Friends with Benefits by Alison Ellis

Huge Thank-you today to Alison Ellis, owner of Floral Artistry in Vermont, for this article about the importance of building friendships with other floral designers. I truly believe in being friendly with “the competition” and that we all benefit from being friends.

As business owners we hear the word “competition” a lot. You’ve got to beat the competition. Be better than the competition. Outsell the competition. You’re basically taught to hate your competition.

But what if you didn’t think about your colleagues as competitors, but rather you found a way to share common ground professionally and dare I say even become friends. What would that mean to your business?

Allies can be hugely helpful for a small business and as florists I think it’s much wiser for us to band together than isolate ourselves and try to go it alone. Your “competition” may be more different from you than you realize (and if not, you should find a way to differentiate yourself, but that’s another story for another day). You may need 10 white callas on a holiday weekend when your wholesaler is already closed and your “competitor” may have them sitting in their cooler awaiting a buyer. If you don’t know your competition, don’t reach out and touch base, you may both be losing out.

I can tell you from experience that having a friend in the industry can benefit your bottom line. I befriended a floral designer who on paper does exactly what I do…and she’s located only a few miles away. We are the traditional definition of “direct competition”, however, our friendship has done nothing but help BOTH of our businesses.

Example: we each specialize in weddings and one tip from my friend helped increase my bookings instantly! We would both write up proposals and give pricing to couples, but she would give them a timeframe in which they could accept the proposal while mine on the other hand was open ended. This one simple change took me from wondering, waiting, checking in after a few weeks (OR hearing back 2 months later after the holidays settled down!) to most often hearing a “yes!” within only a couple of days.

Did my competitor help me? Yes, indeed she did. Has this negatively impacted her business? I’m sure we would both agree it has not. Have I helped her? Absolutely. Having a friend in the business can be a win-win.

So I ask you to consider what would happen if you got to know your competition?

Maybe you’re the #1 florist in the area and they’re #2…or maybe it’s the other way around…or perhaps you’re always bidding for the same business and that is SO annoying. Maybe you don’t know a thing about each other! What if knowing each other meant that you got referrals and could refer business to them? What if a brief introduction meant that the next time you’re in a pinch you had someone to turn to? And vice-versa.

Alicia and Chuck have created a meaningful online community of (and for) designers here on Flirty Fleurs, but what about outside the virtual world?
Would you approach a “competitor” and ask them to lunch?
Do you have good friends in the industry that have helped you grow your business?
Has another florist saved the day when you were in a pinch?
Tell us about an experience you’ve had with the “competition” in the comments!

purple clematis hot pink peony bouquet

Bouquet designed by Floral Artistry

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Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for writing and sharing this wonderful article!

  2. Great post Alison. We actually have begun building relationships with other florists in our area out of necessity. Others actually came to us first when they were in desperate need for some floral supply. We’re in Westchester County, New York and don’t have access to tons of places to run to for last minute suplies. We’ve since relied on others as well and look forward to building on these relationships.

  3. What an amazing and timely article. Thank you so much for writing this Alison, and Alicia for sharing it. I already feel blessed with my flower friends, but this inspires me even more to reach out locally!!

  4. Necessity can lead to wonderful things, Mimi! So glad you have a community that can recognize the importance of friends in the industry!

  5. Thank you for finally sharing 🙂 _ Have always been a person to be-friend my fellow florist colleagues , which many in the business is frowned upon , since they consider it your competitor . I see it as more a helping hand when needed . We all have a way of designing and we can learn to appreciate each others talent & building friendships at the same time !!

  6. Alison is one of many nice/friendly florists in my area/state. I try to be friendly to all vendors. Knowing your competition has a different meaning for me. I create cakes and desserts, but can relate to all Alison has to say, spending time, lunches and referrals only make us a stronger community. By knowing their strengths and tasting their offerings, I can offer referrals if I am too busy or don’t want to tackle something I know another would create better. This tough year, I received referrals from friends. Thank you!

  7. Thanks for the encouragement!

  8. Such a wonderful post! I have an incredible experience networking with several area floral designers. I have had lunch dates with a few, one really helped me in a pinch when the callas I ordered flopped overnight…helped me source more…another let me borrow a few of her props to pull a last minute wedding order off. Very fortunate and blessed to be part of a close knit community of independant designers in our area!

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