In Motion – Intern Blog

Today marks the halfway point of my internship – where did the time go?!

Projects and campaigns are in full swing now and moving fast!

The mini-bios for each employee at NPK will be posted by the end of this week along with their “headshot”. It’s exciting to see a project coming to a conclusion while multiple others are beginning. Coming up we will have newsletters and surveys for our clients, NPK related blog posts, more effective social media campaigns, potential NPK events, and more. There’s a lot to be done but seeing these campaigns come to fruition is giving them all new life.

I was able to network with different sides of the company this past week, which was really exciting and rewarding. I met with the marketing director at Rose Pest Solutions who is excited about NPK’s involvement in a showcase at her workplace to highlight Pollinator Awareness. The display sketches already look incredible and highly creative. The marketing director and I were able to discuss possibly linking our two companies and we decided on a collaborative blog post. We come from two different worlds, work wise, and it’ll be great to show a post on how potential clients can incorporate our two companies and have a great experience.

While I met with the Rose marketing director to discuss furthering each of our companies, I was also able to highlight a new client and her company. A new restaurant in Chicago had our sales and design representative, Leah, create a great botanical display for their space. Leah and I went by the restaurant last week for lunch and to see for ourselves how everything turned out. It looked gorgeous and the place was packed. I took the opportunity to live tweet our experience, using the trend #mybeleaf. Great plant design, wall art, and a line out the door led to a successful social media promotion. The owner was even up front to make our salads! You can see the live tweet here:

live tweet

The networking not only left me with connections but also great tools and advice to use going forward. While we’re trying to find the right services for various projects at NPK, companies like Rose have been using them for years. Being able to hear an opinion on services I hadn’t heard of yet helped an incredible amount.

Last week I asked readers to vote for an NPK blog idea that they’d be interested in reading. I’ll be writing the winner the beginning of next week! If you haven’t had a chance to vote, you can do so below. Exciting things are coming for NPK in the upcoming weeks!

Which NPK Blog would you like to read?

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Lost and Found – Intern Blog

I have progressed from the intern who knew nothing to the intern who now knows a little bit.

Well, that is to say that I went from the intern who knew nothing about Chicago to the one who now knows a little bit more about how to get around when out and about for the company.

I got lost. Like, pretty super lost. On foot. With a dead phone. And a handwritten map. In an area of the city where English is so obviously not the first language. That’s how lost I was.

What’s interesting though is that when you’re at a creative standstill, getting lost is sometimes the exact thing that you need to happen. I had been slightly creatively stunted in expanding ideas for NPK. It’s the worst when you have so many good ones that you think could yield phenomenal results, but then feel like they’re going nowhere. I needed to clear my head – what better way to do so than to get lost? I needed a change in my mindset – a clearing of the cloudiness that was inhibiting me.

After spending the day with Eric, one of NPK’s service technicians, I headed back to the office with a dead phone and the handwritten map Eric, luckily, was able to draw me so I could find my way via the train and short walk.

I was feeling stressed thinking of all the things I needed to figure out on my to do list. I was feeling very uncreative. I had finished all of the bios, I had begun to research surveys, I had blog ideas all over the place… but I didn’t feel any progress. And for all of my new campaign ideas, I felt like I didn’t even know where to start.

Then..

I got lost. Even with Eric’s map, I still managed to get confused and took the wrong path. I walked under the entrance for Chinatown, sure that I was near the office. Miles walked later and at the end of the Chinatown well… town – I knew I had gone the wrong way. After some assistance from a helpful couple, I turned around and finally found the right path.

As I walked… and I walked… I noticed a lot around me. I started to clear my head about feeling in a rut about where my projects were going. I had to see that even when my projects aren’t fully formed, when I’m a little lost on where to take them, I need to recall what I’ve accomplished and be proud, then apply that to my current mindset. I needed to get outside and see that I have 20 blog ideas, immense potential for connections with a new marketing idea, and that the only way to get the projects off and running was to do just that – do them.

I’m pretty fortunate that I work in a small business where I’m able to hear feedback from just about everyone who is employed with the company. The ability to easily communicate ideas and have others tell you what they like/don’t like gives you such an advantage on what project to do next. I like that I know at any given time how my ideas are being received.

I have a whole new list of tasks to accomplish and current projects to keep up with, but after my time away I feel like I have found the way I want to progress. I got lost, yes, but if I stay on the direction I started with, I’ll get to where I want to go.

