Monday, 9 March 2015

What do you do?

all day? The words I got asked yesterday as I was sitting down trying to catch up on some paperwork - I was about to type up the past weeks invoices as I was asked the question; my list of that day's jobs written on the piece of paper next to me (for a change it was a small list of one-off bits and pieces)

Because of this question, I thought I would talk you through a typical day.

I get to the shop anywhere between 6.45 - 7.15am (I am not a morning person so getting up and making sure I am here so early is hard for me). The first thing I do is put the kettle on (I can't start the day without my cup of tea) before putting the planters out the front on the forecourt, avoiding dog mess (when I find out who keeps letting their dog foul outside, I really will store some of my own dogs up and push it through their letterbox) the school children (they wander aimlessly along so engrossed in looking at their phones they often wander into me or the planters - that's the one's that aren't being rude, making comments, or shoving each other into the road, and me).  At the moment I also have the builders to avoid as well, who for some reason have decided to open their fencing onto our forecourt to get in and out - meaning they have to dodge the bits I put out the front - rather than open the fence at the front of their property where they have nothing to avoid (the logic of it amazes me).

Once the front is out I check the shop - IF there are any flowers left from the previous day, they are checked to ensure they are ok - as you know what comes in one day has to be sold by close of business the following day; if they're not they get pulled from the shop and don't get sold. Most days though I come in to empty vases and an empty looking set of tables and stands. 

The empty stand waiting for the days flowers
Every Tuesday, and Thursday the vases we use in the shop are bleached and scrubbed (on Saturday every vase has a splash of bleach dropped in, is filled up with water, and left to soak over the weekend where they are then scrubbed and refilled on Monday morning) to ensure no bacteria can get a grip and ruin the potential for the new flowers that will be placed in the vase. We do as much as we can to ensure the flowers we deliver will last as long as possible - of course the way they are treated once they are with our customer is out of our  hands, but we hope they will follow our care instructions - I had a lady in today who told me she still has her Valentines flowers (4 weeks after they were delivered). I have a handtied in the shop that I am using for display purposes only, that is currently 3 weeks old and still looks as fresh as the day I made it. 

Usually while I am in the middle of scrubbing the vases one of the deliveries (we can have up to 3 a day) will arrive, with the driver stacking the boxes in the shop for me. I will then work from the top box down until all the flowers have had their leaves stripped, heads checked and stem bottoms trimmed. These boxes can sometime weigh upwards of 40kg, and so lifting them up-and-down can put a bit of a strain on my shoulders, which are known to ache on a pretty regular basis. Before I can begin to strip the leaves though, I will make up the mornings orders for collection and delivery - it can look a bit of a wee mess when I am trawling though the boxes for the flowers I need (I've been known to scatter lids all over the place :) )

Yes; there are the same amount of boxes waiting to be opened behind the ones in the foreground
Usually by (or around) 9.30am the orders for that day are made, the flowers are sorted and on display in the shop, and the boxes are packed tidily away (we can pack roughly 10 boxes into 1 box to save taking up space - these will be taken back the next day by the wholesaler when they deliver our next order). By 11.30 I also hope to have 4 or 5 bouquets made up ready for sale (I find the majority of my customers don't visit the shop until after 12noon - although I have had customers waiting for me when I get to work on the odd occasion). 

Flowers in water; bouquets made up and ready to sell
As explained above, the orders for delivery and collection in the morning (and those around lunchtime) are made before I get the display sorted - customers are served during this time also - the deliveries and collection orders for the afternoon are started just before 12noon on any typical day. On average I can make a handtied from start to finish (this includes choosing the flowers) in about 14 minutes, so the afternoon orders are normally sorted and ready by 2.30. Once those are completed I will prep for the funeral orders the following day (this can be just soaking oasis and taping it into the tray, to ribbon edging on letters, hearts and cushions, to carving oasis blocks into shapes for specialist tributes (pigs, dogs, crests etc).

