Mike the Florist

 

a project to help business surpass the COVID crisis

Michael Bourguignon is the "chief website guru and chief business person" for Bourguignon Floristas in Madrid, his family company that was established in Spain in 1930, after moving from the Netherlands. He is also the director of the Floral Design School of Barcelona and former president of the International Florist Organisation, Florint. He has recently started a new project, dedicated to help florists from all over the world surpass the effects of the pandemic and the economic crisis that follows, inevitably. Since the focus of this endeavour is education, we were interested to find out more about this project, and approached Mike the Florist to offer us more details and answer a few questions for the EMC blog readers.  

Who is Mike, the florist? And how did you come up with “Mike the florist” concept?

Mike is me. And I’m also a Florist. I started my education in floristry the moment I was born - I was born into a family with a very long tradition in floristry. After having been in several positions in the flower world and been away for some time from the big buzz of floristry and in my business, I took a step back and really thought of what was missing.

design by Tomas de Bruyne

We have great designers, Tomas de Bruyne included, of course, but we were missing a step between the world of floral design and the day to day working of a flower shop – somebody that shared their story and understood the problems of the florist from a business perspective.

You have been, as president of Florint, in the capacity of building an international framework for florists to flourish. Yet lately you are focusing on teaching florists, which, by definition, means addressing the individual, the florist as a student. How much does the success of a floral business depend on the given framework and how much on the personal knowledge? 

Grand frameworks are great, but you need to know how to implement these frameworks within your own business.

One of the greatest problems we face in Floristry, and in any Small and Medium Entreprises, is we take and copy. We believe in a one easy solution, or if one concept works in a flower shop, it works for us. But this approach is extremely dangerous. Why? First, one flower shop/business has it’s own formats of it’s DNA: floral style, location, sales portfolio (tending towards weddings, or retail, or online or corporate contracts), and financial structure (workers, costs, etc…), and market target. Taking what one shop does and implementing it is impossible. A great example is pricing. So many florists will copy their pricing margins to others because a) they don’t know how to price b) if they do it at that price, so can I. But one price strategy may work for one, but not the other.

Hence, what we do in our e-courses is to create step by step exercises so that each florist can work out their strategy in their own business. Education is teaching the tools. It’s the classic saying of: "give a man a fish and you feed him for day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a life time."  Personal knowledge is everything.

You state that the floristry sector was already “wobbling before COVID because we were not doing our homework properly”. Would you care to elaborate on that and point out some examples of the homework you are referring to?

The world has changed since the 1960s, but we florists and the sector in general have not been able to adapt to the change in terms of marketing or taking up the opportunities presented to us since the 2008 crisis. In terms of marketing, florists, and the sector in general, have been stuck in a 1950s model which is product placed. We made the product (or received it), we priced it, we placed it in our shop, and we then promoted it from our shop. Our shop, in essence was the main source of our marketing efforts. This process is obsolete.

design by Tomas de Bruyne

In terms of opportunities, 2008 presented us with a huge yet subtle structural change which, although we took note, we didn’t act upon. The appearance of new players offering our products and services. In retail, supermarkets took hold the express buying. But the biggest shift was the online market. Online players took a huge advantage in large part due to the large amount of investment money poured into those companies. And these companies not only took hold of the online market, but these start-ups also understood the new marketing concepts necessary to attract consumers.

As a result, florists, rather than take head on these challenges, drifted towards weddings and events, creating greater competition amongst themselves in a market that has a limited number of weddings and events. 

Our homework should have been to diversify our sales portfolio, and understanding the needs of consumers since 2008, but we stayed stuck in the pre-2008 standard “waiting” for these buoyant times to come back. And they never came back.

In your presentations, you often refer to the fact that florists are so different than other industries. What makes us so different, from a business point of view?

design by Tomas de Bruyne

First and foremost, from an accounting perspective it’s extraordinarily difficult to get “data” to work with. Why? Like restaurants, we transform products. We receive raw material and from there we transform it to make a bouquet, plant arrangement, or a brides bouquet. These final products are what we sell. But from an accounting perspective, these products are made from a variety of different products – roses, lilies, orchids, etc.. – that we buy in. In other businesses, say in a clothes outlet, they receive 20 trousers and sell 20. They know what comes in and comes out. We can’t, and accounting packages take in clothes modus operandi and we can come up with good data to predict and perform better in our businesses.

