Glenn Izard has been running the Nordic Nursery Garden Center in Newbury Park, California for 35 years. In that time, he has ridden the roller coaster of economic ups and downs and emerged with a strong, vibrant business that is a fixture of his local community.
We asked Glenn to share a little about his story and what it takes to run a successful business for such a long time:
ShopKeep: Glenn, can you tell us a little about you and your business?
Glenn Izard (GI): Sure thing. I am the original owner of Nordic Nursery, having opened and run this place since August 1979. We’ve been going for about 35 years now so I hope that means we know what we’re doing!
The business is a complete garden center operating over two acres. I think the thing that has set us apart over the years has been the knowledgeable support we provide our customers. Our prices are right in line with where they need to be, but we like to be thought of as the people you can come to for knowledgeable advice and support in finding the right products.
We have a highly experienced team. My manager has been with me for 33 years, and my assistant manager has been with me for 15 years. In fact, the most recent hire I made was about 8 years ago. We have five employees in total now and they are all people with a detailed understanding of horticulture.
ShopKeep: Wow, that’s really impressive! What would you say is the secret to keeping employees happy for such a long time?
GI: Maybe the most important thing is that the people I’ve chosen to work with love the environment as much as I do. They want to be working outdoors. If they were retired and didn’t need an income they’d probably be spending their time doing something very similar for free.
It’s also really important to treat employees with dignity. You have to get your own hands dirty next to them and they’ll respect that. We talk about personal things and what’s going on in their life, so we’re more like friends. Although, they do know who the boss is. I like to say our business is a democracy and I’m the Dictator.
They also get paid well for this type of business, plus we offer medical insurance, along with vacation and holiday pay, and it’s worth every penny.
ShopKeep: Can you expand on that idea of supporting your employees?
GI: We are fortunate with the good weather in California, but we’re still seasonal… and December is always bad month. I do more business on a single Saturday in April than I do in the whole of December, but it’s important to me to stay open and support my employees. The key thing is that they are also willing to volunteer to take time off when things are slow so it’s give and take.
We also always stay open during adverse conditions because we want regulars and the community to know that we’re always available when they need us.
ShopKeep: How is business going? What are your plans for the future?
GI: We actually got hit hard by the recession starting in fall 2008. In fact, we’re really blessed to still be in business because a lot of small businesses in our area that got hit really hard ended up going under.
Things are starting to turn around for us though, so we may bring extra help on soon. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find really qualified candidates. There isn’t really a college program churning out people with a knowledge of plants (latin names, etc) who are also retail-savvy. The horticultural knowledge has been a challenge to find but we’re able to train people up if they’re willing. I’m always excited about what’s coming round the corner.
ShopKeep: What made you start looking for a point of sale system?
GI: When we first got started, we operated on an electronic cash register with a local server. We could do an X reading during the day from our satellite office, but it couldn’t do much more than that. It was pretty low-tech but the register was a workhorse and the price was right.
Up until last year, we operated from two Sharp Cash Registers that we purchased in 2002. Things were going fine and then all of a sudden, parts just starting breaking on us. We had numerous phone calls and visits from service repair people. The data pad broke, circuit boards and data retrievers weren’t working, and we had a total of $1,500 in repairs in 2013 alone.
Amazingly that wasn’t actually the biggest headache. With registers went down, credit card processing would simply stop working. I would have to take a manual copy of people’s card. I’d end up with hundreds of these triplicate forms of paper to process when things eventually did come back online. It wasn’t sustainable.
ShopKeep: So how did you find ShopKeep POS?
Eventually I got tired of all the problems and decided it was time to upgrade. I asked for a quote for two new registers and two new scanners. They offered me a trial and sent me a CD-ROM to plug into my PC, suggesting I try a touch screen PC. I explained to them that I had switched to a Mac in 2009. They said I’d have to get a PC to operate a Windows POS system and quoted me $10,000 to get started. I said to myself, it’s time to move on.
At about the same time, we had started attending fund raisers to sell our products for charity donations and I found out about PayPal and the triangular swiper you can just plug into your phone. I started using it when the credit card processing went down at the store too. That got me interested in more modern solutions on a permanent basis.
I started looking and I was extremely impressed initially with Square because of the fancy, space-age configuration but I didn’t like that they would force you to use their credit card processing at their rates. And I especially didn’t like the fact that they would hold large amounts of your money for up to a month if a transaction was over $2,000. This made it completely unworkable for me.
I searched online and I came across ShopKeep POS. I did A LOT of research on the available solutions and ShopKeep POS just ticked all the right boxes. If I had to nail down one key thing for me, it would be that I like to be in control and have the flexibility to choose the providers I want. ShopKeep offered me credit card processing at decent rates, but I was also free to choose my own my own credit card processor if I wanted. I went to Wells Fargo, my own bank, and was able to negotiate my own rate, cutting out the middle man. I got a really great rate and the saving over Square’s rates will pay for the ShopKeep system twice over.
ShopKeep: How have you enjoyed actually using the ShopKeep POS system?
There’s no substitute for pushing all the buttons and playing around with the system. The system was very easy to use, but I spent a month getting used to the Back Office and reading all the documentation, testimonials and the help site. I must have read the whole ShopKeep website twice over and 95% of my questions were answered there. And when I couldn’t find the answer on the website, I was able to easily turn to my POS Specialist Clarissa. She spent hours on the phone with my wife and I going over every last detail. I think one conversation was over two hours long! She never once made us feel like any question was too small. She answered all our questions until we were 100% completely satisfied. It really was amazing support.
ShopKeep: What are the biggest benefits you get from ShopKeep POS?
Customers look at us now as if we’re these high-tech guys in work boots which is great and I love how reliable the system is.
The big change has been having so much access to data and real-time support. We’ve never had the in-depth ability to categorize different types of items and track their sales in this consistent way. It’s really exciting to see what’s selling and what’s not. We’re a small store and we’ve been going a long time, so a lot has been done on intuition. It’s exciting to be able to start really seeing the numbers and making decisions based on real-time data.
I also like the sense that the system is just getting better and better. From where ShopKeep POS was a year ago, the system has come on leaps and bounds with all the great updates. It has just been phenomenal.
ShopKeep: Thanks for your kind words and thanks for taking the time to talk with ShopKeep POS.
Glenn: Not a problem!