Optimism reigned during the spring meeting of the Society of American Florists’ volunteer leadership in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.
"We can effect positive change. We can become better. We can survive," said SAF President Rod Saline of Engwall Florist & Greenhouses, Inc., in Duluth, Minn.
"Everybody's tending to the p's and q's, and making changes that are good for their businesses and good for the industry,” said Board Member Jim Rietkerk of Fontana, Calif.–based Kallisto Greenhouses, Inc. Speaking as the chair of the SAF Growers Council, Rietkerk used the move toward sustainability as an example. Going green is the right thing to do, but the recession adds extra incentive, he said. In other words, growers are also going green because it's cost effective.
SAF offers the following suggestions for those ready to start climbing out of this economic rut:
Hone your skills. "When sales are slow, it's a great time to do some sales training," said SAF Board Member and Wholesalers Council Chairman Kevin Priest, AAF, of Cleveland Plant & Flower Company in Parma, Ohio. Take advantage of the downtime to improve internal processes. "Find the people with the best practices in your organization and get them to train others."
Get lean and flexible. Could you get by with more part-timers? Do you need a more versatile staff — more individuals who can do whatever needs to get done whether it's answer the phone, sweep the floor or make a delivery? "Many florists staff for peak times and hold on to workers when it's slow. Now is the time to take a look at things like that," said Priest.
Rethink the status quo. "This is a good time to renegotiate leases" and leverage costs, added Board Member Ken Young of Phoenix Flower Shop in Scottsdale, Ariz. The chair of SAF's Retailers Council said most landlords would rather be reasonable than lose a tenant in times like these. He mentioned one company, that was able to reduce its lease by 50 percent — a good reminder that it never hurts to ask, he said.
Promote yourself. "Keep up your marketing," said Priest, and "add value to every transaction." Put your focus on lead development, prospecting for customers and exploring new areas of business, said Young. Some competitors may not make it through, so "position yourself to be the last one standing."
For more information about SAF, visit www.safnow.org/ .