Over a week ago I wrote about why I quit the floral business (here). I am very touched by the response and thought that I would share some of the brilliant mistakes I made along the way and some of the lessons I learned. I am by no means claiming to be a business expert 🙂 I just wanted to share, with a bit more detail, where I struggled and what insight I gained from my blunders.
Last Fall, I received a phone call from a wedding planner who got a call from the groom stating that he was very upset as he had just picked up a huge and very full arrangement of flowers from a local floral shop that was half the price that I was charging for centerpieces for their wedding. He wanted to know why I was charging so much and he wanted a discount – This was two weeks before the wedding. I was flabbergasted. I had met them to help pick out linens, I met with the Bride when she was doubtful about the color of the bridesmaid dresses, I created design boards, I met with them multiple times, created multiple concepts for their reception and Church. Clearly, I was providing so much more than flowers, but I never really defined that design service to the client. There was a disconnect as they were seeing the cost of the centerpiece and saw the value in and only in the centerpiece. Should I have charged a clearer mark-up for the flowers and added design and consultation fees (hourly)? How could I have made my pricing and what I offered more transparent? If I decided to completely overhaul my contract and bid to reflect design service and would I turn off prospective clients and lose the respect of wedding planners? This proved to be my biggest challenge and one that I never quite figured out.
Lessons Learned – Do not undersell yourself (ever) – the value of service.
The last 10 years floral and wedding industries have gone through major changes. The Internet has opened up so much for Brides, they are now more inspired and informed than ever. Wedding blogs are thriving leaving Brides swooning over “real weddings” and “stylized” shoots. The demands and responsibilities of floral designers in the wedding and event industry have increased. We are providing so much more than throwing flowers in random vases from our studio shelves. We spend hours upon hours consulting, meeting with brides, researching, procuring the unique vases, perfect details, votives, candles and accessories that compliment the venue and a particular ‘styled’ look for the bride. We spend even more hours at the floral market obsessing, stressing, and searching for the perfect blooms. We also consult on linens, lighting and draping. We provide a valuable service and we need be compensated fairly for that service. We really have to ask , “how are we going to change our pricing to reflect the changes in the marketplace as well as (additional) services we provide”? What is the value of your services? I know I undersold my value. Never, ever, no matter what, under any circumstances undersell yourself. Be clear and define the design services you are providing and charge appropriately for those services. Sean Low wrote extensively on the subject of design, I recommend the following posts, Fees v. Mark-up, Disconnects and More on Transparency .
Lessons Learned – The value of genuine enthusiasm and a thoughtful website!
I wish could show you my website, but I took it down last Spring. I would love to show that although my website showed lots of pretty flowers and beautiful weddings it showed nothing about me and I was very vague about what I offered. Yes, it was apparent I specialized in wedding flowers, but other than that it fell flat. My dear friend and brilliant floral designer, Holly Chapple, really shows her clients through her website that she is providing much, much more than ‘just’ wedding flowers. Check out her service page here. I adore this image of Holly as it exemplifies that her brand is about trust, pride, joy, and genuine enthusiasm as much as it is about creating beautiful flowers. One can easily tell that Holly puts her heart and soul into her work and that she really cares for her each and every one of her clients. Her clients clearly value her enthusiasm and her thoughtfulness. She puts it all out there, she does not ‘hide’ behind her website or brand (like I did) and it works.
Compare Holly’s website to this company who also offers wedding flowers – Wedding flowers. Which would you choose? Do you think the bride receiving her bouquet will react the same way as she would if she was receiving a bouquet from you (or Holly)? How are you going to show your clients your passion and enthusiasm?
Lessons Learned – Customer Service to a fault.
Last July, my dear husband, while breaking down a wedding found himself chauffeuring. The bride, groom and their entire bridal party to their hotel after a ‘friend’ failed to show up to drive the Cadillac the Mother of the Bride rented specifically to get the “parting” photo ops with lit sparklers. FOB gave my husband a handshake, a cheap cigar and “well, we did throw your wife a bone paying her to do the flowers for the wedding”. I should mention this was a neighbor who also received a generous discount on the flowers. I wish I was kidding and I know this is an extreme case, but it exemplifies how easily I (and even my dear husband) ended up giving way too much in the name of customer service. I should have sent them an invoice for chauffeur services. Regretfully, I kept my mouth shut.
Lessons Learned – Say “NO” more often.
Learn to say “NO” . Say no to clients that are not right for you and your business. It is a slippery slope when you start to cut your prices and add “free” services. Clients and planners will continue to expect and even demand more of you to give them more. Look for the clients (and planners) who value you and who understand and appreciate the service you are providing. Also, learn to stop doing the things that don’t work for you. Danielle La Porte addresses this in her digital workbook The Spark Kit . Danielle recommends creating a ‘stop doing’ list. Make a list of the things you want to stop doing like — stop saying yes to so many photo shoots, stop working with certain wedding planners, stop working at venues that cause me too stress too much, stop doing everything myself, stop saying ‘yes’ to everyone, stop stressing and obsessing so much. Stop doing the things that are making you unhappy. Focus on your dreams and what you want to accomplish.
Lessons Learned – Improving the process
Always seek to improve process. Take a look after each event to what worked, what didn’t work. In retrospect, I realized I was creating successful wedding after successful wedding, but my business was not successful as I never really took the time to analyze each event. Was I happy with the profit earned? Was it really worth it? Keep a notebook and write down your mistakes and accomplishments. Make adjustments to your process, then move forward.
Tomorrow I will write about the importance of taking care of yourself and the importance of making time for you and those you love.