Friday, October 30, 2009

"Be Inspired, Inspirable and Inspiring"

I recently attended a two day business seminar that had several excellent keynote speakers as well as many break-out workshops ranging from how to get with this thing called "Social Media" to "Collecting your Accounts Receivable". After listening to the kickoff breakfast speaker (John DiJulius) I decided to attend his workshop on "World Class Customer Service". I could not be happier that I made that decision. John knows his stuff and he presents it in an easily understandable way. I am going to list some of the "must do's" that I took away from the workshop and that I want to implement at our company

"Stop Making Excuses": Customers and employees want results that benefit them, not excuses.

"Lose the Losers": Pretty self explanatory but in a nut, you are who you hang with whether at work or play. Make sure you are hanging with people who inspire you and have what you want.

"Lead an Extraordinary Life, so others will as well": The more you improve yourself and your surroundings, the more you raise up those around you.

"Never point"...Always show": When a customer asks you if you have something or where to find it, take them there, don't point!

"Never say NO"...Always say what you can do.

"Never say NO PROBLEM"...Always say "MY PLEASURE or "ABSOLUTELY".

"Never Gossip"

"Never carry on a personal conversation in front of a customer": They really don't want to know nor do they have the time to wait for you to finish the conversation.

ALWAYS "Beat the Greet": Be the first to say hello to everyone.

"Your SMILE is part of your uniform". It is not optional. It is as important as your clothing.

"It is not our fault"...but it is our problem": It may not be your fault at all but if it effects your customer, it is your problem. Maybe you shipped exactly what the customer wanted on time and per their instructions but the delivery company messed up and lost it. Don't tell them that now it is the delivery companies problem...fix it!

I am sure all of you can relate to times when you were treated well like the advice above or perhaps not so well. We are going to work hard to make sure you get "World Class Service" every time you deal with CPF. If you experience anything different than that, I beg you to call me directly at 216-898-3510 x 1125 and tell me. I would not mind hearing the good stuff too!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Signs of Recovery?

September sales are in the book and without allowing myself to get too optimistic, we see some "bottoming out" of sales declines and we achieved sales increases in a few branches. What welcome news! While attending the recent SAF convention I had to opportunity to compare notes with many people from all across the country from all floral industry segments. Many told me that they too were seeing an uptick in business. Granted not a big uptick but an uptick none the less. I am glad we can say we are seeing the same. I hope you are too.

Today I heard on the radio that unemployment is still pushing 10%. Is it wrong to think that also means 90% of people are employed? I am tired of feeling beaten down by the recession and I have gotten to the point where I think it is time to take action in my life and my company. and CPF are going to take a new approach. I think we got away from setting goals and working a strategy to achieve them and we just rode the downturn and excused our year of less than stellar performance because of "the economy". Done with that. Our goal for the last 3 months of 2009 is to return to sales growth. We are again setting goals and working strategies to get there! Yea!

I hope that you too are deciding to take this situation by the horns and change what you are doing if it needs changing. I wish you much luck and good energy for your efforts.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Optimal Delivery Time

We struggle with what is the "best" time for our delivery trucks to depart for their deliveries...Of course part of the decision is based on the length of the route (longer routes must leave earlier) but what do you think? Is it better to get your delivery earlier in the day or is it better to be able to call in to the wholesale house a little later in the morning and still get what you need on the truck that day knowing that the delivery will get to you later than if it left early? Would really love to get some feedback. Thanks!

Friday, September 11, 2009


May we all never forget the tragic events of September 11, 2001. May God bless the United States of America and all those who lost their lives and lost loved ones.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

National Teacher Day

Isn't it time all the great teachers that positively influenced us, our children or some other special person in our life were recognized? I don't know about you but I think that most teachers are under paid and under appreciated. They deserve a "holiday" that celebrates the important job they do. Nothing says "Thank you" or "You Are Special" like flowers. Did you know that a special day is already established for just such a celebration? In the USA it is the Tuesday of the first full week of May. Our industry must find a way to educate the public about this day and to promote flowers as the perfect gift to express their gratitude.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We are getting ready for 2 events that are always a big hit with customers and suppliers. GROWER SHOWS are planned for August 18th in Parma, Ohio and August 19th in Columbus, Ohio. Many of the world's premier flower producers will be displaying new varieties and industry favorites for you to see, touch, smell and ask those questions you have been afraid to ask directly to our growers and sales staff. There will be great show special pricing and show deals available ONLY at the show so don't miss out on a fun and profitable day.We will also offer discounts and deals on floral supplies! for more information contact CPF Parma at 216-898-3500 or CPF Columbus at 614-478-9905.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Hours

