Bruce McShan, owner of McShan Florist

Technology remains at the core of this successful Dallas floral business.

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Bruce McShan, owner of McShan Florist in Dallas, Texas, is planning 70th anniversary events for his business. He’s thinking of inviting everyone who has ever worked for the company to dinner, and he’s toying with the idea of a community picnic.

In 1948, his dad – whose love of flowers started when he earned pennies working in a Dallas florist shop during high school – bought the flower shop on the outskirts of the city. Three weeks later, Bruce was born. McShan’s is still in the same location, albeit much larger, at 2,700 square feet, with revenues in the multimillions. Bruce is also still there, albeit with a much larger white Stetson!

I caught up with Bruce, not only to hear about his legendary business and community success story but also to learn how the early adoption and ongoing use of technology has been key to the McShan success.

Q: What are your earliest memories of contributing to the floral work of your family business?
I was really young, maybe four or five, and with both my parents working in the shop, of course, they brought my brother and me to work. They used to assign us to a delivery driver, and we’d sit in the back of the truck on the spare tire. We’d each go with the driver and knock on the doors and help present the flowers.

Another great early memory was going with the team to decorate the Neiman Marcus flagship store in downtown Dallas. From 1956 through the 1970s, McShan Florist transformed the store with floral masterpieces for the holidays, events and special occasions. It was super fun and exciting for me.

Q: Many people born into a business don’t stay. What has kept you?
I grew up working for my parents, and eventually I became the rodeo photographer, which was exceptionally interesting and rewarding. I thought I had a pretty sweet gig – I worked hard at the florist during the week and had fun at the rodeo on the weekends. Then, at a very young age, my bother died of a heart attack, and two years later, my dad died. It was real inconsiderate that they both died and left me with the business! Seriously, I’m foremost a businessperson, and being at the helm has allowed me to grow the business and afforded me the living that.

Q: Where and how do you buy your flowers?
From farmers, wholesalers, online –wherever we can get the best quality at the best price. We have a buyer on staff who spends time on the Internet looking for what we need. We do and must support our local wholesale florists. If we don’t, they will be forced to close, and we will not have that local expertise and that important local resource from which to buy.

Bruce McShan Florists Review

Q: What staff do you employ and what are their roles?
We have 85 staff members and do everything in house: bookkeeping, accounts receivable and payable, payroll, and all aspects of business management. We have a big production department creating our floral arrangements. There’s a team of drivers and delivery staff. We have a flower and materials buyer and a team working on the Web, social media and general marketing. We do our own in-house photography. I’m here five or six days a week, and my daughter, Jodi, is involved, too. It’s nice for the whole organization to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas.

Q: How did your interest in using technology in your business start?
My brother was responsible for book-keeping and sales. He was the money guy, and I handled production. When he died, that all came to me. I was blown away by all the paperwork. We were handling up to 3,000 transactions a day, and each had masses of handwritten paper. Stuff went missing and mistakes happened, and I could see that the customer was going to suffer. Plus, the staff was cross-eyed. Jack Lucas was working with me and eager to explore technology to improve what we knew were real florist business workflow issues. We brought on Abner McDonald, Del Stehle and Chris Golden, and between us, we developed MAS, the florist software for managing every aspect of the florist business. We completed the work in 1997 and have never looked back.

Q: How are you using technology today?
Everything is run through our MAS system. When a customer places an order, we enter it into the system, being able to see what he or she might have purchased before and reading any comments made by the sales, design or delivery staff. Information about the type of arrangement requested is entered, as guidance for the production designers, and all details for delivery and recipient are keyed in. The design team can pull up the info and start creating.

Bruce McShan Florists Review

Meanwhile, our dispatcher is looking at the orders and assigning them to a delivery route. Anytime anyone touches an order, the system notes it, which has helped in understanding bottlenecks and where things go well. It really reduces finger pointing. The system manages inventory as product numbers are entered and designers take out the number of stems, vases, etc., as they work. We take a photograph of each arrangement, put it into the system and send the photo to the person who ordered the flowers, if we have his/her email.

The dispatch system slots the deliveries into the optimum delivery pattern and can tell us when to send the driver out and when to expect his/her return. We know if a driver left a delivery with a neighbor or in the shade on the back porch because he/she enters this on an iPad, and our sales team can call to inform the customer of this. The system creates bills and produces all kinds of reports so we can compare sales or anything we think we want to know for year-to-year. It does more, but you get the picture!

Bruce McShan Florists ReviewQ: What’s the biggest challenge to the florist business, today?
It’s staying afloat, and to do that, we have to not only understand the new generations of consumers but also find new avenues for selling flowers. We used to do big deliveries to hospitals, but hospitals no longer keep people overnight, so that business went away. Funerals and memorials were places where people used and shared flowers, but that business has really changed. We have our work cut out for us.

The major challenge for our business will always be the same: people – customers and employees.

I do wish that the floral industry would focus on the business side of floristry. All the florists run to the design shows, but the business side is where the money is made. My dad always said that the business is what affords you the ability to design.

Q: If you could go anywhere to learn more about flowers or your business, where would you go?
I’d travel the United States to look at super successful florist businesses, to watch, ask and learn. If I came away with one new idea, it would be so worth it.

By Jane DeMarco