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Five minutes with... John Sammut, Flower Power

Flower Power CEO John Sammut

Over two generations, Flower Power has grown to employ 500 people and compete head-on with the likes of Bunnings. It’s come a long way from the days of selling fertiliser in brown paper bags!

Background

  • Business name: Flower Power Garden Centres
  • Industry: Retail/garden centres
  • Number of employees: 500
  • Operating since: 1968
  • Location: Sydney

What was your first paid job?

At approximately age 15, I was a casual service station attendant working after school and on weekends. In those days, we helped customers fill up cars with petrol and check oil etc.

What made you get into your current business?

My father owned and operated the family business, Flower Power Garden Centres. I began helping my father at an early age and discovered I had a love of plants and retail.

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How did you get your very first customer/client?

Being a retail business, I began serving customers at approximately nine years of age. I recall selling customers seedlings by using a trowel to separate six or 12 plants from a wooden tray of seedlings and wrapping them in newspaper. If customers wanted to buy fertiliser, I would measure and weigh a quantity into a brown paper bag and seal it with tape!

What has been your biggest triumph in business?

At approximately 28 years old, after observing and learning what worked for a retail garden centre at Sherringham’s Enfield (which Flower Power had recently purchased), I saw an opportunity to replicate what I’d learnt with a property in Taren Point. It was a disused putt putt golf course.

I took advantage of this by developing the land, designing and constructing the garden centre myself, which subsequently has been our most successful store to date. All building and shop fittings were constructed by our own construction and maintenance team.

Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

In 2006, we decided to expand to Melbourne and take over three K-Mart Garden Centres. Our thought process was that they were reasonable-sized stores, in a bulky goods centre surrounded by large retailers such as Harvey Norman and Officeworks.

The format of the existing K-Mart stores did not allow us to replicate our successful model in Sydney, which ultimately led to the stores closing down approximately three years later.

Drought conditions were a contributing factor. We also didn’t differentiate our offering from our major competitor (i.e. Bunnings), which we successfully do in Sydney with drive-thru landscape, a large range of locally grown plants, homewares, furniture, café etc.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad always told us to treat people as you would want to be treated yourself. This reflects why we have retained many staff members for a long period of time.

If you could change one thing to make life easier as a business owner, what would it be and why?

Reduce the amount of red tape in relation to dealing with councils, government authorities and employment law.

Who do you look up to in business and why?

I look up to large retailers that sell a large variety of products and deal with perishable goods: e.g. Woolworths, Aldi and Bunnings.

What do you do to get away from work?

I spend time with my family and enjoy an occasional game of golf.

What is the best thing you have ever spent money on in your business (and why)?

The investment in buying and owning the majority of our properties that we operate from has enabled us to benefit by the increased value of the property, adding security to our business and, in the long run, it’s cheaper than leasing property — especially large blocks required for garden centres to operate successfully.

Name a little-known fact about yourself.

I’m a Lego fanatic!

What is the funniest experience or encounter you have had in business?

As an impressionable 12-year-old, my dad encouraged me to learn the expert selling skills of a very pomp Englishman employed at our Moorebank nursery.

I followed him to the back of the nursery where he was serving an elderly lady. As the lady bent over to inspect the plant, she passed wind! The lady was extremely embarrassed and asked to be excused.

The Englishman responded with a dry tone: “Don’t worry about that, wait until I tell you the price and you’ll s**t yourself.”

Keen to share your own journey as a business owner? Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Five minutes with... John Sammut, Flower Power
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