As we continue to look for ways to cut expenses while not sacrificing customer service, we have decided to try "Summer Hours" at a few of our locations. We are finding that afternoon's and specifically Tuesday afternoon's are a very quiet time. Our 2ND round of deliveries departs at 11:00 AM, customer calls have been made and with almost no customers or customer calls coming in we need to manage wages. 

Our plan is to close one hour earlier (2:00 PM) everyday except Tuesday when we will close at 12:00 PM. Of course all customers will be informed of this change and we make sure customers have  our mobile phone numbers in case of an emergency or to place a last minute order for the next days early delivery. We plan to do this from June 15 - September 30. Will let you know how it turns out. If you have ideas or comments please share them with me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

This post will be short and sweet. 

Mother's Day is this Sunday and our pre-orders are strong. On top of that, those customers that decided not to pre-book are now hitting us with good size orders. I guess they could not bear the risk of an early commitment this year with the "economic crisis" but we are happy to handle the late comers too.

Our big shots of inventory started arriving over the weekend and the quality looks great! We are looking forward to a terrific holiday and wish you the same. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Credit and Collections

Accounts Receivable: Money which is owed to a company by a customer for products and services provided on credit.

I spend part of most days in the office focusing on our Accounts Receivable. Seems like a larger part lately. I chalk that up to the times. Business is tough out there and just about everyone is feeling the pinch. Still, if I plan to keep my business in business and as far as I know, my family, employees and vendors are counting on that, I have a responsibility to collect what is owed to us. 

Over the years I learned much of what I do in this area from my Dad. He told me many times that there is nothing more important in business than collecting your Accounts Receivable. Makes sense. If you don't you go out of business. I guess the good thing about our Accounts Receivable is that the majority of it is collected within our terms (or very close) through our normal monthly statement process. God bless those customers that handle their debts this way! 

Unfortunately, not all customers fall into this category and that is where the real work begins. Over the years we have developed steps to take at different points in the collection process depending on how the customer is handling paying off the debt. They range from friendly reminders to using a collection agency / attorney. Of course we do everything reasonably possible to avoid that last option but sometimes nothing else works. The most important thing is to treat the customer with respect throughout the process but remain firm regarding the intent and efforts to collect the debt.

Please feel free to share ideas, comments and suggestions.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Great Customer Service

Lately I have become more aware of the customer service I receive when I go shopping, dining out, or when I pay for a service to be performed.  Like most people these days, my families budget is stretched and so when I decide to spend my hard earned cash, getting great customer service means more to me than it used to. Here is an example from yesterday...I needed to get a new passport photo taken to send in with my passport renewal application. Not a big deal and there are lots of places that offer this service. I went to my local Walgreen's because I had been told they do this. It was 8:15 AM when I walked into the store. No one acknowledged me even though there was a person at the checkout near the front door and another stocking shelves in a nearby aisle. I walked around the store for a minute or two looking for a sign or something that would indicate they could do the photo for me. I finally went up and asked an employee who was standing at a sales counter if I could get the photo done. They said that the person who does this in their photo department did not start until 8:00 AM. I told the person that it was 8:15 AM and he said "oh yea. right". He told me he would see if he could find someone to help me. I waited while he walked to the back of the store and disappeared for a few minutes. When he came back, he told me that their photo equipment was not working and also that the photo dept. employee that could help me if the equipment worked would not be in until 10 AM. So I headed down the street to CVS. I was greeted by the first employee that saw me walk in and asked if there was anything they could do to help me. Nice. When I told her what I needed, she said "we can do that, follow me to the photo dept". There she explained to the person working in that area what I needed and that person promptly showed me where to stand, took the picture, asked me if there was anything else I needed and since there was not, had me out of the store in less than 5 minutes with my photos. Long story but here is the time I need anything that I would go to the drugstore for, guess where I am going first? 

