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Two green thumbs: Little Rock couple prefers moderate growth for plant business.

Two Green Thumbs

Randy Cooper and Tina Shelby welcome slow, steady growth.

The husband-and-wife team's Little Rock business, PLANTation Services, has grown at a comfortable rate of 15 percent in each of the past several years.

While that's not flashy, it's enough to keep the owners busy.

"We found a comfortable growth rate," Cooper says. "There are no real problems at this level.

"We don't have to run out and change the phone system. We don't have to buy more vehicles or hire more people."

Shelby, a horticulturist, began the interior plant care firm in 1980 as a sole proprietor. She now has seven employees and 225 accounts.

Clients include the west Little Rock shopping center Pavilion In The Park, Twin City Bank of North Little Rock and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas.

Cooper, who joined the company in 1989 after marrying Shelby the previous year, says growth comes in stages.

For example, Shelby worked for more than three years before hiring another person to help care for plants.

At another stage in the company's development, the couple decided it was time to purchase a facsimile machine, accounting software and other equipment that ultimately would pay for itself.

The firm leases 3,600 SF. Cooper and Shelby hope eventually to own a building.

In a familiar scenario, Shelby was stretched thin as the business grew. Cooper has worked to improve the bottom line.

He says, "At one point, we sat down and said, |What does this number need to be?'"

A graph of PLANTation's growth shows an obvious slow period.

"Our dating stage," Cooper explains.

Often the personal lives of a small business' owners are reflected in the numbers.

Cooper and Shelby have a graph done with a pen on a yellow legal pad. It shows that small businesses don't have to depend on polished accounting reports to track their progress.

Growing Profits

PLANTation's focus is on increasing revenues and controlling costs.

"We are constantly evaluating accounts to make sure each is profitable," Cooper says.

Fees vary depending on the number of plants to be serviced and whether the plants and containers are purchased or leased.

"There are some (accounts) you're better off without," Cooper says, a point some small business owners don't understand.

While Cooper now does the monthly accounting, PLANTation still uses an accountant for tax purposes.

The couple also employs a financial adviser and an attorney when necessary. The professionals are regarded as an integral part of the management team.

PLANTation recently expanded into the Hot Springs and Pine Bluff markets. The company also is considering doing exterior decorative planter work.

"We're the first to admit we're conservative, but we don't want to grow by debt," Cooper says. "It's what works for us."

PHOTO : A GROWING BUSINESS: Randy Cooper and Tina Shelby, a husband-and-wife team, own PLANTation Services of Little Rock, an interior plant service. If the plants grow, so does the business.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Entrepreneur; Randy Cooper and Tina Shelby's interior plant service, PLANTation Services
Author:Ford, Kelly
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Aug 26, 1991
Words:487
Previous Article:The creative shop.
Next Article:Business in mothballs: $3 million Hot Springs company grapples with growth.
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