Growing up I saw my mother take on many roles: caregiver, friend, chef, cheerleader, tutor, the list could go on and on. I’ve found that there is no limit to what mothers can and will do for their children to help them succeed. As I’ve shared many times, it is because of the sacrifices and love from my mother that my family and I are able to enjoy the American dream.
I’ve found time and time again that mothers are truly some of the hardest working people on the planet, and many times the unsung heroes behind us all. I know this to be true of my own mother, Salma, as she did all she could possibly do to keep our family healthy and happy when I was growing up. It couldn’t have been easy, bringing her young family over to the United States, but my mother and father made it happen. It is to them that I owe my success, as they gave me the opportunity to live the American Dream.
Bill Russ and his team at the downtown Baltimore Edible Arrangements are an example that a key to building a successful business is being able to deal with unexpected challenges.
One of the things you quickly realize as the owner of a business, whether big or small, is that you should always expect the unexpected. There will always be challenges, some that you create yourself, and others over which you have no control.
The key to building a successful business is how you deal with those challenges.
That’s why I am always so inspired when I hear stories about our Edible Arrangements franchisees facing and overcoming challenges. Few have been as inspiring as the announcement that Bill Russ, a franchisee in Baltimore, recently had the #1 store in sales for the week.
It began on the evening of April 25. Anyone watching the news that evening could not avoid reports of what was happening on the streets of Baltimore as protests began to break out throughout the city. Bill has an Edible Arrangements store in downtown Baltimore and when his team arrived on Sunday morning they found the plate glass window shattered but fortunately there was no other damage. As the civil unrest continued to escalate over the next few days Bill closed early nearly every day to make sure his crew could get home while conditions were still relatively safe.
From a business standpoint, residents were staying off the streets so walk-in traffic dried up for the week as people were afraid to go downtown. Bill and his employees, however, were determined to keep the business open and had an “all hands on deck” mentality. They never thought about not taking whatever orders came in, either online or in the store.
“We kept our display cases full and inviting,” Bill said. “No one was turned away.”
The damage, however, had been done. A store that Bill expected to be among the Top 20 in the nation in sales for Mother’s Day slipped to 138th.
Still, Bill never questioned that he would rebuild his business. It wasn’t the first time he had faced challenges thrown his way.
“I remember one particular Valentine’s Day when we suffered back to back snowfalls of more than 20 inches each,” he said. “We couldn’t get anything delivered because no one was going to their work place where we were asked to deliver their arrangement.”
What happened then?
“Our guests still sent their Valentine an Edible Arrangement! Our sales the following two weeks of that February set records,” he said. “The demand for Edible Arrangements is insatiable. Over the past 10 years I have learned that our guests want our product no matter what.”
With that in mind, Bill and his team focused on getting their customers to return as the protests died down and the city began the process of recovering.
“That became our biggest challenge, encouraging our guests to come back and visit us,” Bill said. “Our employees are devoted to their store and they take pride in its success. We know we have a great product and resolved to be there for our guests whenever they felt ready to come back. We felt a personal responsibility to do our part to recover from this adversity and show our support for Baltimore and its good, law abiding citizens. We resolved to do our part to rebuild this great city!”
And the guests did return, to the point that the Baltimore store achieved their recent #1 ranking in sales for the week.
“We have always embraced every opportunity to serve our guests, including offering a full line of products and keeping the store fresh with the latest upgrades,” Bill said. “We want to be the most inviting retailer in downtown Baltimore and we are proud to show off the most attractive retail space in our neighborhood!”
And as for lessons learned to share with others who find themselves facing difficult situations?
“Setbacks will come,” Bill said. “That’s a fact of life none of us can avoid. In the end our success will be measured in how we respond to those adversities.”
Well said, Bill. And congratulations to you and your dedicated team for a job well done!
Ibrahim, in the center of the bottom row, celebrates another record Mother’s Day sales performance with some of his Moreno Valley team members.
Shortly after Mother’s Day each year for the past four years I’ve received a phone call from one of our most successful franchisees, Ibrahim Choudhry, thanking me for convincing him to take over the Edible Arrangements location in Moreno Valley, California. That’s because for each of the past four years, his Moreno Valley store has been #1 in sales for the entire Edible Arrangements franchise system. The credit, however, goes to Ibrahim and what he has accomplished.
It is a story that is inspirational and an example of what a passionate and inspired leader such as Ibrahim can accomplish with an equally dedicated team. It is also one we can all learn from.
The story began five-and-half years ago. The Moreno Valley store had been closed for six months and the area around the store had been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Several other Edible Arrangements franchisees had already turned down opportunities to take over the location when we approached Ibrahim about reopening it.
Ibrahim was no stranger to the location, having spent time with the original franchisee years earlier while still working for us as a trainer in the corporate office. And when the Moreno Valley location became available, he already had one successful turnaround to his credit.
Ibrahim had left his corporate position in 2009 to take over a closed location in Claremont, Calif., which he quickly turned into one of the most successful Edible Arrangements stores in the nation.
I traveled to California to visit with him about taking over a second failed location.
He was obviously concerned that other franchisees had already turned down opportunities to reopen the store. There was a lot of negative publicity to overcome from customers, from employees and even the government. A lot of people were owed money, but I told him I was convinced he could do it.
Ibrahim agreed to purchase the equipment and renegotiated the lease with the landlord in order not to take on more debt. Then he put all his effort into making the store a success.
He was in the store every day and he bombarded the area with marketing and publicity campaigns. For several months he had to pay rent and bills using income from his other store, but by the end of the first year the effort was paying off and the store was on its way to becoming a record-setter.
Today, Ibrahim has six successful Edible Arrangements locations in California, and all were either struggling or had closed outright when he took them over.
How does he do it?
“There are two things that I believe are critical to success,” he says.
“First, the owner has to have influence and a presence in the store — even if you have six of them. I make sure that I’m a very important part of each one of my businesses. I may not be taking orders or making deliveries, but I make sure my presence is felt at all my stores.
“Second, if you don’t accommodate people when they NEED you, such as the holidays, they certainly won’t want you tomorrow. When a holiday comes around, I push my team and myself to the limit. We try not to turn away a single customer because we know they need us. That has been the key to our success.”
And once again, that strategy has paid off with record sales for a store that only a few years ago was out of business.
Congratulations Ibrahim and thank you for being an inspiration to us all. I look forward to receiving many more phone calls in the coming years!
I have written many times about my mother and the tremendous influence she had on me throughout my life. Like most moms, no matter the situation or how tough things got, I always knew she was there for me and I could count on her to make me feel better.
That was especially true when we learned my younger brother Kamran had leukemia. At the time I don’t think I truly appreciated the impact that having a child diagnosed with such a terrible disease can have on the parents, especially the mother. The emotional and financial stress can be overwhelming. We were fortunate to have many people who were willing to help us during that time as my brother went through his treatments and eventually recovered.
This Mother’s Day, unfortunately, I know there are many children in similar situations, but I also know that their mothers are there by their side. That’s why it was comforting to hear that many of our franchisees across the nation delivered special Mother’s Day arrangements to the Ronald McDonald House in their markets yesterday.
I am convinced that there is no greater love than that of a mother for her children. I hope that our arrangements brought a little joy to the lives of those mothers who are spending this Mother’s Day away from home in order to be there for their child.
In honor of these moms and mothers everywhere as well as our franchisees who took time during one of the busiest weeks of the year to make this happen, I wanted to say Thank You!
Here are a few photographs from some of those deliveries yesterday for you to enjoy.