This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Jo Hartmann from Tamworth Indoor Plant Hire. This small business provides a quality selection of indoor plants to organisations in Tamworth and surrounds.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Penrith and raised in St Marys till age 11, then moved to the Spring Ridge district and eventually moved to Deepwater in 1978 where I took up the role of Post Office manager. Some years later I left there and worked at Ranger’s Valley Feedlot, got married, had my two children and then had a marriage breakup in 2001. At that time, I moved to Glen Innes and worked at a few different places including Roberts & Morrow Accountants – I’ve worn quite a few different hats over the years! Most of the positions I worked in were finance-based, including accounting and payroll officer. Along with two co-founders we started a serviced office business in Glen Innes where I operated my bookkeeping business as well as teaching at TAFE. I sold the business in Glen and moved to Tamworth, commuting to Inverell for work then finally worked in Tamworth. I purchased Tamworth Indoor Plant Hire in July 2018.
What does Tamworth Indoor Plant Hire do?
We hire – and service – quality indoor plants and pots to offices, businesses and events and functions in the Tamworth area. All plants are serviced regularly and we regularly update or replace the plants when necessary. An important part of the replacement strategy is providing clients with variety over time. So, all the spaces where the plants are located get a different ‘look’ from time to time.
Although I bought the business myself, I set up a partnership with my two sons. So, while I’m the senior partner, it has the flexibility offered by having interested partners and it also gives me the option of retiring and keeping the business in the family.
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
It was a tough time to take over an indoor plant hire business! We lost a few clients due to the drought and to takeovers, and then we’ve had to start building back up after the COVID-19 restrictions.
Initially, there was a challenge in storing the plants and keeping them alive – there’s only so many places you can store indoor plants in your own house! Thankfully, my sons helped out by creating a suitable space for me. Keeping a constant temperature is part of the challenge because while many offices are centrally heated and have a constant temperature day and night, my house doesn’t!
Having been in Glen Innes, I hadn’t had much to do with indoor plants whilst there as it was just too cold. I was very experienced in weeds!
What do you like most about running your own business?
The thing I like most about this business is being with the plants – working with the plants. I love getting my hands dirty re-potting the plants. I also love just sitting in my shed and looking at all the different plants. Even though they’re not perfect plants, it’s just something about being surrounded by plants – by life, in a way. It’s not just about the care of the plants; they have so many benefits. Being surrounded by plants has a calming effect. When I am in the shed with all the plants, I feel grounded.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
You have to do your homework before you start out – both on the business and on its market. It’s important to get a good bookkeeper – one who is going to teach you how to run your business and how to understand your figures – your reports, including your profit and loss.
Then, you need to work out where you want to go with the business. Set yourself goals – even if they’re only weekly or monthly goals. And then revisit your goals regularly. Don’t just set one and say, ‘this is it; I’ve reached that, I don’t need another one’.
Constant learning is also important. Owning and operating any business is a constant learning curve – there’s always something you don’t know. Learn about your market, your clients. Education is key to the success of any business. It is a significant investment in your business.
Also, joining a business networking group like BNI is a positive step. I joined BNI Peel Success last year and that has now become a key part of my marketing strategy.
What inspires you?
Seeing the look on people’s faces when they’re excited about all these beautiful plants coming into their office. Happy clients, happy plants, happy owner!
What is your secret for success?
If you provide a good quality and a good service and your clients are happy, that is the secret to success of any business.
Also, never be afraid to accept feedback. Your business can’t grow without constructive feedback – you might think that some aspect of the business is functioning well, but your clients could be dissatisfied or provide input that will give you the opportunity to improve or diversify.
Really listening to clients is so important. You can’t give a customer what they want unless you listen to them. This is ongoing market research. As with everything in your business, there are things that can be improved.
What’s next for Tamworth Indoor Plant Hire?
My goal for this year is to get 12 new premises into our community of clients – so, one per month. So far, this is on track and I’m confident that this goal will be achieved.
I’m also looking at getting a stabilised nursery setup established. My idea is something that will be temperature controlled and will create more employment in Tamworth.
And, as I’ve already mentioned, I believe in ongoing education, so I would like to get all my staff members into training so that they can continue to broaden their skillsets – in both a horticultural sense and a personal development sense.