Keeping it small

061.JPGI wanted to write about why I think small is cool when it comes to business, especially the nursery business. I have friends, a couple who are not in the nursery business but another retail type business. They recently bought out another business so they now have three outlets. When things were good they were great, but now with the softening economy as well as the sub-prime mortgage mess, which hit their business hard, they are having second thoughts. He told me the other day that he admires us and our small operation, and wishes they hadn't expanded so quick.

It started me thinking about how as a small operation we are able to better handle different types of issues that come up for our business. Right now with the softening of the economy and people not able to get money from their homes you can bet that business is holding its breath. Being a small operation if sales don't match up to our wishes we can cut back without doing to much harm. We don't have a lot of employees that will need to be laid off like Aquascapes. Monica and I do most of the work along with my daughter and one helper.

We can also make changes to our operation on a dime, whereas the bigger you become the harder it is to turn the ship in mid-course. My friends now have to decide weather to try and hang in there or close a store and lay off the employees. Just like Greg at Aquascapes said, laying off employees is one of the hardest things you will ever do. I don't know for sure, but I would guess some of Aquascapes problems stem from expanding the business a bit too fast.

I came across this post today over at the gaping void blog It's about a Savile Row tailor and how his business has grown while staying small. It expresses exactly how I feel that a small garden center should proceed. The tailor and we both offer the best quality, have a niche clientel, and are committed to making the customer experience one of a kind. I like this from the post, “We commonly refer to the people who buy our suits as 'customers', though as the relationships deepen with time, that word no longer seems to do the relationship justice. Words like 'allies' or 'partners in crime' seem somehow more appropriate."

There are plenty of examples of large business success. There is nothing wrong with growing and having multiple outlets. Its just not for me. I want to “grow” but not in a physical sense. Our two acres is plenty “large enough”. I was a part owner in a multi-unit operation and can tell you that while its exciting at first the headaches outweighed the benefits.

I want to have a nursery thats not known for its large physical size or the number of outlets but for its incredible “dollars per square foot” figures. The more you sell in a smaller space the higher your dollars made per square foot figure. This would be a sign of using the space to its greatest potential. When it comes to customers its not the volume of customers thats most important but the quality of customer, and the long- lived relationship that we will build with them.

As a small garden center owner I am proud to be small in physical size. I do however want to be HUGE when it comes to name recognition amongst my target audience. That's where the Internet can come in so handy for small business. Using the far reaching potential of this medium a small concern can get its message out, and build its brand into a international one without going back on its values. What an exciting time to be a small business. Small is cool!