How to Become the Most Valuable DESIGNER in Your Shop

Understanding floral math provides answers to business equation.


A gold to a flower shop. What are some of the qualities of a valuable floral designer?

• Shows up on time
• Treats co-workers with respect
• Answers the phone (without being asked to do so)
• Promptly attends to walk-in customers (even if she’s in the middle of something)
• And, of course, a good designer does beautiful design work.

No brainer, right? But being the most valuable asset to your floral business is even easier than all of that. The most valuable floral designer in your shop doesn’t overfill orders! Overfilling is the No. 1 sin of florists. “Overfilling” may sound like you’re “adding a lot of extras,” but overfilling can mean adding just one stem too many.

If you overfill by one flower per arrangement, you’re still overfilling! Overfilling is a dangerous road to go down. It sets a precedent of “fullness” and it’s hard to scale back once you (and your customers) get used to overfilling.

Here’s an example of how your business can be derailed if you overfill by just one rose: If you add one extra rose ($4 retail) per arrangement, and you design, on average, 25 orders a day, that’s $100 (at retail) per day that you’re giving away. Multiply that times 5.5 days a week; that’s $550 in product per week for which you’re not being paid.

For the month, that one extra rose turns into $2,383. Over the course of the year, that single rose turns into a $28,600 giveaway! If your markup on flowers is 3x, then that $28,600 worth of overfilled orders equals $9,533 out of pocket in wholesale purchases. Over five years, that’s a $47,667 out-of-pocket loss.

With $9,533 per year, you can do something with your business: advertising, a retirement fund or a down payment on a new delivery vehicle. With $9,533, you could even give two designers a $397 raise per month!

If you’re a home-studio florist, the danger of overfilling still applies to you. For example, a designer booking 30 weddings/events per year who overfills by $4 wholesale per centerpiece (presuming 15 centerpieces per event), operates at a loss of $60 per event or $1,800 for the year. That’s real money for your small business. It’s a mortgage payment or a new cooler or even a weekend off.

If you’re overfilling on centerpieces, it’s likely that you’re overfilling on other pieces, too! It’s all real money – right down to that single rose. Don’t overfill. A florist may think, “This arrangement needs something else” (we’ve all been there!), but what other business gives product away for free? If you buy a canvas at an art supply store, the cashier doesn’t say, “You know what you need to complete this order? A paintbrush! Let me throw one in for free.” And do you know why she doesn’t do that? Because she’s clear on the price of the paintbrush (and she’d probably lose her job), that’s why.

You want to keep valuable, talented designers, but you cannot allow product to walk out the door for free. So what can florists do to course correct?

The first step is to make sure designers understand the consequences of overfilling! Show them this article and explain the flower math. If designers aren’t educated about why this is so detrimental, they may not recognize the gravity of the problem. Then you must follow up to make sure they do the right thing. And if you’re a designer who’s struggling to make a “decent arrangement” at X-price point, it may be time to have a dialogue with the owner on how you might increase the minimum order in the shop or stock more stems with lower price points so you can fill to value and also make it look full enough.

The moral of the story is this: What you allow, you encourage. If you don’t enforce the rules on overfilling, then you’re encouraging designers to continue giving flowers away for free. When a business is losing money, it’s difficult to stay in business. Florists must protect profit margins by following recipes and pricing properly. And remember, your value is not directly related to your stem count. You provide more than just stems.Whether you’re an owner or an employee, think about how that one extra rose adds up over the course of the day, week, month and year, and take action to correct your course so you can keep doing beautiful work.As a bonus, ask yourself:

• Do your employees understand the florist’s pricing model?
• Do you spot check to make sure arrangements are filled to value?
• Do your employees have to do the math on every order, or do they follow a pricing chart when creating recipes?
• How can you set up the designers in your shop to win? Ultimately, simple math can be the answer to a successful equation for your business.

By Alison Ellis