Once everything is prepped, I will then go through the orders for the following day to sort out what flowers I need, before putting my order into the wholesalers for delivery in the morning.  I will then type up any invoices and receipts from the days orders, and reply to emails from customers that haven't needed me to reply immediately earlier in the day. I will also do a final check of the online ordering system to see what there is for the next day, and add the flowers I need for them to the wholesalers list - I do get notified during the day if an order comes through for same day delivery so that none are ever missed. This normally takes me until 4.30, at which point I have a tidy up, and sweep through the building. I will remove the empty vases from the shop that no longer have flowers in them (these will be then have bleach added to them and will be filled with water to soak over-night - I'll just re-fill the next day if it's not a vase scrubbing day) and I will bring the planters in (where I often get caught for a chat  by lovely local people walking by - what is a 10 minute job has been known to take me up to an hour at times :) 

The end of the day - more than usual left but already earmarked for orders the following morning

Once the front is finally in, I will then tally up the till and pdq (I love that we rarely get paid in cash - not just because it means we never have any on the premises which is a great saftey thing, but also because I don't have to sit counting it for an hour). I check the totals match, before adding them to a daily takings sheet (there are so many bits of paper the accountant needs) and a spreadsheet we keep for our own records, that we can use for comparing previous days, weeks, months and years (it gives us a good indication of what to buy for peak periods too).  I also have to input the figures onto our sage accounting package (I HATE sage with a passion) and check each evening all the figures on that tally with my own figures, and with the shop's bank account.

During the day I will also take phone calls from customers and have at least half an hour wasted with cold callers (what I say to them is not repeatable on here). Customers will also come into the shop and although most are here for roughly 5 minutes at a time, there are occasions when they will be here longer; just this week I had a lady in for over an hour because she wasn't sure what she wanted to order for a funeral, and I will not pressure anyone into what they should/shouldn't have - I also won't walk away from a customer, which meant I was then an hour behind on my day, but I was bought up with manners and respect, and could therefore never just walk away and get on with something else. 

At some point during the day I will try to find time to update the social media sites - although this often happens when I'm at home in the evening. With more social media sites adding messaging options to them, I can field anywhere upwards of 40 messages each evening; I do now have an away message set up asking people to call the shop, or email to make life a little easier for me. One morning I got to the shop and logged onto facebook to find 72 messages waiting for me. I also receive a lot of questions through instagram. A lot of these were customers asking questions for which the answers can be found on our website. I reply to each-and-every person though; not always on the day I get the message,  but always before the end of the week. I no longer have whatsapp though so we cannot be contacted through that any more, and I have turned off google chat. I just don't have the time to sit and message back-and-forth with people, no matter how chatty I may be feeling. I know that is the world we live in these days, but my business is run by me, and only me. I cannot afford to employ someone to work the social media side of the business. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will get angry at me for not replying within a matter of minutes. I once had someone message at 2am, expecting me to reply immediately; the expletives they'd resorted to by 4am ensured when I logged on and read them, they got a reply; just not the one they were expecting. I'll treat everyone with respect as that's how businesses are built and continue to survive, but I am also a human being and I will not allow someone to send me the messages that particular person was sending, and respond in the respectful way I would with anyone else. 

Once-a-week I try to swap some photo's around on the website; not only does this help to keep us on the google ranking system (I refuse to pay their extortionate prices to get a top-of-the-page; it does annoy me all those at the top though aren't even florists, and are just big companies with computer systems passing themselves off as florists but that's the way of the internet these day) and also because it's not that interesting for a website to look the same  each time someone visits. This takes time though and the photo's have to be altered slightly to ensure they fit the website parameters Clive has set up. Each of the photo's has to be framed, duplicated and resized (the duplicates being another size) so just one photo can take 15 minutes to complete.

I also separate rubbish throughout the day. All flowers come into the shop in packaging (a lot are wrapped in paper, more in cellophane, although this is something the growers are working on reducing). I have 4 bins on the go at any one time. Hard, woody stems going into one to be put through a woodchipper; softer stems and the leaves removed from all flower stems go into another. General waste in the 3rd and recycling in the 4th. On particular busy days it can take me upwards of an hour to sort through the rubbish I've let accumulate throughout the day. 

So there you go; that's what I do all day - on a normal day. Obviously wedding days, peak periods (mothers day, valentines and christmas) add to the "norm" and I have to plan the day slightly differently or I'd never get through and get everything done. 

If only I got to "play with flowers" as everyone seems to think I do all day :)




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