Sisyphean affair, the buyer who made the decision will be moving on, all but ensuring the next decision maker will watch us climb the hill again from a better view.
In any other year, under almost any other circumstance, today's news would be met with frustration, anger, and a slew of comments that would make Lenny Bruce blush. But, as you now know this is not like any other year, and I feel something different. I feel overcome with the kind of emotion that can only come from finding out that the test finally came back positive; it's bad, but that there's a name for what you have. And most important: it's treatable.
Finding out that you have lost an opportunity pales in comparison to being released from the confines of limbo. It means everything to know where you stand...and what you're up against. It may not have gone the way you hoped, even after doing everything you can to get the win, but at least now it's over. The waiting, as it turns out, really is the hardest part.
"I think I can..."
In times like these, with marketplaces in a constant state of flux and technology disrupting everything from salespeople to delivery vehicles to marketing strategies and everything in between, being freed from the whims of one person and their unknown motivations means a symbolic throwing off of shackles so as to run free in a marketplace that rewards the risk takers.
All signs are pointing to more chaos, more upheaval, more challenges, and today we get to dive in, with no hope of the big score to save us from ourselves. Now we get to really see what we're made of. And I for one don't think we can win. I know we can.