All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change.
Laura Beth and I have been working together for 10 years now. Over the past decade our businesses have each taken turns that impact the other person’s business. As Laura Beth gets ready to move her farm, we met to discuss the changes that are coming and how these changes will impact our working relationship. This type of proactive communication is one of the big reasons our relationship has been so successful over the years. We both understand that we have a mutually beneficial relationship and we depend on each other. The fewer surprises we have about the direction of the other’s business, the better the chance for future success for both of us.
LB is the most prepared meeting partner I’ve ever worked with in the flower world. She takes her meetings seriously and I appreciate it. It demonstrates how important our relationship is to her. First we talked about what LB called “fun statistics for Ellen”. This was a great way to start the meeting because the stats were interesting and fun—it was almost like an icebreaker. For example, “We have taught 50+workshops together for a minimum of 3000 people.”
Next we got into the nitty-gritty about what changes were going to be implemented as a result of the farm moving. While there were a dozen or so changes, the ones that impacted me the most were:
1. An eight-week break from selling to us (and all their other clients) from mid June to mid August. I get it. The summer here sucks. It’s so hot. Sales are low. Everyone feels like they need a break. We didn’t take any weddings this summer for that exact same reason. So honestly, no big deal. We have other people we can buy from during the summer.
2. Double heated greenhouse space with new focus on Thanksgiving and early December. I would gladly trade summer flowers for flowers through early December. Mid November through mid December are really difficult for sourcing locally. We have a few growers who have stuff during these weeks, but it’s scarce. Any increase in supply during this time will be appreciated.
3. Change in delivery schedule. Our delivery schedule with Laura Beth has changed every year or two so I wasn’t surprised by this. The farm is about 30 miles further away from us and delivering will be more of a chore, so it will be easier to combine our deliveries with others to make it more efficient. We’ll adjust to the new schedule by likely moving our schedules around with other growers so we make sure we have flowers on the days we need them.
Finally, we reviewed some standard procedures like the best way to order, and the best way to pay.
Of course, in addition to our work agenda, we chit chatted over fancy coffee about flower gossip, tv, podcasts, and more. These meetings are invaluable. They help our business relationship grow and thrive and keeps the lines of communication open.
Ellen captured our meetings perfectly! We bounce ideas off each other, catch up on flower world events, and of course share important upcoming changes in our businesses. We rarely see each other in person since my team does most of our deliveries. Meeting face to face helps us maintain and grow our relationship. (And by the way, she is also the most prepared!)
I have similar meetings with a handful of our best customers about once a year. One thing I’ve learned is that each florist has a different style, and it’s best for me to be flexible and open to whatever works best for them. I’ve had meetings standing around in a busy hallway, on Zoom, at coffee shops, over happy hour, and even by email if that’s what’s best for the florist.
This year’s meetings were stressful for me because of the biggest change that Ellen mentioned: we’re taking an eight week break from mid June to mid August, starting in 2023. I knew our florists wouldn’t be thrilled to learn we were dropping them in the summer. I was worried about letting them down, or making them feel like I can’t be relied on.
In preparation, I thought about what framing would be best for this news. I could just say it without explanation, or I could talk about how tired I’ve felt since we started growing year round. In the end, I went with a more positive frame: we’re taking this break so that I can get the rest I need, and continue serving our customers for many years into the future.
Sharing big news in person is so important. I want our customers to know how much they matter to me, and taking time out of my day for them does just that. As a result, the vast majority of our customers were happy to hear our big news, and excited to learn that we’re going to extend our season later into the fall.
You might be thinking “Taking each customer to coffee sounds time consuming and EXPENSIVE.” And you’d be right! I had six of these meetings in July and August, and altogether it was about three days’ worth of my time and a few hundred dollars in gas and food, not to mention paying my team to take care of the farm while I’m away. But this investment is worth every cent. The more I give my partners in business, the more I receive—not just in flower orders, but in the connection we share as flower friends. Salmon Rushdie said it best: “In the cookie of life, friends are the chocolate chips.”