(Courtesy American Nurseryman, November 1, 2006)
Richard Lim was named president of wholesale fern grower Casa Flora Inc., Dallas, in July. He previously was president and CEO of Speedling Inc., Sun City, FL, a developer of horticultural products and technologies, after managing the expansion of the company’s 10 operations in Asia.
In recent interview with American Nurseryman, Lim talked about his future goals for Casa Flora, business philosophies and redefining the marketplace.
American Nurseryman: As the new president of Casa Flora, what are your goals or plans for the business?
Richard Lim: Clearly, the overall goal in any business is to maximize the return on investment to stockholders, and that’s no different for Casa Flora. So while the bottom-line or profit figure is the overriding objective, there also are other factors to be considered in getting there.
The key is in understanding how to link people, strategy and operations together in a coherent way. To me, these are the three core processes of every business. The leader needs the discipline to get things done. Execution and follow-up are critical. Any great vision will remain only that — a vision — if not properly executed. Integrity also is needed to ensure that what is delivered is real. These are all tools that help ensure the results are sustainable.
Casa Flora has one-year and five-year plans. As the tissue-culture business requires planning 18 months in advance, we have a system of updating our business plans on a regular basis. We also have a paid board of directors to offer a check and balance.
AN: Are you starting promotional programs? Grower partnerships? Branding?
RL:As our market matures, there always is a risk of some products becoming a commodity, leading to lower margins and increased supplies. However, Casa Flora is committed to delivering a “value-added” product. We have chosen to differentiate ourselves not by branding to the consumer, but branding our products for the producer. The Casa Flora “brand” offers on-time delivery, consistent high-quality and reliable supply, greater selection/varieties and specific programs based on the needs of our target users.
We also are exploring the potential of working with our traditional competitors through mutually beneficial cooperation __ “strategic coopetition”. In this regard, we are able to utilize resources in the most efficient manner.
AN: You have said that a philosophy of yours is: “The world is our market.” Will you be opening markets overseas?
RL: There are opportunities for growth in fern sales in overseas markets. [At present], Casa Flora is putting effort on improving local sales, while at the same time, looking toward directing more energy to developing our overseas market in the near future. The possibilities are exciting.
We already have implemented the strategy of selling to our overseas market from our local production greenhouses in Dallas, and Apopka, FL.
In Dallas, we recently added a state-of-the-art tissue culture laboratory. This is in addition to our three tissue-culture laboratories in Palmdale, FL. The Laboratories have enabled us to expand our capacity to deliver consistent high quality throughout our extensive product lines.
We will consider offshoring certain aspects of production to capture more markets for Casa Flora, such as satellite production facilities, to produce for the specific overseas market. For the US market, we do not intend to encourage outsourcing to overseas production as it is difficult to maintain consistency and quality.
AN: Will there be personnel changes at Casa Flora?
RL: Change is a necessary and healthy part of doing business. When the environment changes, adapting creatively and effectively to those changes is critical. So at Casa Flora, we’re much attuned to monitoring change and anticipating and planning how to adapt. Our team possesses the right attitude to adapt and change quickly.
We will continue to recruit and promote from within the company. As Casa Flora continues to expand, we also expect to have new positions that become available.. New people bring fresh insights, while our existing personnel provide continuity and consistency.
AN: How will you work to redefine ferns as practical applications for the marketplace?
RL: Mr. Naud Burnett II and his son, Burke, founded Casa Flora 40 years ago. Naud Burnett II is a highly regarded landscape architect in Texas. We will be using his expertise through the firm of Naud Burnett and Partners to develop and implement practical applications of our products for consumers. This will enable our customers to go beyond the nine common ferns that usually are offered, resulting in an added service to our valued customers.
This project will include offering cultural information; using ideas for ferns in finished landscapes, including garden photos; and [promoting] health benefits [of ferns]. The goal is to provide meaningful information as part of the purchase experience and to help enhance appreciation for how ferns can be a great part of the mix for end users at home and offices.
It’s all about translating value up the production chain through the various users, and ultimately, making people’s living and working environments a little richer and healthier.