Talking Shop: John Kovacs, owner of Cold Springs Greenhouse
April 17, 2014
John Kovacs, owner of Cold Springs Greenhouse, County Road 60, Granby
How long have you been in business? Since 1960 – Farmed on the land for 18 years prior to opening Greenhouse
How did you get started in this business? Agriculture has been in life forever. Farmed bedding plants, Veggies and a lot of tomatoes back in New Jersey with his Brothers. Moved to Grand County in 1956 after vacationing. Bought the Greenhouse property in 1959.
Business mission statement: If you have a goal, then it's almost done.
Success in the mission: Yes – reaching goals daily.
Challenges to the mission: Always learning. Never know it all, always going to find a challenge along the way.
How do you cope with Grand County's seasonal surges? That is a part of the challenge. Our sales season is very short, but productivity is year-round.
What do you think is the biggest business barrier in Grand County? Competition with Big Box Store businesses. They are competing with everyone and putting a lot of small businesses out of business
What do you think is your biggest business barrier on a state and/or national level? Federal regulations – keeping up with the rules, things have changed a lot over the years. Government interference.
What can government here do to help? Let the businesses do their own thing.
How does your business give back to the community? Lots of donations to fundraisers. Started the beautification of Grand County with the flowers we grow. First Greenhouse in Grand County.
Give examples of how you are environmentally responsible. Reusing greenhouse material – pots, flats, etc. Help with erosion control selling seeds, trees and shrubs.
How do you support other local businesses? Buy everything we can locally. Not a lot of Greenhouse goods are sold here, but we use local accountants, banks, construction workers, and dirt trucks.
How do you feel about direct competition? Competition is welcome – Competition keeps you on your toes and makes you want to grow a better product. Always make sure your product is the best it can be. The downside to competition is not being a big box store business and we can't compete with their low prices.
What business products or services do you get outside of Grand County? Plants, seeds, soil, and plant material.
How do you market yourself? Word of mouth
What's the main thing you have you learned in your years in business? Make customers first. Do a good job
Where do you go for help when you need it? Hire people who know what they are doing.
Who is your biggest business influence/mentor? My father – he always said, no matter what you do, make sure you do a good job.
What do you think is the most significant economic driver in Grand County? People like the beautiful scenery and tourism. Very seasonal.
If you could go back in time and start up your business venture all over again, what would you do differently? I would have borrowed money. I never bought anything I couldn't afford, so I didn't go into debt.
What's the best compliment you received from a customer? Many compliments – people thank me all the time for being here and creating beautiful products.
What do you consider to be your biggest mistake in business? No mistakes – Just really hard to be a small business right now. Still have many things I want to accomplish.
What organization(s) is (are) most useful to business owners? National Federation for Independent Business.
How much of a role does technology play in your business? None – we don't have a computer. Everything is written by hand. All sales are printed and calculator is used. We do have a soil machine that fills pots and trays.
What are the technology challenges in your business? Production – Need new machines to keep up with the changing business. More machines would make this business less labor intensive.
What's the general key to making a customer happy? Good product and good service.
Is their any certain trend you've noticed in consumer habits lately? People are going back to wanting to grow food. When I started it was all food, then all flowers, now a lot of flowers plus some food.
What are some tricks such as signs or window displays that you've noticed work in attracting customers to your front door? None. It's off the beaten path. People drive here because they want to. We are their destination.
What are some ways to keep up staff morale? Treat them fairly. Tell them they are doing a good job.
What are some ways you train your staff on an ongoing basis? We learn by doing from experience. I take individuals aside and teach them different things.
If you could give advice to a novice entrepreneur, what would it be? Attack it and go for it. If you know something, put it to use. Use your mind.