Smart Firms Go Digital
Business owners who insist on sticking to the old traditional way of selling are finding it harder and harder to compete in today’s fast paced environment. We meet folks like this everyday. They are honest, hard working people. They have each built successful businesses by the sweat of their brow. Almost all of them feel they understand their business better than anyone else, yet they find themselves wondering why their revenue growth has seemingly stagnated. Most are afraid of change and thus stuck in proverbial quicksand. They know change is needed, but, don’t have any real idea of what that change should be.
Please don’t mistake what I am saying. These are some of the brightest folks you will ever meet. Most are college grads, all have built successful businesses and lead happy, productive lives. Yet they all seem to find themselves at that same intersection in the road. For years their businesses have grown and flourished. The need to change approach has arrived though and they are simply not sure which fork in the road is the right one to go down. Change seems to be one of the hardest things for the human mind to wrap itself around. Many find it so much easier to just ignore the need for change because they are comfortable with how they have done things over the years. They know that change sometimes brings pain. Change means reinvestment in the business. Change means they are probably going to have to work more hours, like they did when they were first getting started with their businesses.
One of the smartest folks I am blessed to work with is a man named Charles Carithers. He is the owner of Carithers Flowers. Charles has built one of the most successful flower shops in the southeastern United States. We have been right there by his side, helping him to accomplish that impressive feat. Charles often says, there are two key things that he focuses on. The first is reinvention and the second is marketing. He is convinced that maintaining a keen focus on these two things has helped him to grow Carithers Flowers into the successful flower shop that it has become.
Lets talk for a minute about the reinvention piece of the equation for a minute. If you are the owner of a flower shop, or any other business, you probably have certain practices and procedures that you have historically followed in running your company. Many of you have spent years of your lives, honing these practices and operational procedures into a fine edge. You are proud of that accomplishment and have made money sticking to what has worked to keep your business growing all these years. Now, all of the sudden, things have started to change. You are seeing less walk-in traffic in your stores. Competitors are popping up in your industry and they seem to be very tech savvy. These firms have deployed websites. Armed with a website and a high tech work team, these new kids on the block are fast gaining ground on your business and that concerns you. The truth is, they will catch up to you, and pass you, if you don’t embrace change!
Reinvention can mean a lot of things to different people. For the sake of this discussion, I choose to think of it as a means of challenging yourself, and your employees, to find ways to drop the traditional methodology in favor of a different way of doing things. Here is one example of how Charles Carithers approaches reinvention. For years, he built his business around the traditional brick and mortar approach to growing a flower shop. As his business grew, he opened store after store, all over the Atlanta area. To provide flower orders for each new store, he traditionally counted on walk-in traffic and wire in flower orders from BloomNet and other sources. This approach worked for years and Carithers grew into a huge flower business. Then one day, Charles realized that growth had stagnated. Instead of living off his past success, he smartly realized that change was needed. He quickly began to dismantle the traditional business he and his family had worked so hard to create. Charles hired our firm to help him compete and evolve his firm, using growth opportunities offered via the new digital advertising space.
What I am telling you is this. Charles literally scraped the traditional business approach and started all over again. Most would never have had the courage, nor the conviction to do such a thing. It’s not unusual to see business owners unload and sell off their businesses at that point. Most would never have the energy to go through the pain of the reinvention. That is what I love about Charles Carithers. He isn’t afraid of any challenge! Instead, he embraces change and makes it a part of his operational strategy. The employees who work for him have come to realize that change is a good thing. He challenges them all to find ways to be better at what they do. His management style and approach is designed to encourage employees to evolve and to compete and I am telling you, it is working!
Now lets talk about the marketing piece of the equation for a minute. I am going to use flower shops as an example for the sake of this part of the discussion. Many of the flower shop owners I meet tell me that they are willing to dedicate 5% of sales, back to a marketing program. I ask them where they came up with 5% of sales as the magic number. They give me all kinds of reasons for it, but, at the end of the day they are just trying to do what others in their industry are telling them they do. Most flower shop owners belong to various floral groups. These floral user groups share information about tactics and strategies and things like marketing budgets. Oh I don’t blame flower shop owners for going to these group meetings. They do learn lots of things that are helpful.
If it were me, I would watch what innovators like Charles Carithers are doing. If I owned a flower shop, I would also study what the largest florists in the industry are doing. That would require spending time and energy analyzing companies like 1-800 Flowers, FTD, Teleflora and ProFlowers. These firms are all enjoying huge success in the flower business. Yes I agree. Studying these firms isn’t rocket science, it’s just common sense. A number of these large florists are public companies. That means they are required to publish an annual report. These annual reports include information about those firms strategies. They also contain statements about anticipated benefits and future financial projections on revenues, operating expenses, market trends, cash flows and uses of cash. That means you can glean information from their annual reports to help you better understand how much they spend on marketing. Let is suffice to say, they are not reinvesting 5% of their sales back into marketing. In fact, they are spending more like 12% – 15% of sales on marketing.
Let me ask you this question. Does it make more sense to follow the lead of ultra successful florists, or should you stick to the traditional way you have always managed? I guess the answer to that question will lie in whether you are open to change or stuck in quicksand. Business owners with an open mind can evolve and win. If you choose to avoid the fray, you may find yourself owning a company that is becoming increasingly less productive and valuable. My advice, embrace change and evolve. The new digital advertising arena is kind of rocket science stuff, but, it offers change and possibility for growth and success.
If you are ready to take the next step, but, realize you aren’t knowledgeable enough to head in that direction on your own, give us a call. We can help you. Our approach is unique and our track record of success is on record for all to see. When we agree to take on a new client, we don’t just view ourselves as a vendor. Instead, we focus on becoming an extension of the business owner. To that end, we seek to find business owners who are actually looking for a strategic partner, and not just another vendor to do a task. When we find those types of folks, we step right in and take ownership and responsibility in helping them grow their firms. Not to sound redundant, but, our work, effort and performance are second to none! Ask companies like Carithers Flowers, Veldkamp’s Flowers, Flowerama of Columbus and Allen’s Flowers. We have helped these firms to achieve new levels of success. We also help lots of firms in other industries, such as; Gwinnett Medical Center. All will tell you that we have stepped right in and played a major role in helping them to implement growth strategies and achieve their goals. For us, it’s about relationships and driving success for those we serve. We see ourselves as servants and appreciate the chance to be part of the team. Money is a secondary component and not what motivates us. We just love finding family owned businesses who are worth spending our life energy to help. We enjoy helping other families and thrive on bringing these types of businesses back to a vibrant state. It’s friendship, trust and respect we seek, not a paycheck.