And you can help me, too! Take the poll below to help me on my new project: writing for the NPK website’s blog!

Which NPK Blog would you like to read?

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Merging – Intern Blog

I think working for a plant business has given me a lot more insight into the real world than just expanding my public relations experience.

Maintaining relationships within a business is similar to how NPK maintains their plants – attention, care and a willingness to improve the situation. Although I understand this metaphor is a bit cliche, bear with me.

Small business means there’s no higher-higher up to fix the problems that are created at the “lower” level. There are also fewer opportunities to delegate tasks to employees when you only have 15 on staff. The past week has shown that working for and with a small business can be very exciting and inspiring, but it can also be very hard.

Within my position as PR intern, I have the opportunity to make decisions regarding social media and implement some ideas, but all in all I can not stray from what the owners of the company want – no matter how much I may want to push it. In regard to the analogy, this is where I’ve had to learn basic upkeep for business relationships.

All in all, working for a small business means that you have to be open to different and new ideas. You need to be flexible and understanding, but also know when to go forward with your gut ideas.

This strategy has to be used all throughout the company’s relationships, whether they are within or with clients. This past week especially highlighted the strengths and struggles of having a small business.

I attended a sales call for a new potential client with one of our owners Tuesday, who took the time and care to ensure a great quote was created for the customer just as a member of his team would. We then went to a wholesale flower market so he could personally pick up an orchid arrangement to send to a client for a grand opening they were hosting. From there, we went back to the office for a one on one meeting. There alone exhibits what it takes from a small business to execute care, attention and a willingness to improve.

The next day I assisted with the installation of one of the largest exterior designs that NPK has done to date. Two of the owners, along with two supervisors and three employees, were on site to ensure the day went according to plan. Because the original plan hadn’t been executed to the client’s standards, NPK took special care to ensure that this install would. I would have to think that knowledge would give any client the relief that their investment would be exactly as they envisioned it with the design team.

Each step within a business isn’t easy, especially when ideas or projections do not go to plan. But being able to keep your integrity and respect towards your employees and your clients will also put you at a position that no other company can touch.

I enjoyed having the opportunity this week to be able to see this side of the company, because I think it’s important to highlight all parts. Along with all of the above, I was also able to get a lot of great pictures and work done for our social media as well as attend the rooftop bar grand opening for our account at the Loews Hotel.

The Loews Hotel had a BEAUTIFUL rooftop grand opening! Every part of it had my coworker Leah and me in awe. Along with the beautiful layout and the classiness of the whole party, there were acrobats and five different bands in different corners of the roof. Because I’m a huge music geek I had to stop and listen to each one and they were all great and from different genres and styles. It was a really exciting and interesting night to be a part of.

It’s so cool how each day leads me to new opportunities to explore all of the company I work for. Small business is the way to go for more hands on experience and I’m feeling lucky that I am having the summer to experience that.

A Little of This, A Little of That

This summer’s common theme: something brand new every single week.

I found a brand new way to get to work that takes me under an hour but requires me to wake up two hours earlier. But, if that means I can dodge sitting in my car for hours then I’m okay with it. I’ve also decided to take up a new hobby called riding a bike which is something I haven’t done in years, but I’m not quite sure how that will play out since just riding in your car in Chicago can be terrifying, let alone on a bike. In the open. On a three lane street.

But what’s new in the world of my internship is that it’s safe to say that I have officially spent a day in every facet of the company! I had been out to service accounts with the service technicians, had gone to install plants with the installation crew – I’d even worked in the warehouse and within the studio. But this week, I infiltrated them all.

I began working on an account in the suburbs with Anna, taking pictures and details of the plants and how Anna cares for them. Each member of the NPK team handles their job differently, and it’s nice to see how everyone handles everything from plants to clients in their personal way. Middle of the week was spent with Leah, accompanying her on sales calls and working with her as she worked up a potential quote for the client. Then, finally, I worked alongside the installation manager, Leif, where we took the giant NPK truck out into Rosemont to bring new plants to accounts.

Working with Leif was one of the best parts of my hands-on NPK experience because it meant really being able to interact with their clients. We were going out to these accounts because there were things there that a client didn’t want, or because it was time for a new rotation. They really seemed to enjoy what NPK does and that was really great to see.

I’ve finally finished the biographies of each member of the staff! Those will be up on the website by the start of next week. For now I’ll just have the obstacle of getting everyone to let me take their picture.

