Saturday, March 31, 2018

How many customers are enough?

Kevin Cohn

When I started in the greenhouse business and struggled to establish new customers, I was stunned by the sign at Witmer’s Greenhouse -----

            “We are accepting NO new customers”

            It was the boom days in the 70’s and 80’s when plant shops were popping up on every street corner.  Suddenly, houseplants were the ‘In’ thing. Suddenly, everybody was interested in collecting plants.  Suddenly, collectors cared about plant names and what was the newest variety?

            When I questioned the sign, I was told that the owners at Witmer’s decided that it was too important not to take care of their existing customers ---- the ones that bought for years.  They couldn’t jeopardize their loyal customers for the sake of the new upstarts.

            My naïve thinking was just grow more plants and satisfy everyone. But, expansion is not a causal undertaking.  What happens when the upstarts disappear?

            And, of course, they did disappear---- after a number of years.  The flash-in the-pan burned out.

            Houseplants are coming back, there is no question.  I get inquires every week for our ‘Mini’ plants.  I’m happy to open new accounts.
            But, what will be the set of circumstances when we ask:

                        “How many customers are enough?”

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