Mark was not a technician who decided the floral industry would be an easy one to figure out and sell to. Instead he’s someone who spent more than a decade in retail floral - not visiting or selling to florists but actually working in flower shops - and then built a system tailored to that unique industry.
The first two years were spent working with a floral franchisor with more than 100 locations - providing great insight into best practices, what worked and what doesn't.
"That was a crazy introduction to the flower business - helping people open stores and get them through their first holidays! Watching that many different people try and do the same things (take and fill orders, make sales, etc.) really showed me where automation could improve things, and helped devise practices that led to the launch of two family stores."
The next ten years were spent opening and running two retail flower shops with his family - one large (more than one million dollars in annual sales) and one small (less than $200K in annual sales).
"That first-hand experience was invaluable because it let me participate in two completely different kinds of operations every day. At the busy store you had a dedicated manager/expediter, designers, order takers, and more. Each needed a system that kept them focussed on the few tasks that they performed countless times each day, and let them perform those tasks quickly. At the smaller store you had one person doing all those different things, and they needed a system that would make it easy even if they only used certain features once or twice a week. It was a great reminder than every shop is different, and for a system to work for different operations it needs a lot of different configuration options."
Mark was also the first independent (non wire-service) technology vendor to be invited to join the Technology Committee of the Society of American Florists (SAF) and participates in various SAF events. This is part of an ongoing commitment to supporting industry-specific associations. In addition to SAF FloristWare is a member of the Michigan Floral Association (MFA) and American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD). Perhaps most importantly FloristWare is one of the original six vendor members of Florists For Change (FFC).
"The association work takes a lot of time and energy but it’s very rewarding. Too many vendors are only concerned with selling to florists. Vendors have a responsibility to support the industry but almost all of the independent technology providers are only taking. I enjoy working with the dedicated volunteers behind organizations like FFC, SAF, MFA and AIFD. I also learn a lot about how to make FloristWare better for our clients"
As a technology provider Mark has contributed several articles to the "Plugged In" tech column in Floral Management, a monthly magazine published by the Society of American Florists (SAF).
"SAF is an amazing association and in this industry we're all so lucky to have them on our side. Kate Penn does a fantastic job with Floral Management and it is an honor to contribute."
Mark also maintains close relationships with noted industry experts, educators, speakers and trainers - people like Tim Huckabee, Ryan Freeman, Derrick Myers, Rick Rivers and Jon McClory.
"It is a privilege - and an education! - to work with these people. I can’t tell you how many times a quick phone call with one of them led to something that made FloristWare better for our clients."
Retail pricing, and the way it can be used to increase sales and profit is something between a hobby and an obsession for Mark. He writes on the topic for business.com, speaks about it at conventions and conferences and maintains the Beyond Cost Plus website – devoted to helping florists improve profitability through better pricing. Most recently he presented a series of three webinars on pricing in the flower business as part of the SAF Weblast series.
"Pricing is endlessly fascinating and there is so much great research out there, much of which can be applied to the flower business very easily, and with surprising results."
Mark is involved with several non-profit organizations. He is past-president of an organization dedicated to honoring and preserving the early military history of North America. He also sits on the board of an organization that provides assistance to older homeless men, generally veterans. In addition he aids a local reserve unit, using technology to free the soldiers from duties that would otherwise distract them from their training. He is married and has two sons.