Owners, Listen Up! These Are Musts

By: Tom Shay

From: IGC Retailer, January/February, 2013

Owners, Listen Up! These Are Musts
Following my first session at last summerís IGC Know2Grow Retail Conference, several people came forward to ask questions about their garden center businesses. One was concerned about finding the right key people to hire to expand the business. Another asked about understanding his financial statements to be sure he could trust his bookkeeper. And the third had been operating a successful garden center, but the profits were sitting in a reserve account instead of producing a better rate of return with additional locations.

The advice given to each was unique. However, an underlying theme with all of them was that none of the issues they faced occurred suddenly - they existed because the owners were busy doing things in their business other than their ownership duties.

Getting with the Program
So what should you be doing as an owner? Letís take a look at five key considerations:

1. In starting your garden center, you decided that with your product, service and business knowledge, you could make more money by your direct actions than by investing in a money market fund. There was likely an initial calculation as to what your return on investment would be. Any exercise deemed necessary at the beginning of a business should be repeated throughout the life of the business.

2. Too many people open a business because they like the product or service being offered. The same goes for the location of the business: itís the community the owner lives in or wants to live in. Instead, look at what products and services and what community presents the best opportunity to produce the highest rate of return on your money.

3. Of course, a small business is going to claim that its competitive advantage is great customer service. In one of my conference sessions, I asked attendees how many feel this statement is true. There was unanimous confirmation. Then, I asked how many had created a formal education program for their staff. With nearly the same unanimous response, the answer was no. So how can it be that you have a customer service advantage that just naturally occurs? One of your responsibilities is to make sure there is a plan for hiring, developing, keeping and educating great employees.

4. No business can exist by selling the same products and services to the same customers for a long time. Simply stated, the business that focuses on what it sells is likely to become extinct. The business that focuses on who the customer is will find the customer is constantly changing, and the business must continually change with them.

5. Thirty years ago, the method of getting messages from a business to the customer was easy compared to today. The message was conveyed by television, radio, newspaper, direct mail and the Yellow Pages. But what we had then continues to fade, and what we have now will change. There will be new ways of marketing, yet unknown, in the years to come.

Hereís your homework: Make a list of what youíre doing, and add what needs to be done. On that list, note which items require your input or full participation. Consider which items you could provide direction for, and then delegate a manager. Doing so will provide opportunities for business growth - because only an owner can do an ownerís duties.

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