Interview with a Plant Advocate: Chris Raimondi, New Jersey
Chris Raimondi is a Certified Landscape Professional and President of Raimondi Horticultural Group, Inc (RHG). He is a Professor at Bergen Community College where he serves on the Horticultural Advisory Board. Chris also teaches horticulture at both the New York and New Jersey Botanical Gardens and is a member of numerous industry organizations.
What did the first 10 years in business tell you about yourself?
Making a dollar was a lot harder than I had thought it would be. It was in 1974 when I was in high school that I got my first plant account and filed that first tax return. Now, 41 years later, we still work with one of these original accounts, a hospital.
How do you start your day?
I’m up at the crack of dawn. A tranquil brook runs by the office and I like to stand next to it and reflect upon what my mission is for that day. I reflect on my priorities.
If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Not one thing. Well, I guess looking back, I would liked to have known more about business earlier. For example, profit and loss, expense ratios, and what motivates our clients to buy.
When you are in a room full of architects or designers talking about plant benefits, what are you learning?
Over the years I’ve learned that some of them don’t believe that plants help clean the air and are only motivated by the Continuing Education credit we offer. I love the challenge of working with these people. I love to watch their faces. It is important to engage people and I’ll sometimes say “You look puzzled by that statement” so that I can open a dialog with them and others in the room.
What are you passionate about?
The personal code I live by is to leave the earth a better place than how I found it. This applies to my business, personal, and religious life. “Do a good turn daily” is a core value of the Boy Scouts. Being in the Scouting organization, and working through all the ranks to Eagle, instilled that passion to just “do what is right.” I’ve experienced the importance of giving back to the communities in which we live and work. As a volunteer fire fighter, I’ve seen first-hand how dramatic the consequences of being involved can be. In my professional life, I sit on the volunteer boards of several non-profit organizations.
Most valued book on your bookshelf?
Exotica, by Alfred Graf. Beautiful photos of tropical plants. A great resource!
Currently, what is your favorite software program or app and why?
Facebook. It reaches so many people so quickly. I value it because it appeals to both business and personal contacts and I like this versatility. I also appreciate the flexibility of MS Outlook. This flexibility translates into saving me time.
What app or technology are you most looking forward to having in the future?
I’m looking forward to using technology that takes Siri to the next level. I imagine what the next generation of the Apple watch and smart eye wear might be able to do. I’d love to be using a program that writes in two different languages at the same time. Think about how this would facilitate communication!
How do you involve your staff when an important company strategy decision needs to be made?
This is pretty easy because my folks trust me to be making the correct decisions for the health of the company. I start with the key managers and ask them for their input and then involvement. The managers bring the situation to their teams.
Who is your role model, and why?
My business role models are in the exterior landscaping field and they run companies with more than 100 employees. My relationships with them began with the informal mentoring that started when I met them at industry conferences.
How do you manage the balance between work and personal life?
After putting my daughter and family first – my life is mostly business. My wife, Leann, works in the business and is an integral part of RHG. My responsibilities as a volunteer fire fighter sometimes call me away abruptly from the family and they have become used to this.
What do you think the interiorscape industry will look like in 10 – 15 years?
I think the current “plant in a container” service we so commonly offer will morph into something like we see in the European cities – plants will become more closely associated with the design of “gateway” areas where people gather and socialize.
What’s your superpower?
MY ENTHUSIASM and passion for teaching!
What makes your business unique?
We maintain high professional standards and we are small enough to react quickly to customers. This is a point of pride for our team. Our team creativity is very high, strongly motivated, and happy. We have very low employee turnover. Some team members have been with us 16 and 17 years.
How should a plant advocacy organization like GPGB go about creating an awareness of plant benefits in the minds of CEOs and CFOs?
Develop a peer-to-peer communication channel so that CEOs who have invested in plant benefits can speak to other CEOs who are “on the fence” about making the investment. I think Green Plants for Green Buildings should develop an awards program to recognize these progressive CEOs who are making plants part of the solution to workplace absenteeism, presenteeism, and productivity.
Interview with a plant advocate as told by Mary Golden.
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