THE EMERISA GARDENS ENTERPRISE by Muchtar Salzman
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ART, CULTURE, HUMAN VALUES, HARD WORK, THE LATIHAN, AND LOVE
I started with no experience in running a nursery. I had a basic understanding of plant and soil relationships through my education and I felt confident that we would learn as we went along.
I had been waiting in vain for an enterprise I could work for, one in which the directors were dedicated to following God’s guidance in their work. Then I began to feel that this enterprise was not “out there” but inside me, one that I should start myself. I said to God that if I have to start it myself, please help me.
One of the important things about starting the Emerisa Gardens enterprise was my desire to work with my family, with my children. None of them had experience in nursery work. I started mainly with my 3 sons, and a skeleton crew that stayed with the nursery when I bought it. The nursery had a good selection of perennials and herbs but the quality of the plants and the condition of the nursery itself were not good. There were many weeds in the plants but the good thing was that we already had a customer base.
A nursery is a complex thing to deal with. A colleague from another nursery who had been in business for 8 years said it was easier to make Toyotas than run a nursery because the Toyota parts are not affected by weather conditions, water requirements, diseases, soil, light etc.
So Much To Learn
We had so much to learn: the basic needs of the different plant varieties in terms of soil, water, light, temperature, diseases etc; how to propagate plants without too many losses; how to order the correct kind of plants from other propagators; how to buy the most sellable varieties; how to label the plants correctly – meaning having the correct information on the label …all the details.
Another important task was making sure the right order would be delivered to the right customer. Initially there were no efficient systems in place. In the first year or two I remember working between 84-96 hours a week. It was difficult for me because I couldn’t attend group latihans regularly and within myself I knew you never, never miss a latihan. Bapak said about this, that after you die, you will regret every latihan that you missed and I believe that. But I was saying “Yeah God, you know the reasons why I am not going to latihan. It is taking 110% and more of my energy to get this enterprise established.” This is my continuous prayer, but I never was at peace with it, and I prayed that God would forgive me.
We worked long hours and were successful in improving the quality of the nursery itself and of the plant material we sold. We doubled our sales the next year and for me this meant that this enterprise was succeeding in its effort to do
everything correctly, or in a way that has God’s approval. I believe that our life, which is work, should be guided by our creator, by God - which is love. God has given us this gift beyond measure, beyond comprehension because God knows how much mankind really needs to have this lifeforce of love in the world. That is why I never felt that those long hours were too much!
Bapak would say “In your enterprises you will face all of the things that are not correct in the world.” For instance: what is the correct relationship between the boss and the employee? The employee is your brother, your co-worker, your brother in arms and you need to learn the true connection. The boss is like an older brother and you need to train the other people to have the same understanding. In front of God we are all equal. So you have to develop the correct relationship between management and workers. Also: how do you find the correct pricing for your products? Bapak would say if you could find something cheaper somewhere, you should not price it for a lot more. Your customer should benefit from your intelligence and get something cheaper too. Truth in advertising. Truth to your customers – are you genuinely interested in their life or are you nice to them because you believe they will buy something? All of those things have to be correct because God knows.
What you are learning in an enterprise is how to overcome the fear of competition, the fear of failure. This is why the value of enterprises is so enormous. You learn to face these things and overcome them. You have to make a decision and sometimes you feel under pressure, but you learn to accept that often your decision-making process may be slower but in the long run it is better.
There’s fear of losing money if you make the wrong decision; there’s the fear of disharmony among the workers. You feel all these things, but you learn that your first duty is to find peace and confidence so that they do not rule you but only God’s love that brings lightness and peacefulness, which create harmony among your co-workers.
Bapak told us that we are not allowed to be depressed, and I believe that also we are not allowed to be fearful, because God is truly Almighty, All knowing and All loving. If I allow depression or fear within myself, I am saying, with my lips, that God is Almighty and All loving and so on, but I don’t really believe it.
Bapak explained to us that in addition to Patience, Trust and Sincerity, we also must have Courage. So one of the most valuable things I learned from doing this enterprise is the understanding of what Bapak means when he was pushing us to start enterprises, when Bapak is saying that we really have these two duties: One: to worship God and Two: to put it into practice.
Worship is God’s Work, allowing God to do the work within you (that is receiving the latihan); putting it into practice is our responsibility. We ask God to show us the way and then we put it into our work. If you are an artist, what is guiding your work? You are guided by the truth of life, by love. We are not doing an enterprise just to make money.
Following our guidance, putting it into practice; this is the essence of enterprise as I understand it.
This is an account of all the beautiful things you learn when you truly try to follow Bapak’s guidance about doing enterprises. In this whole process, my family was involved very closely – I didn’t just go to work for 8 hours and disconnect from them, they all worked with me and some of them continue to do so even today.
I had to learn to form a corporation because now I need to learn to hand over this operation to my children, which in itself is a very interesting learning process. My prayer is that God will continue to bless our efforts. Addenda: As of this January, a part of our nursery was officially certified as Organic Growing grounds. We can now label our vegetables and such as officially grown organically.
Many of our vegetable seeds come from organic sources and many are heirloom varieties.
My sons and son-in-law are now official officers of the Emerisa Gardens Corporation, so that if something happened to me, they will be able to direct the Nursery without too many disruptions.
I have seen quite a few nurseries biting the dust, as well as quite a few landscapers. We have, so far, survived the "economic tsunami", which is a good thing.