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Why florists need to look in the mirror and face the truth

James Crompton has seen the industry from both sides … both as employee and employer. But when he saw the Editors question on Facebook regarding staff, he wasn’t afraid to hold back … so much so that we asked him to expand on his Facebook post and tell it how it is from his perception.

You just can’t get the staff these days – an inconvenient truth!

We’ve all said it; that awkward gag you crack to a customer when something trivial goes wrong.

I’ve sat here for a while now thinking long and hard about how to write this article without it sounding like the foretelling of the apocalypse, without sensationalising or exaggerating.

But whilst I promise to offer a solutions-based approach, I first need to present to you the problem which in my mind is one of the larger challenges facing our industry, one that could have far reaching consequences if not addressed in the near future.

Let’s get right down to it, why do so many bosses/owners find it so very difficult to find quality staff who are talented, reliable, hardworking, trustworthy and possess all the other necessary skills and qualities needed to operate and thrive in a busy shop or studio?

Why is there such a lack of young people entering the industry?

The answer? I think we need to take a good look in the mirror.

You see I had a look through a couple of job websites for florist position listings as well as social media and Linkedin.

My findings made me feel pretty sad.

Adverts across the board wanting formal level 3 qualifications or years of bench training in substitute, outlining nothing but the general responsibilities of the perfect candidate.

The best paid position I could find was for £13 an hour (top end) for a full-time position, smack bang in the middle of London.

The overwhelming majority of the other positions are offering anything from national minimum wage (currently £8.91 per hour at the time of writing) anything up to £11 an hour. Average is between £9-10 per hour.

Salaried positions for full time staff are averaging from £17,000 with a few creeping up around £21,000 at the top end with a few exceptions.

I realise this is a harsh truth, but with salaries this low is it any real wonder why the industry is struggling to attract vibrant, young talent?

Most florists will tell you they do this wonderful job for the love of it, and that money comes second.

Now I know that this is an opinion piece, but the love of the job only goes so far when people have bills to pay, with the cost of living only on the up and scheduled to get worse.

So, my point is this.

We will never attract the cream of the crop to the industry to come and work for us unless we change our attitudes towards employment and whilst we continue to offer the same wages that someone can earn sitting at a desk inputting data for their local council, the same salary, or less in many instances that someone can earn stacking the shelves at their local supermarket.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with either of those careers, but given neither are thought of as positions that are going to attract talented, driven and highly skilled individuals that are going to stay for the long term, is that fair?

Hairdressers, nail techs, tattoo artists, electricians, plasterers, plumbers, joiners, gardeners and various others – they are all skilled positions that can be approached in the same way that becoming a florist can be, i.e., going to college to earn a qualification, becoming an apprentice or simply by learning on the job, in a similar timescale that one might argue it takes to become a competent florist. How is it then, that starting wages are so much better in these industries?

As an industry, we are guilty of drastically undervaluing the biggest commodity that’s required to drive the industry forward – people.

Offering minimum wage (or close to) jobs will only attract minimum wage candidates, think about that for a moment – what are we expecting?

And why I wrote in answer to Caroline’s question; “In my experience, the biggest issue from the employee side is the pay. Imagine putting yourself through years of college and qualifying at level 2 and/or 3 only to find that most florists are offering minimum wage or slightly above for a fully qualified florist.

Or imagine bench training for 5 years only to find that the rate of pay doesn't generally improve much when the standard and speed of your work does.

It's hard and that's a big reason why we see a lot of qualified florists retraining to go and work in an industry where earnings are better and the work is easier.”

So then, what’s the answer, James? The answer is actually quite a simple one. It’s our job to make great people want to become florists.

Caroline has written a whole article on what you need to do but here are a few headline thoughts from me to get you thinking.

  • Go out of your way to make your place of business somewhere people want to come and work.

  • Create a great team dynamic! Go out for dinner and drinks, go somewhere with your staff for a weekend in the off-season, have fun together.

  • Incentivise good performance, upselling and add-on product sales.

  • Create achievable targets and encourage friendly competition.

  • Train your staff how to sell more and reward them when they get better at it.

  • Offer competitive salaries that make top creative people want to come and help grow your business.

  • Give bonuses when business is good.

  • Create exciting job adverts that sell your business to the best candidates

Now, having been both employee and employer I know you’ll probably be thinking “easier said than done” and you’re absolutely right.

It’s easy for me to sit here and write this; telling you what you’re doing wrong and offering vague advice on how to improve the situation.

But the truth is that in order to make this industry better, to fill it with better people who’ll come up with better ideas and help us to create better, more innovative products and services – a lot of us are going to have to have a serious look at our labour pricing structure.

I know how scary that sounds in a world where the customer demands value for money, but now is the best time there’s ever been to bring your prices up, everyone else in every other industry is doing just that.

Stop focusing on what the supermarkets, Freddy et al are up to. Concentrate on your own business.

It’s time to be brave, everyone. Making these changes will help create a healthier, more profitable, and more ethical industry for us all. Baby steps are fine, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

My final disclaimer is this. I realise completely that there are so many more angles and perspectives to this conversation than the one I’m offering here in this article. I also understand that many will disagree or feel differently, and that’s okay. But, if just a few people take some inspiration from this article then I’ll be a happy florist.


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