Kristen Brown, Rutland Beard Floral Group, Catonsville, Maryland; Joy Lai, Teleflora, Inc., Los Angeles; Michelle Bolchune, Lion Ribbon Co./Berwick Offray, Berwick, Pennsylvania; and SAF President Shirley Lyons, AAF, PFCI, Dandelions Flowers & Gifts, Eugene, Oregon.
SAF Amelia Island 2015 may have wrapped 10 days ago, but for the nearly 450 floral industry members who attended the event, the convention itself was just the beginning.
This week, the growers, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers who attended SAF’s 131st convention are setting ideas and connections into action.
“We already have started putting things from the convention to use,” said Ed Hampton of Oviedo Florist in Oviedo, Florida. “We reviewed [our notes] on the drive home, made up lists Sunday, presented [ideas] to our staff and started implementing on Monday.”
SAF Amelia Island took place in a paradise-like setting, but for Hampton and others like him, it was far from a vacation. Instead, the precious time away from his business provided Hampton and his team with some actionable — and profitable — insights and ideas.
“We estimate the ideas will easily raise two to three times the cost of the convention in increased revenue,” he said.
Rafael Hoyos, Agroindustria Santa Cecilia, Manizales, Colombia SA; Federico Cock-Correa, Tahami & Cultiflores SA, Rionegro, Colombia SA; Lane DeVries, Sun Valley Group, Arcata, California; and Daniel Velez, Suasuque SA, Bogota, Colombia.
Several hundred miles to the north, first-time attendee Kristen Brown, of Rutland Beard Florist and Wilhide’s Unique Flowers & Gifts, in the Baltimore, Maryland, metro area, embraced a similar strategy. The newly appointed store manager said that she had expected the event’s 80-plus hours of programming to be “a great learning tool,” a prediction that paid off — and then some.
“[After convention], I flew home with a to-do list and many ideas that I plan to put into practice very soon,” she said.
Hampton and Brown aren’t the only industry members still buzzing about the convention. Here’s a rundown of some of the top sessions and memories from the event.
Education Sessions that Deliver Results
One of the highlights of any SAF event is the speaker lineup and this year’s roster of more than 30 experts didn’t disappoint. In fact, Chris Drummond, AAF, of Plaza Flowers in Philadelphia called this year’s programming among the strongest he’s seen in 15 years of convention attendance.
Phil C Meadows, Teleflora Inc., Los Angeles and John Hodapp and Traci Dooley, Hortica Insurance and Employee Benefits, Edwardsville, Illinois.
“Great speakers kept it interesting, and the content was very relevant and helpful to my business,” agreed Brown, who, like Drummond, paid special attention to “Demystifying Google,” featuring Google solutions architect (and Floral Management feature story source) Loren Hudziak, who provided both big picture and nitty gritty tips on how small business owners can put the mega search engine to more effective use.
Second-time attendee Theresa Colucci, AIFD, PFCI, of Meadowscent Florist in New Paltz, New York, said that Hudziak’s presentation, which was followed up by the breakout session “All About AdWords and Analytics” led by Google’s Ben Polk and SAF CIO Renato Sogueco “helped me grasp the sometimes overwhelming task of constant changing technology and how to use it as a tool to help me move forward.”
First-time attendee Nicki Argo of Mary Murray’s Flowers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also liked the focus on tech — calling it a “necessary evil” for any florist who wants to stay ahead of the competition.
Mike Mooney, Dramm & Echter, Inc., Encinitas, California and Dave Gaul, AAF, DWF Wholesale Florist, Denver.
“It was good to learn from other florists that they share the same struggles,” said Argo.
She attended SAF Amelia Island at the urging of her friend Art Conforti, PFCI, who himself participated in a panel discussion, “How I Did It,” in which six different floral industry members shared deeply personal stories about dealing with changes, challenges and tough choices.
From that type of programming, “I learned how to overcome those struggles and learn new things from those who have found success in areas that I feel like I could follow suit,” Argo said.
Colucci appreciated the candid talk that took place during “Funeral Directors Tell All,” which featured insight (and time for questions and discussion) from three funeral directors on why they develop relationships with local florists (or opt not to).
Martha Uribe and Liliana Torres, Invos Flowers, Bogota, Colombia SA and Andrea Gonzalez, Perfection//Plazoleta, Facatativa, Colombia SA.
“[The panel] prompted me to make a long overdue appointment with my local funeral director in hopes to better our relationship,” she said.
First-time attendee Tom Dowd of Water Mill Flowers in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, said sales and customer service consultant and Floral Management contributor Tim Huckabee’s presentations, “Sales Management for Wimps,” and “Test Calls Workshop: Raising the Bar on Floral Shop Sales,” were standout moments in a packed three-day calendar.
“We’ve already have [put ideas into practice],” said Dowd, who attended the convention with his co-owner, Cesar Rivera. “We changed a few things on talking to customers, to listen better to their needs, and we will be ordering fresh and hard goods from a few new vendors.”
Another winner for Dowd was a session led by Skip Paal, AAF, of Rutland Beard Floral Group, “Digging for Income on Incoming Orders.” Paal’s presentation, Dowd said, helped underscore the need to keep cost of goods sold in check — an important and timely reminder that he says can’t be reinforced enough.
Kara Crist, Tagawa Greenhouses, Inc., Brighton, Colorado; Theresa Colucci, AIFD, PFCI, and Alana Colucci, Meadowscent, Gardiner, New York; Sam Bowles, Floral Strategies, Inc., New York City and Tammy Sirois, Wallingford Flower and Gift Shop, Wallingford, Connecticut.
“I am always concerned about profitability,” Dowd said, “We can’t service our customers if we are not staying profitable and growing a successful shop.”
