A full- or part-time job as a sales clerk or in some other capacity at a nursery or garden center is a good way to learn about the responsibilities of operating such a business. Talking with owners of nurseries and garden centers is also helpful, as is reading periodicals that publish articles on self-employment, such as Entrepreneur magazine (https://www.entrepreneur.com).
Most communities have a Chamber of Commerce (https://www.uschamber.com) whose members usually will be glad to share their insights into the career of a retail business owner. The Small Business Administration (https://www.sba.gov), an agency of the U.S. government, is another possible source of information.
Owners and managers are responsible for the operation of nurseries, garden centers, and greenhouses. Many nurseries grow their own stock, but at times owners and managers must order more exotic plants from other vendors. Owners and managers work with a budget that includes the cost of growing seedlings in their greenhouses, as well as purchasing plants from other vendors. They may use past sales records, information on new trends in gardening, and marketing research to determine the types and quantities of plants grown and sold at the store.
In addition, owners and managers oversee the process of preparing plants for sale. They work with horticultural technicians to identify and avoid any potential problems with plants such as pests, disease, and inclement weather, as well as monitor proper watering and fertilizing techniques.
Owners and managers also provide customer service. They answer questions regarding the care of trees, shrubs, or grass; the type of soil and fertilizer to use; and countless other topics. They address customer complaints in a positive manner that will encourage the customer to return to make future purchases.
An important duty of owners and managers is employee relations. They interview, hire, and train new employees to work in various aspects of the business. These include technicians, laborers, and groundskeepers who work directly with the plants, and sales workers and landscape designers who deal directly with customers. Owners and managers create work schedules, assign duties to employees, and monitor work performance.
In both large and small operations, nursery owners and managers must keep up to date on product information (such as new plant hybrids, types of potting soil, or garden tools), as well as on economic and technological conditions that may have an impact on business. This entails reading catalogs about product availability, checking current inventories and prices, and researching and implementing any technological advances that may make the operation more efficient. For example, an owner may decide to purchase an automatic watering system that will reduce the amount of employee hours spent on this time-consuming task.
Owners and managers also have bookkeeping and accounting duties. They must keep records of payroll, taxes, and money spent and received.
If the nursery is part of a chain, the store manager reports to a district or regional manager. In the case of a single unit, or family-run establishment, then the manager reports directly to the owner.