Cultivating plants – and happiness – in the desert

Features - THE TOP 100: No. 69 | Osuna Nursery

Employee satisfaction and offering unique services, like a plant pharmacy, are keys to content customers and success at Osuna Nursery.

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September 19, 2016
Jolene Hansen
Courtesy of Osuna Nursery

Started as an interior plant rental and maintenance business by its late founder, Chang An, Osuna Nursery has grown into a full-service garden center experience with a spot on our Top 100. We spoke with General Manager Jason Seo about what gives Osuna Nursery its special edge.

Q: The business started with interior plants. What are your strongest departments today?

A: Interiorscaping is one of our strong departments. The founder, Mr. An, started with interiorscaping and expanded, but he always emphasized that the interiorscaping department is the backbone of the business. Those accounts help us by providing a consistent, stable income.

Our No. 1 segment depends on the time of year, but it generally is bedding plants. Trees and shrubs are No. 2. We also have a floral department and exterior landscaping, both started because of customer requests, and they have been successful so far.

We also have our plant pharmacy where we diagnosis plant problems. When I started, the pharmacy was one part-time person. I believe this service is extremely important; it is our responsibility. After the customer buys a tree, a lot of things can happen — insects, fungus, poor watering — so I made it a strong department. We have three full-time employees who stay in the pharmacy. Even if someone buys their tree somewhere else, I want them to come here and get the help they need.

Q: What do you see as the key to Osuna’s success?

A: Success is a customer who comes, enjoys their time here and leaves happy with everything they need for success. We are very focused on making our customers happy. That’s something they don’t get at the big-box stores. It sets us apart.

I try to make our employees happy first, because happy employees give their happiness to the customers. We focus on good teamwork and happy employees.

Osuna Nursery’s interiorscaping department is still the backbone of the business, but trees and shrubs is also a strong category.
Courtesy of Osuna Nursery

Q: What have been Osuna’s biggest challenges and how have you met them?

A: I first joined Osuna in 2007 as financial manager, and became general manager in 2012. The seasonal aspect was difficult, and cash flow wasn’t too good because of the housing market, bad economy and weather. I realized that anytime the weather is bad, once it’s better, people come back. When the bad economy improves, people come back.

I saw that the important thing is how we will be ready for when people come back. With these challenges, we focus on being ready for people when they come back.

Jason Seo

Q: What changes stand out as having been crucial to your success?

A: We are located in the middle of a desert, so it’s an unusual circumstance. Here, it’s all green and flowers in the desert. I don’t want customers to come in just to buy. When they don’t have anything to do, I want them to say, “Hey, let’s go check out the greenhouse.” I want people to come in and satisfy their curiosity, get knowledge and enjoy.

Customers come in for many reasons. We are here to make them comfortable, make them happy, find out exactly what they want, and then make them come back as a regular customer. That’s our goal. Our founder, Mr. An, greeted every single customer who came in. Customer service from A to Z — that’s how we’re different from others.

We have made changes for pleasure and entertainment. It might be music or food or lemonade or education seminars. We try to make it fun for the employees and the customers, so it’s a pleasure whether someone is working here or buying here.

Q: Your educational program, Osuna University, features speakers from outside the nursery. How does that complement your goals?

A: Osuna University is a very important program. I want Osuna Nursery to be the hub for people in horticulture, not only customers. So, we open it up to anyone who needs a space — horticultural scholars, community gardeners, groups like the bonsai club or the orchid guild or the [New Mexico State] University. At first, we had only five or six people attending, but it grows every year. Now we have 30 to 40 people coming steady for the education.

Q: What are Osuna’s top priorities for the future?

A: The next three years will focus on developing and expanding our selection of native plants. There are a lot of water problems in this area, and the housing style in New Mexico has changed. People want a smaller yard with fewer flowers and xeriscaping. I want to expand our native plants, so that it is our No. 1 department in three years. That’s my goal.

I love what I’m doing. It’s very important. Selling a tree is not just to make money — we’re saving the Earth.