Nothing makes Tom Buysse happier than to see his own azaleas in the customer's shopping trolley in a garden centre. Seeing the azaleas, grown with care and attention by his company, on their way to a new owner. Colourful, long flowering and air purifying, the plant is an asset to any interior!
Tom says: “I was literally born in my parents’ company, which also had an azalea business. So the trade was brought up on me and has always fascinated me. Together with my wife, I now run a company with four employees. It is a spin-off of my parents’ company. We started a forcing business in 1994, which means that we bring azaleas to fruition (‘pull’). We buy flowering plants from cold cultivation. By giving them light and warmth, they become beautiful end products that complement any home or office. ”
Seeing the end product
“Our deliveries go to many different buyers. From small businesses, such as flower shops and garden centres, to large companies with branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Finland. Especially with small companies, I often deliver my own bloomers every week. I often see them in the customer’s shopping trolley. I must say I am very proud of that. Not of course of that one azalea, but of our entire company. We all work hard to make people happy with colour in their homes. Many growers never see who enjoys their end product, so it becomes quite abstract in the long run. I am lucky enough to see that and I enjoy it every time!
Half of the trade
“I think an important part of the appearance of our flowers is how they are delivered to our customers. That is often half of the trade, of the image of your company. The logistic carriers, in our case the containers from Container Centralen, are part of the business. I even inherited some from my parents, who owned them, and I find it very important to use them sparingly and carefully. I put a lot of energy into that. They have to be clean and undamaged. They have to run smoothly and nothing must be missing.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry thinks so, and dealing with the CC Containers is quite a problem. Sometimes this is due to (having to) prioritise other things within the company in times of (financial) setbacks, sometimes out of pure disinterest and lack of responsibility. The quality of the CC Containers that I sometimes receive from other pool-users is shocking. With broken wheels, very bad plates or insanely filthy. That is difficult to receive. Of course, we have a fully binding contract and we can take these containers to the depot. This means that CC is responsible, as part of its quality strategy, for replacing non-functional material. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with others. Fortunately, CC is always willing to think along and help with solutions.”
“I am convinced that handling the containers is a joint responsibility. On your own, you simply don’t have enough influence to bring about change; you really have to do it together. Precisely because it is a circular system, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure your containers are in order. I am happy with the good contact with Container Centralen and my account manager Katrien Haenebalcke and the effort they always put in to solve problems or issues. Look, I know better than anyone how high the pressure is in trading a live product, how quickly you have to act and how thin the margins sometimes are. But if you collectively take up the gauntlet to do things better, it is bound to yield results. And that the problems that exist can be solved. But again, this is only possible if we all do it, in both the small and the large companies. Especially if we all see the importance of a well-functioning container pool. I really hope that one day everyone will be convinced that a nice, shiny CC Container really brings something to your business, at least more than it costs you.”
Energy prices through the roof
“You can work as hard as you like, but sometimes things outside your control have an enormous impact on your business. In our case, take the sky-high gas and electricity prices of today. We put the azaleas in bloom at around 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. You can imagine that an increase in the price of the energy we need for this has an enormous impact. And that in an industry that is already having a hard time, especially after the Corona crisis.
Corona and its consequences have made several growers, including suppliers to our company, decide to cease their activities. As a result, we have seen a major drop in the production of azaleas and our supply is under threat. This does not always make work easier, I must say. For the time being, however, I still have enough ambition to continue my career together with our people, fortunately.”
The solution for a clean house or office
The azalea belongs to the rhododendron family and is a colourful bloomer. It comes in a very diverse range of colours that suit any interior. They are very easy to maintain, mainly need plenty of water and will do well anywhere in the house.
They sometimes have a somewhat old-fashioned image, but in fact they are totally up-to-date. And in full development! We work closely together with Hortibreed. This company specialises in selecting and propagating new and especially ‘innovative’ varieties. With specific characteristics such as very beautiful flower/leaf combinations, innovative colours, extra long flowering periods, plants for indoor and outdoor use…a truly innovative and rejuvenating range!
These varieties are marketed under the Hortinno brand and we are proud to be Hortinno partner.
Back in the 70s, NASA research showed that azaleas are very good at breaking down formaldehyde. This is a colourless gas with a pungent odour, but it is also an ingredient in products that we all have in our homes, such as glues, paint, wallpaper and floor coverings.
The azalea is a very fine air purifier, which we can use very well in these times. Reason enough to plant them in abundance in your house or garden!