Let's talk flower shop operations and profitability!!! It's one of my favourite topics!
Here's the thing. Running a flower business is hard work. And, like every other business on the planet, it's really easy to not make money.
It took me a few years to really settle in and find my grove for all things flower shop operations and now it's one of my most favourite areas of floristry to teach about. It's unsexy AF, but it really does make the difference between riding the struggle bus and setting yourself up to run a thriving business.
There are three big things we did in our flower shop operations that really changed the game for us, and instead of you feeling like you need to create all your own systems + processes from scratch, staring at the blank page and just feeling so overwhelmed by the idea of having to create more processes, I wanted to distil it down into three easy actions and simple ideas to get you real results faster.
In economics, there is a guiding principle that states: 80% of the output is driven by 20% of the actions. This is called Pareto's Principle.
It definitely applies to flower shop operations and it's one of the lessons I come back to time and time again, believing that 80% of your business can be run if you get 20% of your systems sorted.
It's just a matter of making sure you know which systems are more important than others (cause y'all don't have time to do it all, right?).
Very specifically, when it comes to flower shop operations and how to use systems to increase your profitability, here are the three places I'd focus on first:
- Wholesale Orders
- Maximising Product Usage
(If you're struggling with the basics, and want to get your pricing sorted, be sure to check out these two resources (1) Flower Pricing Worksheets and (2) How to Price Flower Bouquets – YouTube Video)
Flower Shop Operations Tip 1: Smart Staffing Solutions
One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) of living in a small town is that you don't have access to the same talent pool as in the big city. In hindsight, I now see this as such an incredible blessing because it forced us to look at our staffing totally differently.
We had to get creative with who we hired and how we staffed our flower business. We didn't have access to dozens of highly trained, experienced florists and that required that we look at our structure differently.
As we were sorting through our staffing challenges, I realised that not all tasks in a flower shop are created equal. For example, writing out card messages, processing new flowers from the market and sweeping the floor don't require special training or qualifications.
Yes, you need to train staff on your expectations and how things need to be done but with the right attitude and hiring for cultural fit, many of our day to day flower shop operation tasks can be passed along to a capable, inexperienced lovely human.
I vividly remember pausing one day, taking a little time to look at what each one of our team members was doing and seeing how disjointed it was. We had our most talented designers doing things that others could do and we had team members who were awesome at customer service stuck behind the workbench all day, not engaging with customers at all.
It all came to a head one Mother's Day (this is like when all the holes are put under the microscope). I remember sitting down and thinking, "I have to plan this differently." So we decided to shift our perspective and divide the tasks into 'front of house' and 'back of house'.
Rather than have a designer handle an order from the phone call, to ingredients selection, design and on to packaging and delivery, we broke the whole process down into smaller steps. This gave us the opportunity to get the best people on the job doing customer service and taking orders and have your best designers, designing. Then, you can set up a system for wrapping, packaging, writing cards and organising deliveries.
It's kinda like in a restaurant. The process of making a meal is broken down into stages and you have a mix of staff members, support resources, and chefs navigating a specific series of steps to make it easy for the whole team to follow. The person who takes the order from the customer isn't the same person who makes the meal and probably not the same person who cleans the kitchen.
In short, we flipped the traditional model to flower shop staffing on its side and came at it from a totally different perspective. This allowed us to hire a range of staff, fill the gaps where they needed to be filled, level up our training processes and maximise our profit.
It meant we were no longer doubling up on expensive staff at all hours of the day and we could hire more junior employees, train them up and deliver a great experience to our customers.
Tip 2: Better Wholesale Ordering Processes
When you run a flower shop it's easy to spend a lot of money on product that just ends up in the bin. It's like a long, roundabout way of taking cash out of the ATM throwing it in the trash.
Yes, we all get sucked in by the new, beautiful flowers showing up at the market each week and get tempted to buy a little bit too much of that or too much of this.
It's like the impact is x100 when you run a flower shop because you're bringing in new flowers every day and/or every other day (or at least once per week). $100 overspending with each wholesale order adds up really quickly when you're buying at this frequency.
When it comes to sorting out better wholesale ordering, I started out by creating a system for tracking product wastage (i.e. a piece of paper where we wrote down what was going in the bin).
At the end of each week, I could tally it up and see just how much wastage we were creative (and how much money was going in the trash). That one exercise compelled me to come up with a better process for ordering flowers.
What I ended up doing was, rather than staring at a blank page and coming up with a brand new wholesale order each week, I looked at what we ordered the previous week, cut down on the order depending on how much wastage we had and plan more strategically.
(I even took it so far as to write out my order and then go back and shave off 20% of the flowers, just to see how little flowers we needed to navigate the week. It's a remarkably eye-opening exercise that has a dramatic impact on your bank account.)
The results were amazing and as I did this, over the course of just a few weeks, I started to see that there really was a 'standard order' I could place with our wholesalers and then add in a few delights here and there.
This one system had a knock-on effect for so many areas of our business because it also made pricing was so much easier (no need to keep supplying new price lists to staff with all the new flowers we were getting in every week) and the designs that were going out of our shop were so much more consistent. It was a total win-win!
Tip 3: Maximising Product Usage
One of the super simple systems we put in place to help increase profitability for our flower shop operations was to create an 'orphan bucket'. As we were unpacking the cool room and cleaning up each night we'd gather the stray stems, the random one snapdragon here, the two last roses here and pull them together into a bucket.
We'd place that bucket on the workbench and whoever was starting orders first would work through that orphan bucket, using up loose stems as they worked through the pile of flower orders.
This one process really helped us maximise product usage but it also turned it into a game for all our designers. Yes, there was something to celebrate when we finished up the orphan bucket but what was even more fun was the challenge of being able to still create something lovely with 1 snapdragon and two miss-matched gerberas.
It pushes your design skills but also helps increase your profitability.
Another Awesome Shortcut: Create Floral Design Formulas
One of the best shortcuts we created in our business was to come up with "a formula" for our floral design.
Yes. You read that right.
I spent so much time spinning my wheels, second-guessing all the things and staring at the blank page (or empty workbench) thinking I had to create brand new designs from scratch every time out. I wasted so much time but it also meant we didn't have a consistent 'look' to our designs.
That experience is double stressful when you have customers standing there waiting for their order, the pressure seems like x100. Time just slows down to a molasses pace and you feel like every pair of eyes is just staring at you, right?
And then even as you're designing, trying to stick to your costings, we're all tempted to over-stuff, add in more ingredients and just keep adding in more stems because we want it to meet our expectations.
The idea of creating a flower formula is one of the easiest ways to cut through the overwhelm and make it easier to a create a consistent look. It's like being able to bridge the gap between your vision + design aesthetic and the final recipe or wholesale order you place.
I go through the process of creating flower formulas on this week's podcast episode, giving you my step by step, a how-to guide for you to take this concept and implement it in your business.
I'd love for you to take this concept, put it to work and make it your own peoples!
What you'll learn from this episode:
✓ What a floral design formula is and the exact process to creating one for your designs
✓ My #1 tip for scaling your design work and making it easier to train new staff
✓ How to stop over-stuffing and set up a system to make it easier to manage profitability (with every order!)
✓ Real-world floral design formulas and frameworks you can use in your business