The second is that we are essentially a service industry that produces and sends material which makes us labour intensive and cost inefficient. In order to make our products we need to employ skilled labour, work many hours, cover needs, and finally send our product. This business model is extremely complicated to handle.

Finally, we’re a very seasonal business. Our peak times are limited. And although other industries are the same – for example hotels - their costs for the rest of the year are very limited whilst ours need to stay constant and stocked as the sales can vary day to day.

Everybody is trying to elaborate ways of surviving the COVID situation. Are these specificities of the floristry world setting us apart in the endeavour of getting over the crisis? 

Unlike the 2008 crisis where economist had the tools and know-how of how to attack economic crisis and society knew that we just needed to spend less, the COVID crisis has had a huge change regarding society and technology and the consequential economic recession that is starting to impact us. From a social point of view, how society buys and prepares itself to make a purchase has been drastically modified, putting your shop as a secondary point of sale and interaction. Moreover, technology has taken hold of all of society, especially in the age segmented that may have been a little more reticent to buy online, especially those aged 50-65, which, in fact, is the highest spending segment on flowers and plants. Therefore, from a florist’s perspective, the above changes towards the online line and differentiating your offer from other florists, and especially from the “the next best product” that are not flowers, is extremely important. Knowing how to interact, present and capture your clients today online is more important than ever. Your client today will first look you up through their mobile than go to your shop. 

design by Tomas de Bruyne

What are some important points that the new normal business model you talk about on your website needs to have?

Your need to take into account the customer’s journey. This is not just a website. Start from where they are most likely to start. As explained above, most will start from their mobile devices. Think where these customers can find you – google, social media, ads – and from there what your website looks like on these devices. Make it easy for them to find beautiful and different products AND PAY (the biggest Achilles heal of websites). From there, the whole process isn’t over. You need to make sure that these same people buy recurrently. Therefore you need to make the a great product, deliver a great service, and, somehow or another, try and get their email so you can keep them in the loop of your business and offers.

You argue that florists have to “make their business predictable”. Where does creativity fit into building such a business?

Predictability in this sense means that florists can plan their business ahead. In this respect, florists don’t usually plan their businesses and during COVID you need to know what risks can affect your business external and internally, and from there plan your risk management in case a risk does happen. From there you have a plan to mitigate the problem and come out on the other side knowing where you stand. The same is true of a financial risk plan. You can plan you cash flow when these risks hit your business. 

Creativity is the main element in any florist’s business, and this part of your business is really your business model and plan.

design by Tomas de Bruyne

Creativity will create your brand and also allow you to channel your passion. As a result, these two concepts, passion and creativity, will allow you find you place in the world of floristry and allow you to plan your marketing segment and who you can target. It is a plan, but based more on marketing and branding.

How does your program help florists to go from theory to practice?

We’ve broken down the course into 3 modules – planning, competitive business model, and marketing. Each model has various units, and in the majority of cases, these units have specific documents and activities that florists need to do in order to understand their business. These documents are guides that allow florists to fill in their problems and create their own solutions rather than give them a solution which, may or may not work for them. From the documents they need to then implement these changes into their own business. 

How do you advice florist to pursue “the education” as part as their personal and business growth process?

A good Spanish says that “Nobody is born knowing.” A business doesn’t just appear and we start selling. Every business has it’s own dynamics and we need to learn the basic elements of business and floristry in order to move forward. From there, life will teach you which path to take. Yet, what is clear that those businesses that have disappeared have done so because they have never evolved. Education helps you understand the change and evolution, yet you need to then implement them. As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

design by Tomas de Bruyne

interview by Diana Toma, EMC


We invite you to find out more on Mike the Florist and the post COVID business courses he is hosting on his official website.

"When working with Mike at Florint, I always felt both of us had the same drive, ambition and goals to succeed in what we do. With a clear vision on the future, a great expertise and the will to make-it-happen, he is the prefect person to deal with within our floral industry. Floristry and business go hand in hand with Mike:  the ideal training medium for our future industry."

Tomas de Bruyne, CEO of European Master Certification


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