Making time to think

Key for garden centres is employing a creative process rather than a reactionary process to planning the development of their business


The Christmas / New Year period is often a good time to plan. In the northern hemisphere it’s cold and not many people have gardening on their minds. Upside down in the southern hemisphere, most are kicking back and basking in temperatures that are too warm to garden. It’s a period that offers a garden store owner the opportunity to reflect on the next step in the development of their business

Key is how to start a creative process rather than a reactionary process. To quote Albert Einstein “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. 

All too often we see owners and managers plan by reacting to inefficiencies or inadequacies of the past. Or they tell us their plan is in their head, despite commentary from numerous business advisors that a plan is unlikely to be achieved unless it is written down. 

The difficult part is getting started. There are many business plan templates available on the Web. Some are more suited to the type of plan your bank manager would expect when you are asking for finance. Others are a simple list format but light on detail. Or you may have a very lengthy plan you prepared years ago when you were setting up your business. Most can be adapted to meet the fluidity of individual business needs.

What is most important is:

  • To make time to research, travel, visit, network with like-minded retailers; gather insights and understand the trends that are appearing in retail.
  • To make time to write down the ideas and plans that are in your head.
  • What is written down is shared with business partners and the management team
  • The feasibility of each idea or activity is ‘tested’ and ‘costed’ if necessary. Everyone commits to it and it becomes part of the business plan
  • Effective strategies are developed to implement each idea in the plan that will inspire and provide focus when they are shared with staff.
  • The plan is revisited regularly – certainly on an annual basis; and edited to set and meet new goals and changing visions for how the business should develop.

 A good ‘rule of thumb’ test to decide the best ideas is to say to yourselves: does this activity / service / decision ADD CONVENIENCE, VALUE, or INSPIRATION to enhance the customer’s experience as they interact with our business?

Looking ahead 10 years we need to pay attention to the areas that will make a business thrive:

Build and secure customer relationships. Own you local market by

  • Getting your offer right
  • Communicating with customers in store, online and through newsletters and social media
  • Providing service
  • Building trust
  • Providing information and education
  • Connecting your business with your local community and making a social contribution to your neighbourhood

Inspire through innovation and creativity

  • Foster creative problem solving and allow ideas to flow in your organisation. Innovation doesn’t happen without initiative
  • Provide a gardening experience and surprise with the unexpected by creating simple outdoor room concepts or being bold with colour

Get the best out of technology.

  • Sales information from EPOS
  • Web Sites and online shopping for convenience
  • Email, Facebook and Twitter to directly connect with the various layers of your customer base
  • U-Tube, Blogs and Educational videos to share information

Be environmentally responsible and commit to

  • Using biodegradable packaging and recycling cardboard waste,
  • Promoting to your customer database by email rather than printing glossy leaflets for mail box drops
  • Collecting and re-cycling rainwater
  • Sourcing products locally, especially for cafes
  • Insulating and heating buildings efficiently

These are just a few of many opportunities open to you but they will never be realised if you don't document your plan and develop strategies to make it happen.