7 Things Your Plant Tech is Thinking but Won’t Tell You

Today let’s open up the old Ouija board, get out the trusty crystal ball, and assemble our runes, bones, and yarrow stalks.

It’s time to talk about the top seven secrets that lie deep within your plant technicians’ heads, and how addressing them might actually be good for business.

I Need More Money

This isn’t much of a secret. No one needs to tell us that we’re not going to get rich in this business. Owners, even of very large companies, aren’t “rich.” And techs, even well-paid ones, are working near the bottom of the pay scale. People rarely ask for raises – it just seems to cause too much negative vibes. Mostly, if we want to make more money, we move to another company. New-hire wage seems to be the best way to get a raise. I’ve often wondered what’s the sense in losing a good, experienced tech only to pay a new, untrained tech what the previous tech would have been making if they’d had real raises. Of course, sometimes it’s just not possible to give raises; but real respect, gratitude, a little reward system (bonus, incentives, benefits, prizes) and an honest explanation of the company’s financial position will keep most of us with you through the hard times.

Meetings Are a Waste Of Time

Okay, let’s be honest. A majority of workers in most industries and businesses think that meetings are too often a waste of time. Meetings typically take an hour to say what could be covered in five minutes; they repeat “policies and procedures” ad nauseum; they have very little new or meaningful information to impart. They just hash over things everyone already knows, because, well – we have to have meetings, don’t we? Conducting good meetings seems to be something of an art form. However, it is possible to make the time spent in meetings a time when techs can learn things that help them in their jobs, excite them about the future, and foster rewarding relationships with their company, management, and colleagues.

Owners and/or Management Don’t Understand the Business / Don’t Respect Their Plant Techs

This is a tough one. We all know how often people start an interior landscaping company without any real experience in the industry.This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does add another layer of difficulty to a demanding business. People need to understand that there are a complex set of parameters involved, in both management and field work. Professional plant care is not easy, it’s not simple and not everyone can do it. A good tech is not “unskilled labor,” even if they work for low wages. Management who can spend a few days in the field now and then often feel refreshed and invigorated by the change in perspective.

The Boss Doesn’t Listen

All of us can work on improving listening skills, don’t you think? In a business like ours, where the field work is independent so much of the time, it’s especially important to create an environment where the plant tech is encouraged to contribute suggestions, and management makes a real effort to incorporate them into the smooth and profitable operation of the company.

I Don’t Have Enough Time To Do a Good Job

Most techs will try their best to do accounts in the scheduled time, and they’re reluctant to say they feel overwhelmed. Sometimes the tech is just not as efficient as they need to be, but sometimes the scheduling is just not right. In some cases, your quality control program should identify the problem. Another interesting approach is to ask the techs if they are having any scheduling problems. Then you can add additional training or complete the rescheduling depending on what you find. A useful thing to remember is, “If you can’t find time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to go back and do it again?”

I Have a Client Who Hates Me

Unavoidable fact – sometimes we have difficult clients. It might be something the tech is doing, but it also might be a quirk with the customer. Generally, if it comes to a client calling to complain about a tech, you’re close to losing the account. The best idea is to ask the techs now and then if they have any sense of such difficulties. It’s usually a lot easier to move techs around than to replace lost accounts.

I Have a SugGestion

Techs spend a lot of time working by themselves – obviously – and sometimes they think of things. They may come up with better ways to do stuff, different products to try, plants that perform well vs. those that don’t – many things that might surprise you and be profitable too. If you just ask, they would be more than glad to tell you about them.

Did you notice an underlying theme in all these little “secrets?” I think it’s COMMUNICATION. The lack of it seems to be at the root, and using it seems to be the fix. Like I keep saying – techs are smart and creative folks, and they can be a valuable resource for your business in ways beyond taking care of those plants.

Marlie Graves, known as The Ficus Wrangler, has been keeping plants beautiful, training techs and relating to clients at half a dozen companies for 30 years. She studied creative writing and psychology in college and went on to start an independent film company with her first husband. She decided to focus on plants full time after completing the NYBG Horticulture School interior landscaping course. Marlie is retired, operates "The Ficus Wrangler" YouTube channel, contributes regularly to several houseplant forums, and is working on a plantcare book based on professional methods.

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  • windummie

    So true, Weekly and on large projects lasting weeks to months, daily meetings keep everything running smoothly. With dailies ( Plan of the Day – POD) you will discover that everthing “outs” eventually. As for salary, a little extra goes a very long way.

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