Lawrence Hanley became a devoted #plantparent when he was an advertising executive at a large technology company.
It started with a simple desire to have something he could care for after he was transferred from Boston to Austin, leaving his beloved dog behind (don’t worry—his girlfriend adopted it). His new life in Austin wasn’t compatible with pet ownership, so Lawrence turned to plants. A few plants turned into a lot of plants, and a lot of plants turned into... a jungle. “Before I knew it, I had 40 plants in my apartment,” he says.
At home, Lawrence was relishing the joys of plant parenthood, while at work he was observing trends in the industry related to his newfound passion: “I noticed a lot of investments were being made with online plant companies, and I knew there was a major opportunity in that market.”
He also realized online nurseries didn’t focus on hard-to-kill plants—those that can withstand low-light environments and infrequent waterings. And thus, the founding mission for Desk Plants was born: Everyone—from novice plant owner to the most hopeless #plantaddict—should be able to enjoy the benefits of indoor plants. Lawrence launched Desk Plants in late 2018, offering a curated selection of plants that are practically impossible to kill.
His enthusiasm was off the charts, but he quickly became entangled with the challenges of running a small business. In particular, he struggled to keep his team connected with the most current information available about the business, whether they were working in the office, in a greenhouse, or at a farmer’s market. Trello emerged as the solution to this growing problem.
“We chose Trello because it is well-designed—it’s beautifully designed—intuitive, and really hit the nail on the head with what we needed to solve.”
“I’ll be the first to admit this: I was not born with the organization gene,” Lawrence says. “It’s a constant challenge for me. And if it’s a challenge for me, it’s even worse for my team, because they can’t read my mind.”
Lawrence and his team of employees and contractors were managing Desk Plants using paper notebooks and whiteboards. “We were using caveman tools. It was all manually written, and none of it lived in a centralized place,” Lawrence says. “Oftentimes, things got lost or erased.” This inefficient system could bring the business to a standstill; without access to this single source of truth, team members couldn’t make decisions. Finding a digital solution to replace Desk Plants’ primitive notebook system became a major priority.
Lawrence was vaguely familiar with Trello before he launched his business, and came to believe it had the potential to work for his team, so he introduced it to them alongside two other digital tools. They took an afternoon to explore each option and made a decision together. “We chose Trello because it is well-designed—it’s beautifully designed—intuitive, and really hit the nail on the head with what we needed to solve.”
To create a centralized hub, Lawrence had to first extract information from his notebooks and identify which supporting and core business functions needed Trello boards. “I collected five commonly used notebooks I had between my office, my backpack, my car, and my home office,” he explains. “I read all the chicken scratch and organized the different areas of Desk Plants we were regularly solving for.”
Lawrence developed a Trello board to manage each core area:
He also created a General board to keep track of new ideas and projects that didn’t align with the others. This gave everyone the ability to see, in real time, which tasks were in process and which were finished, regardless of where they were working.
For example, Virginia Stroup, Desk Plants’ greenhouse manager, regularly accesses Trello from her phone because she spends most of her day away from her computer. “It’s very important to keep everybody in the same track regardless of where we are,” Lawrence says. “It has cleaned up so much inefficiency, and that has been a big value for the business.”
“We’ve increased our orders per hour by 30% in the last six weeks. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we did this after we streamlined our business with Trello.”
Customers who order a hard-to-kill plant from Desk Plants receive a Plant Care card with their shipment. Desk Plants includes these cards because there’s an overwhelming amount of plant care information online, and customers want straightforward advice about how to care for the plant they’ve chosen to be part of their lives.
Lawrence has straightforward advice for new small business owners, too. “Trello is one of the tools you’re going to want to use from day one to keep organized,” he says. “When you start a business, it’s easy to get buried. Trello helps you keep track of all the things you want to do while getting through all the things you have to do.”
In Desk Plants’ case, this simple strategy has had a real impact. “We’ve increased our orders per hour by 30% in the last six weeks,” Lawrence says. “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we did this after we streamlined our business with Trello.”
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