Who are you, and what do you do?
I am a capitalist at heart who loves business and all that’s involved in making them run successfully. I am hard worker who doesn’t take “ it can’t be done” for an answer and loves to refine operations. I love working with team players who strive to better themselves and others around them. I am passionate and intense but never hold a grudge. I’ve owned a flower business with my wife for the past 30+ years- ranked in the top 100 nationally- in Indiana where I have been an absentee owner for the past three plus years. I am still involved on an administrative level with financials and big picture planning. I am also a partner with my two sons in an e-commerce manufacturing business that is growing quite rapidly. I also do consulting and venture into real estate investments. I love the outdoors, fly fishing, my doodles, DIY projects but truly live for my family.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
Hard work has been the one controllable I learned early on would be the difference maker for me. Be true to yourself and treat others with respect but work like it could all go away tomorrow. Don’t just work hard when others are around but be mentally tough to always give 100% in every aspect of your life. I don’t mean “hard work“ just in a physical sense, but that extra effort is warranted and deserved in relationships, your mental state, and of course your physical well being. Anything good in life takes effort so why not attack with drive and purpose to get the most out of it.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
Being selfish and arrogant and using hard work as the excuse to step on people to get to where I wanted to go. I alienated many around me by always putting “me” first. I confused being driven with being successful. Success and being lonely is a self pat on the back and is short lived. Not until I learned humility and harness all my passion and energy to motivate, encourage, and teach others did I even come close to realizing my potential. It sure has been a blessed and sweet ride to share it with others and see their lives better because of my understanding of the mistake that selfishness and arrogance could bring.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
Relevance is the word that has bounced around in my brain for years. Owning and running a business that has been attacked by all angles like flowers, has made me question if we’d be relevant tomorrow with our customers and customers of the future. You see, being in a fragmented, niche business like flowers made us the easy target of almost every other commerce channel- mass market, tuck in retail, existing gift providers, drop ship, etc and of course e-commerce. The flower industry will need to be focused on their local brand and invest in both technology and the retail experience. Unique product offerings and great customer service can’t just be tag lines but truly make your customer experience stand out amongst the generic and low cost providers. Successful flower businesses will be vertically integrated with direct floral purchasing, wholesale/greenhouse divisions, and be amazingly efficient with facilities and operations. Retail endpoints may be less but express delivery coverage in their markets will be vital to compete. Opportunities will exist even more for not only prompt, last minute orders but for outstanding, natural, and unique product offerings at a price point for your market and also to make a fair profit. You will need to know your customer like never before and put your brand in front of them in the most cost effective way. Be nimble, be flexible and have the necessary cash and resources to not only survive but take advantage of opportunities that arise.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Expanding your physical retailing presence will bring more customers and/or keep customers because of the proximity to them. Flower shops that have followed that advice are generally not as healthy due to their fixed costs and obligation to their real estate. In the last 5 years, flower shops have seen a decline drastic decline in wire business (orders received from other flower shops, order gatherers, FTD or similar), a decline in walk in business (Covid-19 only intensified that) and probably a decrease in phone orders as well. The shops who had a great web presence have seen that business not only increase but become a significant contributor to their overall sales. At our flower business, zeidlers.com, is now our largest store and counts for 30% of our sales before Covid. I’ve read the pandemic will push e-commerce forward 3-5 years. We are seeing that in the e-commerce manufacturing business we have as well. My advice of any flower shop is to make sure your retail locations are successful on their own and not for the sake of legacy. Many flower shops are legacy businesses and have a hard time separating the past from the right direction for the future.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Adding labor and new gift lines. Before we add any labor, we go through an analysis of our productivity in that area and openly discuss what improvements can be made with efficiency, technology or other to accomplish our goals. Adding new gift lines is very expensive but adding something new can be exciting. We have to constantly weigh the prospect of “new and fresh” with what potential new sales it could bring.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
I am a fiction reader and have never been able to finish many self help books. When I want to clear my mind and immerse in someone’s else’s, I particular like Nelson Demille “Charm School” and any books from CJ Box and the Joe Picket series.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Follow the opportunity that sometimes doesn’t coincide with what’s in your heart. Follow an opportunity that will challenge you and make you think and give you the responsibility and resources to become a great problem solver and communicator. Hone those skills and never stop learning new ones. Be a team player even if the job isn’t your cup of tea and always be the hardest worker and always be prepared.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
This was on a card given to me from a grocery store co-worker when I was 16, “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you”. The other mantra that I’ve lived by and preached to numerous successful employees over the years…”Control what you can Control”.