Take a good look at your (online) self

Departments - Editor’s Note

June 16, 2014

Karen Varga

Recently I was walking down a street with trendy shops and restaurants in my hometown and passed by a small group of people who were trying to decide where to eat. One of them, a guy in his late 20s or early 30s, was standing with his cell phone in hand. “Slow food, bad service, long wait,” he read. Another person in the group sighed in disgust. “Let’s go somewhere else,” was her response.

Wondering what they were reading? My guess is that they were browsing the restaurant’s customer reviews posted on a website like Yelp or Urban Spoon. I’ve also chosen (or avoided) certain restaurants, stores and products based on online reviews.

But I don’t have a page on these sites, you say. Sure about that? Any business can be reviewed negatively or positively online, even without your knowledge or permission. As Leslie Halleck says in this month’s article, “One great review or one bad review can mean the difference between gaining those new customers and losing them before they’ve ever visited you.” Want to find out more about reviews and how to manage your online reputation? Check out her article on page 28 and do yourself a favor — Google your garden center’s name and “online review” and see what comes up.

This month’s cover story spotlights a few of the garden centers who have shown they know how to make it through any situation not only by keeping their doors open for more than 100 years (and earning some pretty great online reviews), but also by being successful enough to make our 2013 Top 50 Independent Garden Center list. I like to call them the Garden Center Centennial Club.

While each small business is unique in its development, many similarities arose as I spoke with owners and managers about the stores’ history, challenges and successes over the last 100+ years — from the importance of understanding and appreciating your customers to the need to adapt with the times to knowing the value of contributing to the community. Turn to page 16 to read 11 of the business lessons that they’ve learned as their businesses have evolved. Bonus: If you download the Garden Center app for iPad or iPhone, you’ll have exclusive access to 6 more business lessons from the Centennial Club.

Here’s hoping your spring gives way to a great summer,