I love projects. Especially projects around the house. I seem to attract clients who also love projects. Some projects are quickly initiated and completed. Others are planned to the finest detail before they’re launched.
Some projects need to percolate for a while
There is another type of project. A project that needs to percolate a while before it’s started. I’ve had many of them.
One of my clients had such a project.
I worked with her for over a year to get her entire house organized. When we worked in the garage we came across plastic plant tags – you know – the ones that come attached to the plant at the nursery.
When I asked her if it were a keep or a toss, her response was, “Keep! I need that for my plant label project.”
We found several plastic tags in the garage. When we moved upstairs to organize her study and desk area we found more tags. She had a cardboard box lid that she was using to containerize her plant label project. We organized her kitchen drawers and found more tags. We added them to the box.
As we worked through her whole house, the box top filled up with plant labeling information. Along the way we completed several other projects. There was the CD project, the laundry-room shelving project and the bedroom wall unit project. Finally she was ready to move forward with the plant label project.
Step 1: Visualize your desired outcome
My client is an exceptional gardener and a bit of a plant collector. She had seen some lovely plant labels at a local Home & Garden show.
The labels were produced by Harlane Company, LLC in the metro Atlanta area. My client knew from the time she saw them that she wanted them in her garden.
She could see the completed project in her mind’s eye.
She loved the dark green labels with white print. She wanted two lines with a common name and a Latin name.
Step 2: Identify and remove or minimize risks and roadblocks
She was ready to launch. She asked me to help her put the order into the shopping cart on the website.
- The box of unorganized labels lay on the table.
- My client’s iPad was next to the box.
- The shopping cart on the website required manual entry for each label ordered.
- She estimated that she needed 100 labels.
My radar engaged. Danger, Will Robinson.
I could see us laboriously entering the plant info and getting kicked offline before completing the order. All the data entered might disappear.
What about duplicates? I’m sure she had some plant duplication in her box.
Did we have all the information that she wanted to put on the labels?
All these questions in my head could lead to potential problems. The questions were raising red flags.
Step 3: Choose and use the right tools for the job.
I suggested that we make a list first. “Good idea,” she said and produced a notebook. She said, “We can just mail her the list.”
I shook my head and said, “Let’s make your list in Excel on the computer.”
A handwritten list would not make our plant label vendor happy. The vendor would have to read the hand written information and enter it into a computer to generate the labels.
Could we email the list?
She called Wendy Tilley, owner of Harlane Company to ask if she could send the completed list by email. Wendy was open to the idea.
Ms. Tilley told my client to email the list and then enter the quantity of labels in the online shopping cart and check out. She said just type “see email” as the plant name. We would send the list as an Excel file. It would be simple for her to copy and paste the plant names during her creation process.
We had a good plan. It was helpful to both parties.
The best tool for this project was an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet had four columns:
- Quantity (my client did need some duplicates)
- COMMON NAME
- Latin or scientific name
The plant label vendor did not need the category column but my client wanted to sort the list by plant type. We deleted the category column once the spreadsheet was complete.
We spent about an hour entering the information from her tags into the spreadsheet. Along the way we found some duplication and some differences in naming convention. It was easy to spot and correct using the spreadsheet.
Step 4: Create a system for handling the details
There were several plants in my client’s garden that had no plastic nursery tag. She knew their common names but not the Latin or scientific names. We used our smart phones to call on Google to get the scientific names. We made a great team. She Googled then spelled out the names for me to enter.
She decided that some of the labels should be one line: the common name. After we completed the list, we sorted the data. A quick excel formula told us how many two-line labels and one-line labels she should order.
My client proofed the list and we put it into an easy to understand format for Harlane Company.
We submitted the list via email. Then we went the website and ordered sixty-five 2-line labels and thirty-one 1-line labels. We typed “see email” for the “name” as directed by Ms. Tilley.
One slight oops!
In hindsight, it would have been wise to enter a tag or two into the online software to determine the maximum length of the labels. As it turned out a few of the Hosta labels exceeded the maximum length. We now know that length to be 21-23 characters including spaces.
Ms. Tilley contacted my client about this problem. They decided to use the letter ‘H.’ instead of spelling out the word ‘HOSTA’ for that plant group. It was an easy fix.
The careful planning eliminated most errors and reduced stress because we identified the roadblocks.
Can you imagine the stress of entering plant names for eighty-nine items on a web-form?
The results were grand. They matched her vision.
The labels are beautiful and the naming convention is consistent thanks to choosing the correct tool and using a system to organize the labels.
Do you have a project that has been percolating for awhile? Share it with me in the comments.