PKF Texas recently sat down with one of its clients, Randy Gilde, CEO and president of Delray Plants. Located in Venus, Fla., the company may seem somewhat off the grid, but Delray Plants represents the 13th largest grower with 300 acres of production space in the United States, according to Greenhouse Grower. The company ships millions of plants to people across the country and even to Canada.
PKF Texas: Tell us a bit about Delray Plants. What makes it unique?
Randy Gilde: We’re a national supplier to chain stores, and third generation in the Florida family business that grows high quality indoor plants. Our Christian values define our actions and behavior toward our employees and customers. This includes honesty, and fair and ethical business practices, as well as integrity; doing the right thing even when it hurts, as well as accountability, and we own our own actions.
Our people make us unique and innovation helps separate Delray Plants from other similar companies. With our scale, we grow millions of plants, and when you’re shipping millions of plants, quality is the key. Anybody can produce a plant and even a lot of plants, but do they all look good?
Today, people want trust, feel, smell and being healthy. When we put different programs together, we keep this in mind. For example, with our program, “Plants with Benefits,” we use the same plants, but when people go see them on display, they realize that plants clean the air.
PKF Texas: Your late father-in-law, Jacob “Jake” Koornneef, started Delray Plants with the philosophy, “Fewer, bigger, better.” Can you describe what this means?
Randy Gilde: Jake always believed that there would be consolidation in everything. We’ve seen that over the years, with all the mergers and acquisitions happening every day. Where 10 small nurseries used to provide plants for 500 stores, now it’s one big nursery that provides for those 500 stores. Delray was built with that in mind; we’re sized to scale to deal with big box retailers.
PKF Texas: Delray Plants started on 14 acres in 1968 and has grown to over 300 acres of production space, serving 33 states and even Canada. What has helped you grow, and how have industry changes affected the way you do business and the way you’ve grown?
Randy Gilde: We grew with the big box stores. The volume of plants over the years shifted from retail garden centers that used to be more than 70% of the business, to retail box stores that now does about the same amount of business.
We believe in stewardship. We share with our customers because we recycle 100 tons of cardboard every year. Also, we practice water conservation. Our drip irrigation in water practices that others don’t use set us apart. Nobody wants to hurt the environment today and our customers see that.
In addition to the big box stores, we’re on Facebook, where the consumer can see our name and website so they can see our plants. Also, Pinterest is good for us. For example, you can see a plant and you can find it right away at an online retailer.
PKF Texas: What are the biggest financial challenges and hurdles you have faced, and how do you deal with, and overcome, those?
Randy Gilde: Labor is always a challenge in this industry. To overcome that, we pay a fair competitive wage and maintain a safe, friendly work environment. Also, government programs are always a factor in business. A good example is the Affordable Health Care Act, which is an ongoing challenge.
PKF Texas: Tell us about your role in the organization, as well as the company’s community work.
Randy Gilde: I married into it 38 years ago and started at the bottom, working for my father-in-law. I’ve taken in every aspect of the job, and after my father-in-law passed away, my brother-in-law, Ed, and I co-led the company. We decided to become board-run and governed because large customers wanted to know our succession plan, and you must share it with them. My father-in-law’s succession plan was myself and Ed; he and I talked about it, and decided that I’d be the CEO and president. Even though I was already acting in that role, now it’s official.
Personally and corporately, we give back lots to the community. We are a Christian-based company and support AgVenture, which teaches the community about plants. We also support the 4-H Foundation, United Way and many other organizations.
PKF Texas: When it comes to your customers, what do you hope they take away from their Delray Plants experience?
Randy Gilde: We want to have a plant in every home in America. That may seem farfetched, but look at what Bill Gates said. He wanted a computer in every home in America, which is now the case, so what’s the difference?
When you get to see a consumer that’s buying your product, that makes you feel good. We want to make a significant contribution to our customers’ success. By doing that, it guarantees our success.