Key to Success: Sharpening Your Interiorscape Company’s Focus

What is your company’s focus?

As entrepreneurs, we tend to mostly be optimists. Right? We have BIG dreams and aspirations, and we know that we can do it better than the next guy or gal. We set out to do just that, but sometimes we get sidetracked and try to be everything to everyone.

Well, let’s set that straight right now. You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s not possible, so decide what type of company you want to be early on and go for it. Most of us in this industry started out as one or two person operations and grew to wherever we are now over the course of several or many years.

Here are some things to think about – and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the business for two years or fifteen. You can change. Sometimes downsizing is a good thing.

  • Do you want to be a great little 2 to 5 person company?
  • Do you want to be a 6 to 10 person company?
  • Do you want to be a greater than 10 person company?
  • Do you want to sell tons and tons of staple plants — like Aglaonemas and Massangeana canes in cheap plastic cylinders or do want to be more of a Kentia and Rhapis palm in high-end fiberglass, resin and ceramic planters kind of company?

Whatever your vision, the bottom line is that in order for your company to survive and thrive, it must be profitable. It must also provide value and solve problems for your clients, deliver a great work environment and career path to your employees, who of course should be well paid.

Here’s our story. Way back in the mid-1980’s we began with me, a couple of green watering cans, a yellow Pinto station wagon and a handful of residential clients. I was in my mid-twenties and had BIG dreams, planning to be a decent sized company with tons of clients and employees – but always with the goal of building a brand and standing out from the crowd by providing creative designs and excellent customer service. The business grew with the help of my life-partner who had a flexible work schedule and helped out a lot. In a couple years, we hired our first employee and then our second, both of them my nieces. Growth was steady and controlled, and we were a true “family business” – until we needed our third employee. We hired for personality, not experience, which is still our mantra to this day, and we continued to grow steadily.

At about the time that we added our fifth employee, I began to feel like we needed to slow down a bit. We were growing out of control. Taking on too many new clients whom we couldn’t adequately care for to our high standards. About 30% of our business is still ultra-high-end residential, and it’s a very demanding market niche but also very profitable if you’re in a market that’s conducive to it. The affluent have high expectations and expect us to meet them. This was a tipping point for us and we made the conscious decision to review all our accounts for profitability and increase prices to levels that were appropriate for our level of service. This meant that we had to let some clients go if they did not value us as much as they should. Most stayed, some left and we resigned some.

We became a “Boutique” Interior Plantscape company and that’s what we are today. We don’t often get into bidding situations, we don’t do holiday decorating, we don’t do short-term rentals for events and we don’t do florals. However, we do offer all of these services through highly qualified companies that we have partnered with.

These partnerships have enabled us to provide a complete menu of services to our clients without incurring the overhead or specialty and seasonal hiring that may come with each service niche offered. No big warehouse full of Christmas trees and decorations, no cooler filled with fresh flowers and greens and no storage of Boston ferns, Areca palms and Ficus trees strung with twinkly lights.

Yes, we’ve made some mistakes along the way. Some small and some big, just like you have. But just like you have, we’ve learned, or are learning from them, and are very happy with our place in the industry.

So let’s circle back to the original question. What kind of company do you want your company to be? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about what works for you!

Let’s continue this conversation online on the Interiorscape.com Facebook Group.

Steve is the Founder and "Chief Leaf" of FosterPlants, Inc., an award-winning boutique Interiorscape firm located in Miami, FL. The company has been in business under his leadership for over 30 years and specializes in Ultra high-end residential and select commercial & hospitality accounts.

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