It's the time of year when we're looking at the "education" budget for next year – trying to figure out how many industry events and shows we can support by sponsoring sessions from people like Rick Rivers and Tim Huckabee.
We believe these trainers provide valuable content and improve the shows where they present but, when you look at the costs for a full year, it gets scary. FloristWare is at the point where we're spending a lot of money on these programs and it makes you ask questions.
Working in the flower business we hear a lot of talk from florists about “Shop Local” and “Support Main Street”. These are important ideals and FloristWare supports them.
But it can’t just be about the choices the retail customer makes when they buy flowers. It is also about the choices florists make in their own purchasing, and the choices we make as a vendor.
As a vendor... we take this seriously. We have policies on hiring, purchasing and education that we believe are good for the flower industry as a whole and local flowers shops in general.
All of our employees and contractors are based in North America. It costs us more money but we believe it is the right thing to do.
When it comes to Support this is partly because of service. There are many fine overseas call centers providing excellent support but our clients have consistently told us that they would prefer to deal with North American personnel.
Overseas programming and development is also a very popular in the software industry. It is a great way to save money and the work can be very good but – looking at the big picture – we don’t believe it helps our clients.
We want our employees to also be your customers – shopping local in general and buying local flowers in particular. We want them to be supporting this industry and that wouldn’t happen if we were using inexpensive foreign labor.
Do we employ enough people to really make a significant difference? Of course not, but every little bit helps and if every vendor followed the same practices we’d all be a little better off.
In our purchasing we also try and make responsible choices that support local businesses. Likewise we try to avoid supporing enemies of the industry.
For example one of the most popular providers of cloud services is AWS or Amazon Web Services. They provide excellent tools for companies like us at very reasonable rates. There are good reasons why we should use them.
But we don’t. We don’t because Amazon hurts small local retail in general and now they are selling flowers too. It wouldn’t be right to take money from our florist clients and then give it to Amazon to help them build out their flower operation. The amount (almost insignificant) is not the point – this is about a principle.
Instead we use smaller vendors. It’s more work, and a little bit more expensive, but we believe it is the right thing to do for the flower business.
This industry, and the various non-profit associations that serve it, have always relied on vendors to provide financial support and educational content for shows and events. The bulk of this traditionally came from the large wire services.
Over the past several years there has been an overall scaling back in support from these companies and associations have increasingly turned to smaller vendors to step in and fill the void.
We’re never going to have the education budget of a major wire service. But I’d bet that as a percentage of our sales, the budget we have dwarfs that of any major wire service. It can be tough but it’s something we take very seriously and consider an honor.
Same thing with associations – we provide financial support and other assistance to many of them.
We believe that we’re doing the right things and making the right choices for this industry and our clients. But, this is a business, and we also have to ask:
Does this make sense? Does anybody care that we’re sponsoring these shows and contributing to these associations? Or is it just a huge waste of money?
It depends. There is no doubt that some florists prefer to purchase from major industry vendors that continue to compete with them, or smaller independent vendors that don’t sponsor education or support the events and associations that florists claim to cherish... just like there will always be retail customers that couldn’t care less about supporting Main Street and will happily purchase from www.dropshippingdeceptiveordergatherer.com. It’s unfortunate but it happens.
But, for the most part, there is only upside. Making the right decisions feels good and most florists get it, appreciate it, and support us because of it. They look at the big picture and choose to support companies like FloristWare that support them and their industry. In fact, when we looked at the numbers and talked to shops, we were surprised at just how many florists were committed to making informed purchases from vendors that were giving back. And we can't thank them enough.