Years ago there was a sign on a door at Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters that included the line “The economy stupid”. Later this morphed into “It’s the economy, stupid”. I prefer to say “It’s the stupid economy” Remember how nice it was back when everyone had money, or at least enough credit to buy your products without a second thought? Your biggest problem may have been increasing production to meet demand, not maintaining sales to keep your head above water. Whether you like it or not, we’re living in a new age of consumerism, where people think twice before spending money on flowers. We have to work harder to sell our product, while working just as hard to produce it. We feel we can’t raise prices because then our customers may buy less, or not buy at all. As much as we’d all like to be able to say this was all caused by so and so doing such and such, the cause is secondary to what you can, and must, do to survive. The cause is in the past, and we all know you can’t change the past, but how you react to the past can help dictate your future.
    
There are several things that we as producers and marketers can do to get us through these economic times without too many battle scars. If you’re reading the The Cut Flower Quarterly, you know you have already made one step in the right direction, you’re an ASCFG member. You’re keeping yourself informed about the newest cut flower varieties, production techniques, and marketing strategies that can help your business succeed. You’re able to network with some of the most giving and sharing people you’ll find. You can find answers to your questions by using the Bulletin Board, attending ASCFG meetings and Conferences, or just picking up the phone and calling another member who can help you with something new you want to try.
    
Two other things that can’t be stressed enough in these “hard economic times” are quality and customer service. QUALITY includes everything from selecting the best varieties to grow, growing the crop properly, and then harvesting and conditioning the flowers for optimal vase life. Make sure you always have top quality products and your customers will be repeat customers. CUSTOMER SERVICE is just that, service to your customers. You do that by always having a pleasant attitude and a smile. If you’re having a bad day, let someone else work with the customers. Always try to give the customer more than they expect. Add a couple extra flowers to their bouquet, have some “special” flowers that you save for a regular customer, or follow through when a florist needs something special for a wedding customer. If you have an excess of something that will end up getting trashed later, send it along to a florist (while it’s still fresh) as a sample or just a “thanks” for their continued business. You might give your retail florist customers something for them to take home with them for their own home. Do something, do anything that will keep you and your business in the front of your customer’s minds – ahead of, and in front of your competition.
    
Keep your head up and keep looking forward. Remember, it’s up to you to have a great 2009!