This week will have a lot going on – starting an email service, grand opening event, and a whole brand new installation at our Whole Foods account.

Time to get started!

Balance and Adjustments – Intern Blog

It might not be a typical work week if a few changes aren’t made to the schedule. This week stayed very true to that – it was a balance of adjustments.

The beginning of the week was filled with preparation for the property maintenance expo that NPK was scheduled to attend for Thursday and Friday. We still had some project work to do for the lead sign which meant navigating around downtown Chicago for craft shops. With ideas stemming from just about every medium we passed, my coworker Leah and I headed back to the studio with cut out letters and twine in hand. After attempting to create a leader from the twine, our idea became a no go. Which, what a lesson in not just creativity but how it truly is to work for a company. In classes, we use our creativity and run with it hoping that it results in the 4.0 we’re aiming for (or at least close). But in business, your creativity has to include plan a, plan b, and at least 10 more after that. It’s amazing how quickly you think up new ideas to roll with when it means something as important as keeping an account or ensuring that whatever your working on will gain positive reviews.

Anyway, no twine. Then, after taking a breather to think of new directions to take, we received an email detailing the postponement of the expo. Disappointing but also, more time! Time can either be a blessing or a curse for creatives, but in this case I’d lean with a blessing.

This past week I also worked on fine tuning the content for the NPK biographies of each member of our staff which will be out by the end of this week . Writing up 14 features is not an easy task! Especially when each person has such distinctive personalities – it’s always important to stay true to that.

Public relations is full of these little collaborations. Within my own company I collaborate with each person to ensure that I’m depicting NPK like they view it and they work with me to also use the social media instruments to show their side. With the outside world, I collaborate with other media specialists to correctly make the changes that are needed, like website design.

That’s one of the biggest lessons to take from this experience so far – you can do nothing truly successful without collaborating with those around you and those who may be able to lend you a helping hand. Also, I have my own desk and desk plant now. So collaboration is going to come in handy to keep her alive.

Nature + Me – Intern Blog

Each week with NPK seems to teach me a little bit more about myself than I originally knew.

1. I now know the difference between hydrangeas and peonies.

2. There are many different variations of trees. Like, variations within a variation. I kind of wish I had been in Girl Scouts now… do they do that kind of thing?

3. Well, this isn’t new, but I still really love design work.

4. Doing magazine layouts on anything but a Mac can be very trying to one’s patience.

5. I may think making a weekly plan will help to execute everything I want, but being in a real business instead of in classes means changing it up at the drop of a hat and honestly… I really like that.

This week was especially the kind of week where you think that you’re going to get a,b, and c completed but you really end up executing a task list that you weren’t particularly planning.

Just like last week, along with my internship work, I spent time joining coworkers to work alongside them with their assigned task for the day. While it’s definitely pushed me out of my element, seeing as how my previous knowledge of plants is very basic, it’s become eye opening and taught me more than just plants but how business itself works.

Working in the studio this week was definitely one of the cooler experiences I’ve had so far just because I love designing and creating ideas. Having a large workplace and lots of resources really fuels that because what creative doesn’t love the idea of being able to use just about anything within reach as a medium? My co worker, Leah, and I put together a couple different pieces – a few for different accounts and a couple for the expo we’ll be in later this week. After working with Leah, I joined Charlie to help around the warehouse. This internship may offer a lot of knowledge, experience and opportunities but they didn’t let me know one of the other prime points – I will definitely not need to purchase a gym membership during my time here in Chicago.

NPK had its company outing the past week which sent all of us to Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Il. So cool to walk through trails and see all different kinds of life on a really beautiful day. While the strong suit here might not be reading a map, we pulled through and managed to see a lot of what the arboretum had to offer.

Now, I’ll be working on finishing up for the expo at the end of this week. With slideshow and iPad magazine in hand, we’ll be ready to take on the plant world come Thursday.

Stick around to see all that’s to come. But, as always, be sure to follow us @npkplantscape on both Twitter and Instagram – Like us on Facebook, too!

The Beginning – Intern Blog

[This summer, NPK has taken on an intern from Michigan State University to help assist with public relations along with kick-starting our social media. Welcome, Cait!
Cait will be writing a weekly blog this summer on her experience with NPK – check out her first post!]

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In one week, I have to estimate that I’ve said “hashtag” at least 250 times.

