Four Questions with Matt Stuppy

How Stuppy is Meeting Greenhouse Business Challenges Today and in the Future

Matt Stuppy, President, Stuppy Greenhouse, Inc.

Stuppy Greenhouse shares many of the same challenges faced by growers — labor shortages, increased cost of inputs, high energy prices, changing business practices and inflation. Matt Stuppy’s predecessors faced the Spanish flu pandemic (one Stuppy owner died from it), two world wars, the Great Depression and more. We asked Matt how he manages today’s challenges.

Q. Finding and keeping labor is a challenging problem for growers. How do you manage this at Stuppy?

MS: We work really hard at being competitive with compensation, benefits, time off and those types of things. But prospective and current employees could find those anywhere. They stay for the culture and environment. Our employees — whether in purchasing, accounting or customer service — get to see the business from the beginning to the end. Our manufacturing site is at our headquarters, so we interact with all the employees. Our engineers are included in the initial quote and proposal, work on the design, visit the site and see the plants growing in the greenhouse. We have a casual vibe, and we have many employees who have been here for several decades.  They wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t love it, and we wouldn’t keep having them come back if we didn’t love them. I think prospective employees can feel that when they come in for an interview. More recently, we are making a concerted effort to invest more in employee growth and development, whether that is through conferences or in-house training

Q. The greenhouse industry has been consolidating, and many family-owned companies are being purchased by investment companies or larger competitors. How is this impacting your business?

MS: It isn’t changing how we run our business. We are continuing to keep a great culture at Stuppy and live up to our core values:

  • We make plants happy
  • Our word is our word
  • We get it right
  • We love what we do
  • We grow

I want to be the best owner I can be. We have received some feedback that we are a bit easier to work with because we are able to adapt and adjust a little quicker. And, because we manufacture in the U.S. and source our materials as much as possible from the U.S., we can deliver the type of customization our customers want.

Q. How have you adapted to changing markets and technology and be able to help your customers do the same?

MS: One hundred and fifty years ago, greenhouses were made from cedar wood and glass and now we are using steel, aluminum, polycarbonate and acrylic, so we’ve seen many changes through the years. More recently, we have focused on optimization, such as reducing the number of glazing bars, having fewer parts, better quality and integrating more automated systems. We have also identified some areas where we can develop heating systems for greenhouses and growing systems for hydroponics, so we can provide excellent services in those areas as well. All of these contribute to energy efficiency, better plant quality and lower maintenance costs.

Q. You’re a five-generation family-owned business. Do you have a succession plan in place for when you eventually retire?

MS: I’m fairly young, and the next generation of Stuppys are still young, so not yet. Some of the older ones are graduating from college, so they are still figuring out what they want to do, where they want to do it, and who they want to do it with. There will be opportunities for them, for sure, but it has to be their choice. My wife, Kristen, and I are not pushing our children, nieces or nephews to come into the business. They know about it and have been around it; it’s just about having discussions with your family and being open and honest about expectations. It’s family, but at the end of the day, it’s also a business. There are a number of different rules that are in place so it is fair for everyone. Such as, if you leave the business, at what point is it possible to come back? Do you need to work outside the business first? Do you need a degree?

These rules can help for instance, if a family member decides to leave when they are 30 years old, and they want to come back years later because they see brothers or sisters having success. If they do come back, under what terms? Is it a family business or is it a safety net? There is no right or wrong way to do it; it is just important that everyone agrees on what the rules and expectations are.

I think this is something the Stuppy family has done really well. Even when business times got tough, we were able to stay a close family and not have much drama in the business, and that just comes from open and honest communication.