Veteran convention attendee Eddie Kraft of Nanz & Kraft Florists in Louisville, Kentucky, said Kate Delaney of Matlack Florist, outside of Philadelphia, and Charles Ingrum of Dr. Delphinium Design & Events in Dallas, impressed him with their tech-forward session, “There’s an App for That.”
“[They] provided us with great ideas on how apps and fee-based services that can help you to be more efficient on everything from hiring to scheduling weddings and events,” Kraft said.
While his shop’s close proximity to SAF Amelia Island 2015 may have lured in Hampton, of Oviedo Florist in Oviedo, Florida, the education kept him happily on-site. In fact, “Photography and Video Made Simple,” by Leanne Kesler, AIFD, PFCI, and David Kesler, AIFD, PFCI, of the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Oregon, “was worth the price of the conference,” Hampton said.
Augusto Solano, AAF, Asocolflores, Bogota, Colombia, S.A.; Christine Boldt, Association of Floral Importers of Florida, Miami; Juan-Maria Cock-Londono, Liberty Blooms, Miami; Olga Cock-Rada, Uniflor S.A. C. I./Liberty Blooms, Inc., Rio Negro, Colombia, S.A. and Mike Mooney, Dramm & Echter Inc., Encinitas, California.
Meanwhile, advice on how to transform workplace cultures into service-first environments from Alexandra Valentin of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center during the conference’s keynote address was “so right on,” said Bonnie Hawley of Hawley’s Florist in Rutland, Vermont.
“I took notes” the whole time, Hawley said.
Lenzee Bilke of Madeline’s Flowers in Edmond, Oklahoma, also became a fan of Valentin and her service philosophy.
“To be successful you must hire employees that share the same passion as you,” she said. “Alexandra…suggested excellent ways to motivate and inspire your employees to be passionate about your business.” (Bilke attended SAF’s 2014 convention as a first-time attendee and FTD scholarship winner.)
Bilke also pointed to Friday’s Marketing breakfast and the launch of SAF’s Petal it Forward PR campaign. (Read all about that effort here.)
“We loved the campaign and are planning on having our store participate on Oct. 7,” she said.
Kristi Huffman, The John Henry company, Lansing, Michigan; Jeni Fridge, Trent Harshman and Laura Shinall, Syndicate Sales, Inc., Kokomo, Indiana, and Natasha Marback of Multipackaging Solutions.
For attendees such as Kristen Gainan of Gainan’s Flowers & Garden Center in Billings, Montana, trend forecasting sessions — including “2016 Trends Forecasting” with power couple Kristine Kratt, AIFD, PFCI, and Bill Schaffer, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, of Schaffer Designs, along with “What They Want, Baby You’ve Got It (or do you?)” and “Trend TalkBack” with Daniel Levine of Wikitrend.org and the Avant Guide Institute — injected palpable excitement into the event, in addition to tremendous expert insight.
After attending other SAF events, including SAF Retail Growth Solutions in Hartford, Connecticut, first-time attendee Kevin Kegan of Blossom Flower Shops in Yonkers, New York, said he decided to attend convention to “[revitalize] before the upcoming holiday season,” and then found inspiration in practical sessions such as “Barely Managing? Start Coaching” with HR guru and Floral Management magazine contributor Glenna Hecht of Humanistic Consulting.
Equally exciting for florists like Kegan who are warily eyeing the calendar as it creeps toward December and then February: “Holiday Hacks to Slash Stress and Boost Profits,” which delivered “really insightful ideas that I could actually take back and utilize,” right away, Gainan said.
Far left and right, Chad and Ken Freytag, Freytag’s Florist, Austin, Texas; and, center, Eddie Kraft, Nanz & Kraft Florist, Inc., Louisville and Joshua Glass, AAF, Peoples Flower Shops, Albuquerque.
Christine Grant, vice president of operations at Rutland Beard Floral Group, said she also planned to implement some of the holiday planning tips as the business recreates its website. Another task she’s already taken on, post-convention: sharing the knowledge.
“I have already started to sit with each set of managers to share some things I learned,” she said
The Power of Networks — and Friendships
Still, for many attendees, the biggest takeaway from SAF Amelia Island isn’t a lesson, trend, or new product, but an emotional pay-off, and sense of connection to the larger industry — not to mention the chance to take a step back from the day-in, day-out grind of running a small business.
“The energy and information you receive during a program floods your brain,” Colucci said. “The wheels start turning and suddenly you take this information, put a twist on it, and come up with your own ideas that are relevant to your business.”
Carol DeStefanis, Arapahoe Floral, Greenwood Village, Colorado and Jackie Leshko, Blossoms by the Beach, San Diego.
The convention’s myriad networking opportunities are “priceless,” according to Gainan. “It is great to see everyone from year to year and hear [their] successes,” she said. “I always go home with a wealth of knowledge and am ready to take on the upcoming holidays with excitement.”
That feeling of togetherness is something Susie Heroman of Billy Heroman’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, values. Heroman has been attending conventions since the early 1990s. Today, she makes a point to attend, to keep friendships fresh.
“We have made wonderful friends and view this convention as the only chance we get each year to reconnect with other florists,” she said, adding that the 100-plus first time attendees — all of them hungry for new ideas and new connections — made her feel hopeful for the state of the floral industry.
As one of those first-time attendees, Jim Coggins of Coggins Flowers & Gifts in Spartanburg, South Carolina, explained: “We all need a little inspiration sometimes… Talking to other florists and getting new perspectives always seems to invigorate me to keep building [my] business.”
See coverage of SAF Stars of the Industry Awards winners, in last week’s issue. Stay tuned to upcoming issues of Ebrief and SAF’s Floral Management magazine for ongoing coverage from SAF Amelia Island 2015.