As the experience of one prominent business demonstrates, thinking like your customers rather than as a business operator can reveal insights into how to improve your offering.
John Sammut, the second-generation CEO of Sydney garden centre chain Flower Power, says his father was able to effectively change the way garden retailing was done simply by viewing the practice from a customer’s point of view, rather than the long-established view of existing players.
Having acquired a nursery at Moorebank in Sydney’s south-west from its retiring owner, his father took a different approach to all of the established players, taking smart yet simple steps to improve the buying experience for his customers. And this approach has kept the business flourishing for close to 50 years.
“The big difference between my dad and anybody else who was running garden centres was that he was a customer and a keen gardener, he wasn't a horticulturalist,” explains John.
“He looked at the place and said ‘Why [are] there muddy paths in the middle? Why [aren't] there proper paths?'.
“[Also,] all the plants in those days were in ... used olive oil tins or prune tins. You’d pick up a plant and cut your finger on the prune tin. He said ‘I couldn't understand why it hadn't evolved as a retail-type business. It was just focusing on being a garden centre and growing plants’.”
As such, John explains that his father put proper paths into the growing yard, built trolleys from old milk crates, and devised plastic punnets to grow seedlings in rather than digging them out of wooden trays and selling them to customers wrapped in newspaper – simple measures that made the buying experience safer and more pleasant.
“He looked at it in a way that other people never looked at it,” John says.
Having found and developed a successful new concept, John’s father was then able to expand his business by replicating the concept at other sites.
“That was a tiny little place and it grew and grew and grew. Then he opened another business at Bass Hill … then it just grew on from there,” he explains.