Welcome to my first week as the Public Relations intern at NPK Associates, Incorporated!

While it hasn’t been solely revolving the term hashtag and its functions, it’s been a long/short week of teaching and learning. The past week has been a very out of the box experience which are typically the best kind to have. Right now, I’m in a city that I’ve only ever visited but have always wanted to live in. Hello, Chicago! But, let me just say, this is a whole new experience. Growing up in Michigan and Mississippi, I’ve dealt with all kinds of drivers, traffic, weather, and city life. But really, Chicago, you might just take the cake for being one of the wildest cities in all of those categories. Driving to work might just need to be its own internship –  I need major training.

But outside of the daily commute, I’ve learned an immense amount this past week about my company’s goals and operations. NPK, an interior landscape design company, creates amazing arrangements that are seen in nearly 200 buildings in Chicago. Each day, employees either are installing arrangements, servicing them, or creating them. Being able to be part of that this week has been very eye opening and extremely interesting.

The past week, I have worked in every position the company offers. I installed arrangements at a major hospital, serviced at one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever seen, and helped to create gorgeous pieces that will soon be implemented in various company buildings. I’ve learned more about plants and design than I ever thought I would – and it’s just the first week.

Along with my learning, I’ve been teaching a lot, too. NPK has been around for 30 years and has gained an incredible client base all without the help of social media. Now, with my internship, I hope to be able to not only significantly expand their client base but also bring to light just how amazing this company is.

Yes, I may have to reteach what a hashtag is used for – thank you, Jimmy Fallon. But the social media is just a small part of what I hope to achieve here at NPK.

Be sure to check in weekly on what’s new with me, NPK, and Chicago!

In the meantime, follow NPK on all your favorite social media pages!

@npkplantscape: Twitter and Instagram

http://www.facebook.com/npkinterior

Kuwa branches and moss. Looking good for a summer design!

Kuwa branches and moss. Looking good for a summer design!

 

Letters to be used for our expo next week! Can’t wait to show the finished product.

Letters to be used for our expo next week! Can’t wait to show the finished product.

 

View from an account on Lakeshore Drive. Hellllooooo, Lake Michigan! View from an account on Lakeshore Drive. Hellllooooo, Lake Michigan!

View from an account on Lakeshore Drive. Hellllooooo, Lake Michigan!

 

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Interview Questions for a Prospective Plant Contractor

Interior Plant Service

In my previous post, I outlined steps to find 5 companies to choose from that have the potential to become your interior plant service provider. Once you’ve picked the 5 candidates, it’s time to narrow it down to the top 3 to submit a proposal.  To prepare for the screening process I am going to outline a list of questions that you can choose from for the initial phone interview.  Depending on your service needs, some of these questions may or may not pertain to your situation.  When you place the call, explain where you’re offices are located and ask for the sales representative that would service that area.

Here are some of the best questions to use for screening the candidates:

  • How long has your company been in business and who is the owner?
  • What involvement does your ownership have in the operation of the business?
  • What geographic area does your company service? If you have multiple buildings, or offices, you will want to know how this company will service those locations.
  • What type of services does your company offer?
  • What percentage of your business is devoted to interior plant services?
  • What is the process for submitting a proposal?
  • Is there a fee for a design consultation and site visit?
  • Does your company offer rental and purchase options for both plants and decorative planters?
  • What is the lead time for installation once I place an order?
  • What types of seasonal rotation programs does your company offer?
  • What is your company procedure for controlling plant pests? What types of chemicals does your company use for this control?
  • What is your company policy if I am not satisfied with a plant that is delivered?
  •  How often does your company come to service the plants?
  • What is your company’s quality control program?
  • Depending on the program I choose, what is the term of the maintenance or rental agreement?
  • What separates your company from the competition?
  • What is your company’s cancellation policy?

The sales rep should be able to articulate a clear response to all of the questions you are asking.  Any hesitancy or if the rep is unclear about their company’s services and policies might be a signal of something you should be aware of. If you are speaking to a young rep without much experience, that is no reason to cross them off your list.

Pink Phal in tall LecheuzaGive the rep a chance to acknowledge that they are new to sales or to the company.  If they don’t know the answer to their company’s position on something, they should admit that and ask for the opportunity to get back to you with more information.  If however, they just respond that they don’t know that answer, try to make something up, or talk around the subject, then that is probably not someone that will be the best fit for your needs. The best scenario is to be connected with an experienced representative that can clearly answer all your questions.  Ideally the phone interview should become more of a two way conversation.  A good rep will be a good listener but also ask appropriate questions during the phone call to understand your needs and assist with your screening process. A good sales rep. is going to ask you some questions, to make sure your company is right fit for their service operation as well.

