Sharon McGukin

Smithers-Oasis North America Design Director Sharon McGukin, AIFD, AAF, PFCI enjoys sharing floral tips and techniques for celebrating life with flowers.

Design: Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI
Photo: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

It’s hard to say which was the most surprising. The way a 2020 pandemic suddenly changed the basics of business. Or, the unexpected lessons we learned from the experience.

Not only has business has gone through a reorganizational period, consumer expectations have changed. Identifying the post-pandemic needs and wants of your customer is now crucial for future company growth. We’re all searching for tips on how to create success in this new space.

Agile businesses work quickly to adapt services to fit their customer’s revised needs. Learning while on-task, what works and what doesn’t.

What are the first steps?

“Decide to be successful and be disciplined about your numbers,” suggests Todd Bussey AIFD.

“When you decide to make a change in your business, be sure that you are really committed. That you are willing to put in the effort required,” says Todd Bussey AIFD - the owner of Bussey’s Florist & Gifts, with two locations in North Georgia.

Despite a substantial pandemic-driven loss of wedding and event work profits, Todd’s main store remained strong with a 30% increase in revenue and his satellite shop expanded from 2000 to 4000 square feet. Todd believes his recovery began by working within the fundamentals of business.

Design: Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI
Photo: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Commit to Change

Most really important changes require more time, effort, and trial-and-error experience than we expect.
• Be tenacious
• Dare to try new things
• Set a recognizable path for your company
• Know your numbers and the direction they will lead you

Nestled in a rural triangle between Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta and Rome, Georgia, Bussey’s Florist, like all of us, experienced much Covid-induced change.

 “At first, we panicked. We decided to temporarily close our satellite location and operate out of our original location. Mid-March we laid off most of our staff keeping myself, my wife, one designer, and a driver,” Todd continues.

Decide to be successful

“During this process, we decided that we were not going to be defeated and that our business was going to come out of this stronger than we went in. We decided to be successful,” Todd says emphatically. “Now, what were we going to do to ensure this happened?”

“During the early weeks of the pandemic, the four of us worked ourselves to death,” continues Todd. This paid off in growing revenue. They were able to call the staff back to work about a month later. Followed by re-opening the two locations for delivery and curbside pickup.

Two major challenges were clear. People were home and bored. Bussey’s needed to stay relevant.

Design: Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI
Photo: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Dare to do things differently

Meeting customer’s changing needs often requires doing things differently. “I am an ‘improver’ by nature. Always looking for a way to improve things,” shares Todd. “My flower business is no different.” He identified three areas that needed improvement.

1. Be more disciplined about marketing
While marketing seems an easy cut during tough financial times, Todd realized that online marketing was more important than ever. “Investing in your online presence is a great way to stand out from the competition and get recognition from the search engines, too.”

• Determine how to make the investment work for you
• Create a plan and stick to it
• Focus on communicating from the website and social media
• Merchandise your website well and promote it
• Post photographs of your shop’s work 

Design: Sharon McGukin AIFD, AAF, PFCI
Photo: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

2. Use the Power of Connection 
How can you help your customers remain calm during crisis? Be visible. Rely on the power of connection. Remain consistent in your relationships. Share your plan for keeping your staff and your clients safe. Create interesting new interactions for customers and the community.

• “What’s new Wednesday?”
To keep their customer base virtually connected with the store Bussey’s launched two initiatives. A new online Facebook Live design series and a DIY hands-on weekly online class hosted on Zoom.

• Developed a flower kit for a DIY online project
• Local customers signed up for a fee
• Free-delivery of the flowers and materials packages to locals

“Delivering our flower kits to locals for free had a big impact, I think,” says Todd. “For the amount of marketing money invested, the return was great.” The classes created buzz in the community - both in person and online. “These events kept our positive momentum going strong.”

• ‘Bouquet of the Month card’
Bussey’s also found a way to become more involved with the community. They developed a ‘Bouquet of the Month’ program. They printed 1,000 cards and partnered with local schools and charities to sell the cards. The organization sold the card for $40. $20 went to the group and $20 to Bussey’s.

• Partnered with civic organizations
• Sold $40 cards for free monthly flowers
• Increased weekly in-store foot traffic

Card holders can visit the store once each month for a free bouquet of flowers. “The cards brought additional foot traffic into our stores each and every week,” explains Todd. The organizations realized a nice profit, too. “This has been a great way to give back to the community - one club raised $4000. We could never match this by simply giving donations away like we did in the past.”

Design: Angelyn Tipton AIFD
Photo: Renato Cruz Sogueco, AAF, PFCI

Develop Incentive pay program for staff

During this time, Todd decided to find a meaningful way to reward designers and sales staff for working hard and keeping the company’s goals top of mind.

 • Determine a baseline where employees are profitable for the business
• Add a small stretch goal to this amount
 • Pay a percentage of anything over this amount as a bonus each pay period

3. Reverse engineer your business
Begin with the end in mind and reverse engineer the process of how to get there.

 • Know your numbers!
• Take profit out first
• Operate on what’s left
• Work to increase your average order
• Make premium products a part of your mix
• Higher price points sell and help raise perceived value of other products

 “Know your numbers, they are your report card and will tell you if you are on the right path or not.” Be disciplined about your numbers. It’s a lot of work, but rewarding.” For example, trying to keep key numbers under percentages such as these:

• Cost of flowers - 30%
• Cost of labor - 25%
• Cost of facility – 10%
• Cost of payroll – 23%

Successful flower businesses continue to meet challenge with change. Demand continues to increase, supply lags behind. This is a good time to train your customers to rely on your expertise. Encourage them to trust your ability to make the best choices for them based on availability.

Network. Join Mastermind groups. Seek out people who can offer advice from their experiences. Todd was inspired to take a hard look at his numbers by the book ‘Profit First’ by Mike Michalowicz.

Todd’s best advice?

“Everyone in the flower business works hard and needs to be rewarded for it. Knowing your numbers and being profitable is the key to making this happen.”