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Try This ‘Priceless Investment’ in Your Employees

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Events, Events & Education, Floral Industry News | 0 comments

Denver Wholesale Florists sent three employees to SAF’s Next Gen LIVE! event in Miami last year as a way to invest in their careers and improve retention. (Left to right) Stephanie Campbell, DWF Omaha branch manager; Ryan Spratt, IT manager; and James Sechler, DWF Boise branch manager.

After losing some employees to retirement and replacing them with young talent, Dave Legge, president of Denver Wholesale Florists, saw the Society of American Florists’ Next Gen LIVE! event last year as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the company’s commitment to their success  — which he thinks, in turn, will contribute to retention.

“We’re investing in the employees that we hire — retention really is important to me,” Legge says. “When we’re bringing people on and they’re new to the industry, and new to the company, this is a way we’re investing in their career.”

Next Gen LIVE! is back this year, slated for June 11-13 in Miami. The event is designed by young floral professionals for their peers (45 and younger), who converge from all segments of the industry to network, learn and experience the epicenter of the floral importing scene. Last year’s inaugural event drew 160 attendees from 31 states and Ecuador and Colombia, who participated in education sessions that focused on leadership, marketing, and work-life balance.

This year’s educational sessions will focus on consistent five-star customer service, digital marketing, communication tips, and leadership styles — including how to lead with empathy. Plus, attendees can choose between two tour options: a behind the scenes look at a few progressive floral retail operations or importing and distribution facilities at the Miami International Airport. The programming is designed to help develop young talent and set them up for a long, fruitful career in the industry — making it an experience that also benefits business owners.

Legge says Next Gen LIVE! gives newer employees who’ve come from different industries the opportunity to become more familiarized with, and immersed in, the floral industry.

“I just don’t think there’s any better way to learn and understand what it means to be part of the flower business than seeing it face-to-face,” he says. “You’ve got to see it firsthand for it to really make an impression.”

That’s the experience Corrine Heck, CEO and founder of Details Flowers Software, also wanted to give the five employees she sent to Next Gen LIVE! last year. As a software company owner, Heck felt it was important for new employees to get a sense of how the work they do fits into the bigger picture, making the investment well worth it, she says.

“As much as I talk about how big the industry is to my employees — a lot of them not working within the industry prior to joining my company — it really gave them a good, real-world experience of what exactly the industry does and how big it is,” says Heck. “It was a priceless investment into the long-term approach of getting my employees indoctrinated into the company. They realized that what they’re doing is pretty profound to the rest of the industry.”

Michael Pugh, of Pugh’s Florist in Memphis, Tennessee, sent several employees to last year’s event. It was an effective way to show them that the older owners of the company “recognized their value and wanted to invest in their future,” he says. It also helped generate excitement among his younger workers about the industry.

“Our family is firmly committed to giving them a career path, but that requires keeping them engaged and excited about our industry,” Pugh says. “To accomplish these goals we are a firm believer in continuing education such as Next Gen LIVE!”

For Legge, the event has provided young talent with a deeper understanding of DWF’s partners, which benefits the business in the long run.

“I think sending them created some understanding, and maybe some empathy, about the vendors we work with, and the product and the farms it comes from,” he says. “It created some background for them about their everyday business.”

Heck added that Next Gen LIVE! is also an opportunity to learn from the up-and-comers in the industry, who are already making an impact.

“If you’re growing your business, you need to grow and learn from younger generations too,” she said. “I think that Gen Z definitely has something to offer.”

For more information about this year’s Next Gen LIVE! event and to register, click here.

Kenya McCullum is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.

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