From your list of questions, if you feel that the rep has provided clear answers that fit your needs, go ahead and set up a meeting.  The representative should schedule a time that he/she can walk through the space with you and take notes on where you want to place plants.  They may want to take photos of some of the locations, so they can provide a professional photo presentation of plants for specific areas.  As the rep walks through the space they may make recommendations to include plants in areas you may not have considered.  It’s up to you if you want those areas to be included in the bid.  However, if it is more important that you receive 3 bids that are comparable then ask the rep. to outline those additions on a separate quote. If your priority is design oriented, you may want to open up the first meeting to let the rep offer suggestions for placement and types of plants.  From your first meeting you should have a good idea of what the rep will be like to work with. If you’re uncomfortable with the rep during the meeting, make a note of it for your decision making process. They are going to be your go to person if you choose that company as your plantscape contractor, so it is very important that you feel they are someone you can work with.  At the close of your meeting the rep should be able to give you an idea of when they will get back to you with a proposal.  Be prepared to set up a time to meet again for the presentation.

How to Choose an Interior Plant Service Company

Interior Plant ServiceFirst and last impressions in any corporate or commercial setting can either leave your customers with the desire to return and do more business with you or they can turn someone off and question your company’s management abilities.  A setting with healthy and attractive greenery and flowers will make a lasting, positive impression on a potential client or returning customers.  Additionally, properly maintained plantings can have a significant impact on employee morale, health and productivity in the office. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a reputable interior plant service company to provide consistent, reliable customer service for your needs. Visit the webside for the Better Business Bureau for a list of accredited plant companies http://www.bbb.org/chicago/accredited-business-directory/plants-interior-design-and-maintenance/chicago-il.

The first step to choosing a professional interior plant company is identify what are your service needs and the budget that you have to work with.  Are you interested in just a few plants in the reception area or are you looking for a more extensive program with plants in offices and other key locations?  Are you looking for flowering plants to add fresh rotations of color and change on a regular basis? Will you have a need for some holiday decorations or possible short term event services?  Once you have identified your needs it is time to do a little research on the companies in your service area.

interior plantscapeA good place to start would be an internet search engine like Google.  Enter the type of services you’re looking for.  Any reputable commercial interior plant company should have a professionally designed website and a link that shows up on the first page of your search.  The website should be user friendly and easy to navigate from one type of search to another. There should be an easy link or clear information on how to contact the company.  Another source for finding a reputable plant service is through a referral of an associate that uses a plant service.  Make sure you ask what kind of services the referral uses from their plant company to see if they are the type of service you are looking for.  Then check out their website to confirm their credibility and professionalism.  It is important to choose an organization that has their primary focus on interior landscaping.  Companies that are offering too many different types of services or their interior services are secondary to other parts of the business are spread too thin to focus on your interior service needs.  Whatever the source you use to begin your search, always check the company’s standing with the Better Business Bureau.  If there are any complaints that have do not have a clear response and resolution to the complaint, is a huge red flag to stay away from that company.

Event Rental

The next step is the phone interview.  I would suggest that you select 5 companies from your list of referrals or internet searches.  Be prepared with a clear list of questions to verify their professionalism and claims from their website or other marketing materials.  You should be able to reach a live person on your first phone call or a representative should contact you within 24 hours of your call.  If not, that company may not be staffed properly and stretched too thin to offer the type of quality service you will expect.  Once you make contact with a representative, start firing your questions at them.  A qualified representative should have comfortable, clear responses to all of your inquiries.   From your list of 5 contacts I would narrow it down to 3 prospective companies to set up appointments with for a proposal.  As you’re doing your initial phone screen, if you have a good feeling about a company and the reps responses, go ahead and set up a time to meet.  If you’re unsure, or turned off by something they said tell them you are just doing a preliminary phone interviews and you will get back to them if you are interested in setting up a meeting.

Once you have set up appointments with your 3 prospective candidates, it is time to prepare for the meetings. In my next post, I will offer a list of questions to prepare for your meetings so you can begin to qualify the company and representative the will be your service partner for your interior plantscape.