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Planting the seeds of success Featured

7:27am EDT June 30, 2005

More than four decades ago, Carole Horowitz was preparing to get married when her husband-to-be suggested she look forward to the day when their children-to-be were on their own.

"My husband and I have been married 45 years," says Horowitz, owner of Plantscape Inc., which offers interior and exterior landscaping, artificial plants and trees, corporate holiday decorations and more. "When we were engaged, he said, 'You may want to have a business when the children we're going to have are grown. You should be thinking about what you want to do.'

She says that at that time, there weren't many women in business.

"It wasn't a popular thing to do," she says. "I was truly a pioneer, which made it difficult in a lot of ways. I had a lot of battles to fight."

Horowitz, who met her husband, Don, in an art class at Carnegie Mellon, had grown plants in her room in high school and thought a business involving gardening would be fun.

"I wanted it to be a business that I knew a lot about," she says. "Figuring out how it would be a success was something that happened in the world of trial and error. It was a hobby that turned into a huge business."

Today, the company, with 91 full-time employees and 50 seasonal employees, has become a family affair. Carole's husband is the head of marketing, their son, Tom Horowitz, directs sales and service, and their daughter, Cindy Urbach, runs commercial sales. Plantscape's annual revenue is about $5 million, and Horowitz plans to continue her company's growth.

How did you develop and implement your strategic plan for growth?

Your plans have to constantly change. We are a market-driven company, and because of that, we do a much more aggressive job of marketing than any of our competitors. We will try new divisions if a client needs something.

If a division is profitable, we continue it, if not, we don't. The customers had to express a need for something for us to want to develop that division.

How did you manage the fast growth of Plantscape?

By hiring good managers. That's been our development process all along. Education and training are the most important things to help a company grow and stay quality-oriented.

I had advisers that told me if I grew any faster, I would've been in financial trouble. I actually grew at the proper pace that I could keep up with.

How do you communicate with your employees your vision for the company?

No matter what, you communicate in person by having meetings so that you can talk to each other. Also, each paycheck comes with an employee newsletter. Everybody gets to learn about what's going on in the company, including nice personal things like birthdays, graduations and new births.

What do you look for in your employees?

We look for people with personality. People who can smile. People with a sense of humor. Without that, it's going to be tough to do everything else.

You appointed a CEO to run the day-to-day operations of Plantscape so you could focus on the big picture. How does your daily work differ now?

The first time we hired someone it wasn't as successful as it is with the person we have now. We learned some things from that. That person didn't respect our employees enough. The employees felt that person talked down to them.

We knew the next time we looked for someone, we had to be much more aware of these valued employees. We had to spend some time with this person to make sure it was understood where we were coming from and that our goals were similar.

I can now take time away from the company, but that allows me to plot and plan for its future.

I also enjoy teaching and passing along my knowledge. It's a fun, very diverse business. There are no matching days. You have to learn to go with the flow.

What's the next step for Plantscape?

Increasing the profitability of the company and increasing the quality standards of both products and services. And hiring better and better employees, all with smiling faces and good personalities.

How to reach: Plantscape Inc., (412) 281-6352 or www.plantscape.com