Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Donald Green, managing director of Greens Nurseries, based near Nairn.
How and why did you start in business?
I grew up on our small, tenanted family farm – New Fleenas, near Nairn – and loved it.
But when I left school in the early 1980s there wasn’t enough work to support me as well.
So we diversified, starting a small-scale nursery producing fruit and vegetables, which we sold from a very basic farm shop.
It soon became apparent this was the way forward and I left home to study horticulture at West of Scotland Agricultural College.
It was a great privilege to being taught by the best of the best.”
I gained experience working at T&W Christie (Forres) under the late Donnie Williamson, Inshriach Alpine Nursery (Aviemore) under the late John Lawson and, in Norfolk, Blooms of Bressingham.
It was a great privilege to being taught by the best of the best, and without doubt those were the five most enjoyable and educational years of my life.
I then returned home and started building the business – Greens Nurseries – with my parents, Colin and Dorothy Green.
How did you get to where you are today?
Through sheer hard work. Working in our industry is about vocation, lifestyle, passion and commitment, and it’s not for anyone with a nine-to-five mentality. It’s 24/7 and that’s that.
In fact, we are a manufacturing industry. We take compost and seeds cuttings, and with our skills as nurserymen and a little help from mother nature, we propagate and create new plants to bring life to the planet and income to ourselves.
From small seeds grow mighty oaks, and from our fruit and vegetables start we are now open to the public all year round, seven days a week, apart from two weeks at Christmas.
We sell a wide range of trees, shrubs and perennial, annual and seasonal plants, as well as vegetables.
To this mix we have added composts, fertilisers, bug & weed controls, stone chippings, garden tools, bird feeders and food, vegetable seedlings and more, and we also supply the trade wholesale.
I’m delighted to work in the business alongside my wife, Julie, and our two daughters, Laura and Stephanie. They are all extremely knowledgeable and a great asset.
Who helped you?
I have had a huge amount of help in my career and I can’t thank those who have provided it enough.
In addition to those already mentioned, my parents were also extremely supportive.
In the early days we also had a lot of assistance from the old North of Scotland College of Agriculture, and one of its advisors, Jim Sutherland, was a massive help in getting us up and running.
Trade bodies like the Federation of Small Businesses have had invaluable roles to play in guiding us through some of the more tiresome aspects of the job, such as complying with the numerous rafts of legislation we come up against these days.
But the greatest support has always come from Julie, Laura and Stephanie.
What is your biggest mistake?
My biggest mistake in life was being totally engrossed in building the business in the early years and missing watching my girls growing up. You can’t turn that one back.
What is your greatest achievement?
I’m not really into “achievements”, but in 2000 I was voted Scottish grower of the year and that kind of felt quite nice.
I also quite enjoyed my spell as president of Nairnshire Farming Society.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
It wouldn’t be printable if I told you and it would be very unpopular with some, but I would fix the sinking ship.
What do you still hope to achieve?
Simple – just to survive and be happy.
What do you do to relax?
I go to Murrayfield (national rugby stadium) as often as I can.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?
I’ve just discovered Netflix and Clarkson’s Farm makes me smile.
What do you waste your money on?
Money is much too precious to waste, though I still buy a few cattle every year for the farm.
How would your friends describe you?
Blunt but okay.
What would your enemies say about you?
Blunt but okay.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I drive a Ford Ranger pickup but I’d love an Aston Martin, though getting in and out would be a struggle these days. I still quite like my Foden Alpha truck too.