For just over 40 years, Planterra Corp. in West Bloomfield has designed, installed, and maintained plant and flower arrangements, largely inside major office buildings throughout metro Detroit. As the business model evolved, the company’s longtime greenhouse at 14 Mile and Drake began to show its age, and it was replaced with a glass-enclosed conservatory that can also be used for special events.
“We had the opportunity for a do-over,” says Shane Pliska, Planterra’s president. “As we planned to expand our physical footprint, we wanted to accommodate weddings and special events, and that put us in the hospitality business.”
Much like its commercial operation, where plants are maintained and rotated seamlessly, Pliska provides his hospitality clients with a menu of services such as flower arrangements, on-site catering, linen selections, special lighting, a sound system, photographers, and other offerings. “We took the traditional model of event planning and provided a lot of choices, and once the client makes their selections, we take it from there,” Pliska says.
“Now we’re taking it on the road. If you have a wedding or an anniversary, and you’re looking for a turnkey event-planning experience, or just a few services, we’ll take care of everything.”
Pliska says the secret to running the hospitality side of the business is one part discipline and two parts creativity. For example, when wedding clients were looking for a place to host a rehearsal dinner, the company formed a partnership with Prime 29 Steakhouse in West Bloomfield. The arrangement brought in extra revenue at a time when Troy-based Continental Catering and Events, which handles on-site food and beverage services, prepared the conservatroy for the wedding the following day.
Planterra also empowers managers to make approvals on their own. “Have you ever been to a grocery store and they have to do a price check at the counter, and then the manager has to run over and approve the new price? It might be a 25-cent difference (in price). It’s such a waste of time for the customer, who just wants to get on their way,” Pliska says.
To help operate what are now multiple businesses, Pliska took a page from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. After attending its executive training program, Pliska learned to provide managers with more autonomy. He also began hiring people with an entrepreneurial mindset. “Zingerman’s started as a deli and now they have 30 or 40 business lines; they’re amazing,” he says.
Other takeaways: Every Planterra employee has a company iPhone, because so much of what the company offers is visual in nature. With a national roster of clients such as banks, casinos, hotels, and theme parks, it can be daunting to send out a rulebook of dos and don’ts. “We can describe something all day long, but a picture tells a thousand stories,” Pliska says. “And we’re open to new ideas. If someone came to me with a new way to grow mushrooms in a warehouse, I would listen.” db