Manny and Clara Gonzales left their corporate careers in 1996 and bought a flower shop in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
“We didn’t know anything about the flower business, but we figured, how hard can it be?” says Clara.
They found out. Despite growing their business, Tiger Lily, with two new locations and hitting almost $2 million in sales, they were near bankruptcy when the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Sales had dropped 40 percent in a year, they had exhausted their $250,000 line of credit, and their checking account was in the red, they say.
“We were broke,” Manny says. “We decided to make drastic changes and focus on one thing and one thing only: profit.”
The Gonzaleses borrowed business strategies from their corporate careers and adapted them for the flower business. It worked. They saved the business, increased profits, and in 2018 retired early. Now, they are sharing their knowledge, systems and documents that led them to success in “Forecasting Your Future,” a three-course series centered around profitability offered through the Society of American Florists’ learning hub, Career Connection.
“It is almost impossible to achieve healthy profits without forecasting,” says Kate Delaney, AAF, who became SAF’s director of career development after a 20-year career running a flower shop in the Mid-Atlantic. Delaney worked with the Gonzaleses for months developing the series. “This series will be a tremendous help to retail florists struggling to turn a profit, especially at a time when inflation is squeezing profit margins.”
The series is broken into three courses that cover sales forecasting, cost of goods and wage control, which will help florists develop a sales forecast with daily controls to manage costs and drive profit. The six-week courses also include a discussion board with weekly input from the Gonzaleses.
The first course shows owners and managers how to predict sales for every day, week and month by helping participants create a sales forecast unique to their business. The second course uses that forecast to show how florists can spend wisely, deliver value and drive profit. The third course shows how the forecast helps control wages and retain a team of top talent.
The first course, “Forecasting Sales,” is available now. Additional benefits, such as weekly one-on-one meetings with the Gonzaleses, participation in a weekly, virtual peer group — or both, can be added to the course package for a fee. (Those who want to be part of the peer group must register by Aug. 8 for a Aug. 11 start. Those who want only to take the course or want one-on-one meetings can start at any time.)
Florists who took the first course as part of the testing phase have praised it for its practical approach and application.
“The sales forecasting course gives a streamlined method of weekly/daily forecasting that keeps planning, organization, and execution top of mind, as well as a tool to track our actuals against our goals,” says Aimee Godbout of Jacques Flower Shop in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her shop already keeps detailed sales reports for each month and holiday, she says, but she liked that the course put an emphasis on sales from other times of the year.
“This course has been a great reminder that sales forecasting and all its components are vital year-round, not just at the holidays and busy times,” she says. “No matter how many other demands are on us as managers or owners, time must be made to focus on the daily, weekly, and monthly sales forecasting and diligent follow-through.”
Jennifer Chastain, a studio florist at JMC Bloom in Reno, Nevada, liked the course’s easy-to-follow structure, downloadable spreadsheets and step-by-step instruction. She declared the course a worthy investment.
“I have learned a lot about how to manage sale expectations while making clear reasonable estimates for future sales,” she says. “I believe it will be helpful to anyone who invests in it.”
In addition to driving profit, the Gonazaleses say there are other benefits to taking the course.
“These courses are not just about profit,” Clara says. “They are about achieving the type of biz and lifestyle you dream of, however you define it.”
Amanda Jedlinsky is the managing editor of SAF NOW.