Story # 74
In the book, Mastery, that I’m reading, the author proposes that the great masters of Science or the Arts had a mentor at some point in their training. Masters like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or Benjamin Franklin worked as apprentices and were then influenced by a mentor.
My mentor in the greenhouse business was Donald Layser, a self-made man who created a plant business to make it into the top 100 greenhouses in the United States. It was by chance that I got to work at Layser’s Flowers for several months during the Spring retail season. My greenhouse production professor at Penn State, Dr John White, had a request for an intern and suggested that I try to get it for some real greenhouse experience. The job was to work for Mrs. Layser in the retail greenhouse as the stock boy refilling plant inventory.
I got to see how the whole place worked and as part of the deal I was to write a report on my observations.
Over the years, after I started my own business I would visit Layser’s to buy plants and get counsel from Donald. Every once in awhile he would pull out that report and remind me that he valued it even though many of my observations were either off the mark or naïve.
His genius in the plant business was that he would perceive what size and price the customer wanted and then figure out how to grow it at a profit.
My business was small and his large so I always wanted to get his advice on things, so I could do the opposite of what he was doing.
My mentor gave me a chance to see how commercial horticulture worked. I would have worked there for nothing. Of course, I didn’t tell him that until years later.