A Loaded Question


Recently a florist friend wrote an article for Floral Management magazine that spoke to feelings we’ve always had about how our industry is unlike almost any other.  While this was published in a florist trade magazine and targeted at retail florists, I thought you might find it interesting ~

 Viewpoint by Kevin Vinicombe - A Loaded Question

“What do you do for a living?” I hear this question at meetings, networking  events and parties. Being a proud entrepreneur, I raise my head high and say, “I’m a florist! My wife and I own Monday Morning Flower and Balloon Company in Princeton, N.J.”. If I’m feeling poetic, maybe I’ll add that I help people express their deepest feelings, or provide top-notch customer service, sometimes during life’s most emotionally charged moments, or that I help bring beauty into the everyday world. People are generally curious when I tell them about my work. Nevertheless, I wonder: Am I under-selling myself when I only say, “I’m a florist”?

 More than a decade ago, I joined my wife, Georgianne, at our flower shop. At that point, I’d been playing the role of part-time support for 14 years, while working in senior management positions in outside industries, including oil and petroleum, executive recruiting and sales. Those other industries are comparatively simple. By my count, full service, independent retail florists have to operate exceptionally well six industries, every day:

 1. Manufacturing. We take a raw material and convert it to a customized, hand-crafted product. In doing so, we put ourselves in direct competition with larger companies with deeper pockets, and so we have to be experts in costs, waste, labor, fashion and color trends, procurement and inventory management.

 2. Retailing. Our industry is based on world-class service — the kind a customer might expect at Nordstrom, even if we have a staff of two. We have to effectively and imaginatively handle visual merchandising, seasonal purchasing, product rotation, customer relations, inventory and sales team training.

 3. Consulting. When businesses need help, they turn to consultants for third-party advice. When a bride comes to us for help transforming her dream wedding into a reality, or a grieving family hires us to honor a loved one, we’re also acting as consultants, called upon for our expertise. Most of us consult multiple people every day, shifting gears smoothly between joyful moments (“Super Sixteen” birthdays) and hard ones (sympathy arrangements).

 4. Ecommerce/Online Shopping.  To stay in the game, we know that we must have a functional, consumer-friendly, content rich, ecommerce-ready website. That means we have to understand the strategy and backend of online marketing and transactions — and how to fix things quickly when problems arise.

 5. Hospitality. We live for the moment when the wedding reception doors open and guests have that “jaw dropping, magical” moment, but we also know the secret of great events: make them look effortless. For events, we join the ranks of seasoned caterers, hotel managers and event planners to create moments that are unforgettable and unique, but also in line with budgets and building codes.

 6. Delivery/Transportation. When you consider the supply chain of cut flowers and plants, you begin to see all of the potential for mistakes. Getting the best product in house requires technical savvy, ongoing employee education and first-rate communication skills with growers, suppliers, wholesalers, transportation companies, and delivery drivers. Independent, full-service retailers are never operating in just one area —we’re always straddling at least one line.

 The next time someone asks about your job, think about your answer. Be creative and honest. You’re a florist, yes. But does the person really understand all that your job entails? Or do they have a romantic notion of the shop around the corner? Give a full answer, one that captures your expertise. With any luck, your answer will surprise them — and bring in them into your store to find out more.

Kevin Vinicombe is co-owner of Monday Morning Flowers and Balloon Company in Yardley, PA, and Princeton, NJ