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Van Belle’s Golden rules

Turning 50 as a business is something to celebrate, and it’s the perfect time to reflect on how we can remain relevant and thriving for years to come.

For Van Belle Nursery, it all comes down to people and the culture we build together — both within our company and with our partners across the industry. Our Core Values — our “Golden Rules”— remain our guiding principles, and our aspiration is for you to experience them in every interaction you have with us, and that those experiences help strengthen your company and brighten your day.

My parents, Bill and Grace Van Belle, started the nursery in 1973 when I was one year old. From early on, they had me and my three siblings out in the nursery, rain or shine. They instilled in us the importance of hard work, relationship, and faith. My dad would remind me that a person who never made a mistake also never did much either. I took it to heart, and tried a lot of new things out.

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(Above) Grace, Dave and Bill Van Belle cut the “ribbon” to unveil our new Westbrook Skyline.

Sometimes the most memorable moments are when things didn’t work as planned, like the time in my early twenties when I had an idea for shipping involving a whole lot of conveyor belts. After a few weeks, we realized it just wasn’t working. Making mistakes early is a valuable education. Dad spent time with me figuring out what we learned from the venture, and what we should try next. It was an early try at improving efficiency through automation, and was a spark that led our team to many successful investments in automation — like the installation of our rolling bench system, which is one of the largest of its kind in North America.

Other early adopter improvements followed, like our lean flow based propagation and shipping, potless FloGo® shipping system, custom enterprise software, and more recent investment in sticking robots to name just a few. And it was out of these experiences our core values “Best Effort,” “Find a Better Way” and “Do it Now” emerged — golden rules that guide our growing team of people from around the world

My parents both immigrated to Canada from Holland with their families, and later met, married and moved from Ontario to British Columbia. They had to make their own way without a financial safety net. Through hard work, and many sleepless nights, they founded a nursery that now employs several hundred people and ships plants throughout North America.

Though there were lots of challenges — and still are, they modelled an optimism we embrace everyday, a core value we call “Always Positive.” There are so many real and difficult challenges facing our industry today, and we choose to look for positive solutions. It drives us to ask ourselves continually how we can improve our products and services to help you, our partners, tackle the challenges and win. And in the midst of the challenges, our team aspires to be a breath of fresh air to you and your business as we figure out solutions together as partners.

As I’ve embraced the responsibility of leading the charge for this second generation, I’m still learning daily. I have a passion for improvement, building a thriving business, and for partnering with like-minded people across our industry. And probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that the key to bringing our “Golden Rules” to life is to grow a strong and healthy company culture where we embrace our “Respect People” core value.

Like my parents who started with only their dreams and entrepreneurial spirit, our broad Van Belle team of people have their own dreams to pursue. We want to give them that opportunity here.

We’re incredibly blessed to have teammates from more than thirty countries around the world — they have so much to contribute with their hands, minds and hearts. Since 2015 we’ve been an open book management company, where everyone can see and contribute to the financials — and then share in both the challenges and the rewards.

For us, it’s a natural progression for Van Belle, and we believe the best way to grow a thriving company that continues to be a relevant and valuable partner to your business for many years to come. We invite you, your teams, and your next generations along for the next 50!

— Dave Van Belle

(Above) Youngplants at our Abbotsford, BC growing site.

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