How many customers feel this way about your business? Can any of us afford for them not to feel this way about our business?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Easter - Yesterday and Today

I miss the Easter's I remember as a kid. My Mom would buy each of us kids a new outfit to wear to church and we would all wear a flower (carnation corsages for me and my brother and an orchid for my sister and Mom). My Dad was at work at the wholesale house on Easter morning because in those days customers needed last minute flowers to fill all their holiday orders. We were not the only ones who celebrated Easter with a flower and dressed in our "Sunday best". Churches and afterwards restaurants and homes were filled with people just like us and for some reason I remember the weather was always sunny and warm (that part has to be selective memory!) We would go visit and celebrate (including a great Easter dinner) at Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles with other family members. We would make a day of it.

This Easter we will still go to church in the morning but few there will dress much differently than the previous Sunday. I'll be able to count on one hand the people with a flower on their dress or lapel. We will have a "nice dinner" at home and maybe all of my kids (2 are grown up and 3 are still at home) will stop by for part of the day. 

What happened? Why did we let this great tradition slip away? I miss it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buy Flowers at a Local Florist

As I travel around the country and meet with our customers, I am hearing more and more that traditional retail florists are getting the word out to consumers to "buy flowers from a local florist". With Internet searches, it is very easy to find a local florist yourself if you want to send flowers to someone outside of your own local area. The reason to buy flowers from a local florist in the town where you want them delivered, is that you will get the best value this way. You will not be paying all the "middle men" a cut of your purchase price to take the order and send the order (to possibly the same local florist you might have chosen if you looked yourself) who then has to produce and deliver your purchase for considerably less money than you actually spent. Obviously, now knowing this everyone can understand why the delivering florist can not give you as big and full an arrangement as you would expect to get when you paid for the order. As a wholesaler, we support our customers efforts to get the word out. We need our customers to be financially fit and watching many of them try to survive on orders where they are not paid full mark up is a formula for disaster. Tell your friends to BUY FLOWERS FROM A LOCAL FLORIST! They will be glad they did.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on the "In Lieu Of Flowers" issue

This morning I received the SAF E Brief and included in it was this timely article. I have copied the article into my blog:

Three Steps to Nix 'In Lieu of Flowers,' Build Sympathy Business 

Several members have contacted SAF recently, needing advice and materials to eliminate the “in lieu of flowers” phrase from obituaries and increase sympathy sales. We've created three practical, detailed steps to help make sympathy a profitable segment at your shop and remind you how SAF can help you do just that. 

1.    Examine

There’s no better time than now to reassess your sympathy program, spot your strengths and identify areas that could use a bit of professional polish. Click here for SAF’s Sympathy Business Checklist.

2.    Reach Out 

SAF has contacted newspaper editors about the “in lieu of flowers” phrase, and has found that the phrase originates from the funeral directors who write the obituaries, not the newspapers. Newspapers see obituaries as paid advertising that is published verbatim. 
Some funeral directors regard the "in lieu of flowers" phrase as a convenient, polite way to meet requests for memorial contributions. But others use it because they don't want to deal with flowers. They consider handling and transporting flowers an inconvenience, hassle and expense. (See SAF’s Sympathy Business Checklist above).  
It is important for florists to establish and maintain a positive working relationship with local funeral directors. An open dialogue tends to help make funeral directors feel comfortable voicing concerns and working with florists. Click here for SAF’s tips to Establish Relationships with Funeral Directors.

And, be sure to thank funeral directors who are not using the phrase. It will help solidify your relationship. Use SAF materials available to send them:

  • A note using Funeral Director Thank You Cards (Member price: $1 for a pack of six); or
  • A Thank-You Brochure.

Here are two examples of floral industry members reaching out to the funeral industry:

  • Dana Adkinson, owner of Keepsake Floral, Inc., in Orlando, advertised in the March 2009 edition of Funeral Home & Cemetery News, and the trade publication featured an article, “The ‘Keeping’ of Memorial Flowers,” about her business on the same page.

3.   Promote 

Knowing how to express sympathy can be difficult. Remind customers that flowers add warmth to the service and provide the visible emotional support the bereaved need. SAF provides promotional materials that relay this in a tasteful manner:

  • Statement Stuffers: “Nature’s Sympathy Card” sold in packs of 100; SAF member price: $4.95 for the first four packs. “Commonly Asked Questions — Sympathy” sold in packs of 50. SAF member price: $6.95 per pack.
  • Advertise in local newspapers and community and business newsletters with the 13 black-and-white print ads.
  • Advertise on the radio or your on-hold message with four radio commercial scripts.

