• Entrepreneurship
  • franchisees
  • Valentine's Day

One of the things I’ve learned over the years as an entrepreneur is that even when you think you know what it’s going to take to make a business successful, there are always unexpected surprises.

I was reminded of that recently as we prepared for and then delivered on our single busiest day of the year, Valentine’s Day. In fact, it turned out to be the single busiest day in our company’s 20-year history!

Taken in total, the numbers are almost unimaginable. Over 275,000 arrangements delivered from coast to coast. More than 14 million strawberries, many dipped in thousands of pounds of chocolate. We shipped over 340,000 decorative boxes as well as vases and other items that make our arrangements so special.

But the numbers don’t come close to telling the whole story. At the corporate office, it was all-hands-on-deck as our entire team of professionals put their normal duties on hold for a few days in order to help man the phones lines, respond to e-mails or whatever it took to make the day go as smoothly as possible. The same was true in our distribution centers. The real Valentine’s Day story, however, was not taking place in Atlanta. It was taking place in each of the individual Edible stores across the nation. Had you visited one of our stores any day that week you would have experienced what it means to be a small business owner whose customers depend on you to make sure their loved-ones have a special day. You would have seen our owners calling in family and friends to help sort through fruit in search of the perfect pieces, then cut it and create arrangements. You’d have seen them working into the early hours of the morning trying to create a schedule to cover dozens of deliveries per hour. You’d have seen some of our larger franchisees packing crates into refrigerated trucks that had been rented to handle the overflow of fruit and products needed for just one day. It’s an overwhelming experience that you can tell someone about, but you can’t really prepare them for.

Lessons learned the hard way

I know this because I, like millions of other small business owners, have been there. When I opened my first flower shop decades ago I knew that Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and the holidays would be busy and take extra work and preparation. No one, however, could have prepared me for all the details that needed to be taken care of and especially for the unexpected surprises. I’ve told the story many times of how I ended up freezing my first big order of flowers because I didn’t know what temperature to set on my cooler. I arrived at the store the next morning with a stack of orders and a cooler of frozen flowers. As a small business owner, however, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself because you know your customers won’t. You can’t react to the problem, you have to respond to the problem, find a solution and find it fast. THAT is one of the most important lessons a small business owner learns, and usually it is a lesson learned very early in the life of a business. It is especially true for businesses such as ours that have those certain days in which demand skyrockets to the extreme. The owners of wings and pizza restaurants went through it a few weeks ago with the Super Bowl. It happens to retailers on Black Friday and e-commerce businesses on Cyber Monday. On each of those days the news is filled with stories touting the millions and billions of products and dollars involved. Meanwhile, on Main Street America, it is the small business owner that is bringing that story to life. They have spent months planning and preparing for this single event while also running the day-to-day aspects of their business and also trying to have a personal and family life.

Preparing for the unexpected

Of course, it never goes perfectly as planned and there are always unexpected decisions to make and issues that have to be handled in the middle of this whirlwind of activity. But when it is over, I have found that the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that the business owner experiences always overshadows the feeling of exhaustion. That’s why I am so thankful for the passionate and dedicated network of franchisees that make up the Edible system and the sacrifices they make each day to serve their communities and their customers. After all, that is what small business owners do. Thank you to everyone from our corporate team to our suppliers and most of all to our franchisees on yet another amazing Valentine’s Day performance. Get your rest, because Mother’s Day is right around the corner.

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  • Baltimore
  • Edible Arrangements
  • facing challenges
  • franchisee
  • Mother's Day
  • Tariq Farid
  • Valentine's Day

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!

 

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  • Edible Arrangements
  • Fortune
  • Fox Business
  • franchisees
  • interviews
  • The Street
  • Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is the single biggest day of the year for Edible Arrangements and members of the news media are always fascinated to learn how our franchisees are able to deliver millions of pieces of fresh fruit nationwide in a single day.

A few days ago I was interviewed by The Street and a writer from Fortune. Friday afternoon, Edible Arrangements President Rob Price will appear on Fox Business to discuss why Edible Arrangements, in just over a decade, has become the gift of choice for so many loved ones.

You can CLICK HERE to view my interview on The Street.

And don’t forget that it’s not too late to place your order for one of our beautiful Valentine’s Day arrangements!

 

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