Shane Pack Interview
Pack’s Nursery: Boaz, Alabama
1. How long have you been working with Pack’s Nursery?
“Pack’s Nursery is a family business. We have 8 family members that work here. My grandfather started the nursery in 1968, so it’s our 50th anniversary this year. Once he started it, my dad and uncle came at different times. I joined after graduating high school in 1994 when my grandfather offered me 10 acres to forgo college and work with him. Needless to say, that’s what I chose!”
2. What are your primary responsibilities?
“I field all the phone calls that come into our wholesale nursery and coordinate getting the trucks in to load and ship. We do all our propagation and growing, so I also manage the 60 greenhouses reserved for that. Chris, my uncle, oversees the retail yards and my father stays out in the fields (350 acres).”
3. What is the most rewarding part of your role?
“One of the most rewarding parts is seeing the plants grow. It’s a long process – sometimes 15 years – but it is rewarding to see them out there and then know where they’re going. Our plants have gone on many college campuses and other unique places like a governor’s mansion in Arkansas or lifted to the top of a high rise apartment building in Dallas.
For me, personally, just working with family and closely with my children through the summer is very rewarding. I love being able to have a business where you can bring your family in and teach them values such as hard work and what it means to get dirty.”
4. What do you think most people don’t know or assume incorrectly about your field?
“Most people do not realize how much work goes in to producing a quality plant. I think they just assume that you stick it out there, and within a year, you’ve got this 10-foot holly you can sell. What they don’t understand is how many times you’ve gone back in to prune, fertilize and weed around it. I think that’s a common misconception.”
5. What are the growing trends or areas in owning a nursery?
“It seems like there is more of an emphasis now on landscapes with the trend towards having a ‘greener’ city. Your average person seems more inclined to want a nice landscape – it’s more mainstream, you could say. As a result, the improved versions of azaleas and hydrangeas, such as the branded Encore Azaleas and Endless Summer Hydrangeas, have been in high demand. The mainstream aspect has led to increased advertising, so people are asking for these plants. We are growing them now to use and sell in our retail yards.”
6. When you are not working, how do you spend your time?
“Most of my time is dedicated to work, but I’m able to spend it with my family. If I’m not working, I’m with them. I’ve been a scout leader for my boys as my older son is an eagle scout and my youngest is a cub scout. We also have a shop where we enjoy woodworking. Spending time with the family is what I love – that’s where I see my responsibility. With 5 kids, I’m kept busy.”
7. Do you have a mentor who has played an integral role in helping shape your career?
“My grandfather was a huge influence on me because I spent a good amount of time helping him when I was growing up. He really had a large impact on us all. Although he passed away 5 years ago, until two or three years before he died, he was the boss. We could tell him what we thought, but ultimately, what he said would go.
My father is a go-getter, so he developed my work ethic and trained me to always stay busy. Whatever the crew is doing, he’s right there with them.”
8. If there is one lesson you’ve learned after working in the horticulture industry for so long, what would it be?
“To me, it’s very much a faith-based business. Looking to God is so much of what we do because none of our fields are irrigated – we rely on the Lord to do that. I remember growing up and going through droughts. My grandfather would say, ‘He’s taken care of us this far, He’ll keep providing.’ When you’re in a business that relies so much on mother nature, you must have faith that it’ll rain.
I also love working with and getting to know more of the people in this industry. They’re great! There’s something to be said for someone who’s willing to get dirty. It takes a special kind of person.”
9. Do you have a favorite quote?
“My grandfather always said: ‘If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.’
That quote is my favorite because whether you’re at a nursery or at home with your family, it can be used on so many bases. Many people would say, ‘Don’t sweat the little things.’ But if we are watching for and catching those issues while they’re small, a lot of our problems can be solved. So, that’s what I aim to do. When I’m out, I try to notice what needs to be taken care of and get those done before they become bigger issues. This requires a lot of walking – which means I’m usually over 20,000 steps a day (and don’t visit the treadmill often!).”
10. What is one characteristic every leader should possess?
“The ability to listen. Four years ago, I probably would not have said that, but we adopted a teenager from Ukraine. He was 14 when we adopted him. When you listen and take into account the perspectives of other people, it changes the way you react to them. I look back at military and political leaders throughout history and it seems the best ones are those who really listened to others. As a leader, you can’t know everything about everything. You must find a group of people you can trust and listen to them.”
* Is there something most people don’t know about you?
“I am a big fan of classic literature. I’ve read many of the works by Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anthony Trollope and others. I don’t read as much now but I am an avid listener to podcasts and audio books.”