For more advice and materials, visit

— Jenny Scala

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"In Lieu Of Flowers"

All segments of the flower industry and in many ways the public are negatively effected by this little phrase. In recent years it appears more and more often in obituaries across the country. I contacted Jenny Scala at The Society Of American Florists for some information that we can all use to educate both Funeral Directors and Newspaper Editors about the phrase. She provided me with the following. If we all work together we can reduce or in some cases eliminate its use. Please feel free to copy and use it.

Here is some information that may be helpful.
 When talking with your newspaper about the "in lieu of flowers" phrase, avoid the topic of profits. Focus on the benefits of flowers in the grieving process. Otherwise, it could look like the floral industry is trying to profit from people's grief.
 Talking Points about Sympathy Flowers
    * It is never easy comforting a relative, friend or associate who has lost a loved one.
     * Many people want to express their sympathy and show respect for the deceased in a variety of ways, including charitable contributions, food donations, a helping hand, and cards and flowers sent to the family's home or to the funeral service.
     * Sympathy flowers have been a part of funeral and memorial traditions in nearly every culture throughout history. In ancient cultures, floral and herb essences were used to anoint the bodies of the deceased and aromatic flowers and greens were displayed.
     * Flowers add warmth to the service and provide the visible emotional support the bereaved need during this time.
     * If you've ever been to a funeral that is void of flowers, it is a cold and somber environment. A funeral without flowers is a sad, lonely, cold place.
     * Flowers honor the deceased person's life, express sympathy in a heartfelt way (providing a way to be there even if you physically can't be), and provide a warm, pleasant diversion -- something to talk about during the visitation and the service.
     * Flowers are something that can be there when you can't be, and we all know how they can express our feelings in so many ways.
     * Flowers can be a great source of comfort to those grieving the loss of a loved one, and should be regarded as an important gesture.
     * Recent research indicates that sympathy flowers may not only brighten and warm a funeral or memorial service setting, but also have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of the bereaved.
     * A 2006 behavioral research study conducted at Harvard by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., reveals some of the calming, fortifying feelings flowers create. The study reveals that flowers feed compassion and chase away anxiety and worries. Research participants lived with fresh flowers for just a few days and reported increases in feelings of compassion and kindness for others. Overall, people simply felt less negative after being around flowers.
     * Previous behavioral research by Rutgers University also found that flowers improve our emotional health, according to The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Research participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
     * The bereavement process is a pivotal time when worry, anxiety and many sad emotions are present. With such compelling research that shows how flowers impact emotional well-being, flowers should be regarded as an essential part of the bereavement process.
     * In light of the emotional benefits of flowers, it is hard to imagine a funeral or memorial service without them.
     * For information on the behavioral research and flowers in general, please visit <>  .
     * In most instances, we have found that the "in lieu of flowers" phrase is used as a convenient, polite way to meet requests for memorial contributions and that many people just don't understand how important flowers are too the bereavement process.
     * Eliminating the "in lieu of" phrase when designating a charitable donation in an obituary or death notice leaves the expression of sympathy to the giver, rather than dictating what they should or shouldn't do.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Retail Round Table"

A few months ago our company began to hold "retail round table meetings". We invited our customers to come to our wholesale houses, share a simple meal and sit down in an informal atmosphere and participate in an open discussion to share ideas, success stories and anything that they felt like talking about. We start with a topic (like weddings, holidays, etc...) and just let the ideas and comments flow. So far everyone seems to enjoy and benefit from the meetings. We get many positive comments and many of our customers ask when the next meeting will be. 

What I really like about our customers is that they are not afraid to share good ideas or tips that make them successful. It is tough out there and they may be sitting with competitors but still they are open and willing to help each other. They also help us with ideas that we can do to be a better supplier and partner to their businesses. 

The flower business is special. We deal in emotions... happiness, celebration, memories and even grief. The people in it are special too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Groundswell

I have been listening to an audio book "The Groundswell" about social media networks (face book, my space, blogs, etc...) and how to understand and harness their power. I am intrigued by the potential to improve and grow customer relationships. I see a huge opourtunity to share ideas, success stories, and the like. I hope this blog becomes a place to exchange ideas and share our collective experiance. Stay tuned.