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The Florist’s Guide To Onboarding New Team Members

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After weeks (or maybe even months) of searching, you have finally found the perfect addition to your team. He or she is an incredible floral designer, able to win over most any potential client in a consultation, or knows the best customer service practices to keep a client happy and leaving rave reviews. The truth is, however, that no matter how amazingly talented new team members might be, there is quite a bit of work to be done before they are really part of your floral business.

Over the past month, my wife, Rachael, and I have been doing some new team member onboarding both at our St. Louis Shop, Twisted Willow, and at Stemcounter. We are trying to teach new hires all the daily processes and principles that now seem like second nature to us, such as key tenets of our company culture, how we market the company, special things we do to book new clients, and the 19 softwares we use to run our floral studio. Today we are sharing our detailed checklist for getting new people on the same page as us.

The Boring Legal/Technical Stuff

As exciting as it is to grow your team, most flower shop owners and managers hate bringing in new people for one reason—the paperwork. So let us just get this out of the way up front: sign the contract, fill out any necessary legal forms, spell out the expected hours and how to log them, and discuss your payment schedule and what time off looks like (taking large events into consideration).

Don’t forget to give them a list of any desktop or mobile apps you may use that requires a download. For us, that includes Dashlane, Instagram, and Facebook Pages. We also find it helpful to offer a list of leading designers they could follow on Instagram to find inspiration.

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We train new hires to understand the various programs we use later on in our onboarding process, but it is worth mentioning now. Our team members don’t only need to have access to the tools we use, but they need to know how to effectively use them. We may be a bit biased but, for us, the most important tool that all of our team members need to know how to use is Stemcounter, a price management software we developed for weddings and other large events. The core of everything we do is built into StemCounter, from our preliminary questionnaires to creating and pricing proposals to integrating QuickBooks. We use Google Apps for our email and Google Voice for our phone line. We’ll use Pinterest from time to time but, for the most part, new hires know how to use it and it’s a simple drag and drop from Pinterest into our proposal software, so we don’t have to spend a ton of time teaching them.

Of course, this is not the same across the board. Before you begin training, plan out what tools each person needs to use. For instance, Instagram is paramount for designers, who need to stay up to date on trends, but not so critical for delivery drivers—and vice versa for navigational programs.

Our Story

Our company’s story is an integral part of who we are. This was a hard point for me to learn. So many times, I just expected that people should just show up to their first day of work and start working. But you need to give them an opportunity to buy in. For a team member to really understand why we do what we do and where we are going in the future, understanding where we came from is crucial. We want them to buy into our vision and know that they are becoming a part of that.

In the process of explaining our story, we emphasize our mission of creating a unique experience for each client as we help them #CelebrateForever. As our aim is to make a tangible and consistent difference for each of our clients, we ask each new team member to look over our reviews on TheKnot to get a sense of the various things we have done to leave clients raving about our work. It’s at this point that we shift the discussion from who we are and what we do to how we do it.

Introducing Our Company Culture

Every floral shop is going to have a different and defined company culture (even if you are just starting out). At Twisted Willow, our company culture centres on the fact that we are in a luxury business and our pricing requires the best and fastest customer service we can give.

Our first principle is GTD (Getting Things Done). We had one lead designer at one point who would use the phrase, “I tried my best.” Trying your best is lacking if the arbor falls over because we failed to set it up and test it before the wedding. The fact is that either something is done right or it’s not.

As a team, we have a list of things that need to get done:

following up on leads
contacting clients
scheduling consultations
dreaming up designs
finalizing proposals
ordering flowers
setting up events
washing buckets

…plus a plethora of office tasks
If a new team member is not going to be able to get things done, they don’t have a place with us. We don’t want someone who makes up excuses about why they were late finishing a task or who simply goes through the motions; our team is made up of exceptional people who are willing to go above and beyond and who are willing to admit when they don’t know how to do something or communicate if there is a real issue with what they are working on. If we are to expect this from them, we need to tell them up front.

We encourage feedback in every area of our shop. If there is something we are doing that can be done better or more efficiently, we definitely want to hear our team’s thoughts about it. However, once the project lead has made the call, we trust his or her judgment and go with it. This encourages teamwork and allows everyone to feel they have a voice and stake in the studio, while giving clear leadership and accountability for projects that need to be done.

Finally, we always remember that we are offering a premium experience for clients with more flexible and premium budgets, and how we present ourselves will always reflect that experience. Often times, we will work with clients who are working with a particular wedding planner or vendor we know well, so we want to ensure that we maintain a high quality in our connection with each client and execution of every event to maintain our reputation in the wedding industry.

I cannot overstate the importance of defining your floral shop’s culture for new team members up front. It’s only when a new person really buys into the core principles of your company that they will thrive in that environment and feed into the success of your team. If you don’t have them, get them. Core principles drive every aspect of our company and are expected to be seen consistently throughout each division at our shop. Without them, our team cannot be as efficient and effective in accomplishing our mission. After teaching our core principles, we teach our new team members some basic principles for each of our divisions: design, event execution, administration, and sales/marketing.

Design Principles

When it comes to design, we need our new team members to understand that our top priority is to make arrangements to fit the style the client desires. Sometimes a client may ask for an over-the-top arrangement but only offer a very small window of time to set it up. Our job is to develop a design that matches their vision and looks incredible while fitting within their parameters.

Event Execution

Event execution covers everything during the week of the event. In training a new team member, getting them used to our workflow is paramount. Whichever team member is taking point on the event is responsible for making sure everything is done (again, re-emphasizing our GTD principle). Because getting things done with excellence is a priority for us, we don’t have an issue hiring some extra help to make an event come to life. We introduce the new team member to everything we do throughout the week of the event and point out where they fit into that picture.

Administration

The administration portion covers most all of the non-floral parts of the business. We want to help the new team member understand that while their task may not be arranging flowers or cleaning up after an event, there is a leg of our business that has to deal with all the details. We’ve booked the client, now we need to coordinate everything to make sure our execution team can do a tremendous job. All the emails, texts, and the twenty-second summaries of proposals are a part of our administration. This also covers general maintenance including cleaning, fluffing pillows, checking the rug and window cushions, and adjusting the displayed vases to keep us looking in top shape in case a client decides to pop in.

Sales And Marketing

The last division we have in our shop is sales and marketing. When we’re talking to a new team member about this, the most important thing to emphasize is that we need to make sure the client is totally content, from receiving very quick responses to their emails to enjoying an incredible experience in the consultation. We walk them through our entire process of landing and satisfying customers, even if they aren’t directly on the sales team.

With that in mind, we respond quickly to new inquiries and do all we can to book qualified clients in the consultation (we qualify them by using the budget calculator on our website). We also use the Stemcounter software to create a proposal during the consultation because speed is super important if you want to retain the connection you had.

Our marketing efforts range from participating in wedding shows to maintaining an active social media presence. Throughout every marketing channel, we recall our mission of offering a premium experience for clients. We have defined standards for photos that are shared on our Instagram and Facebook pages because we know that clean and professional pictures are what will generate the overall premium vibe we want. Because our mission is a central point throughout our onboarding process, our new team members come to think of everything we do in terms of the standard of excellence our clients expect.

Final Thoughts

Onboarding a new team member really is a tedious process. But we’ve learned from having several people rotate through positions that it’s much better to address all these logistical details ahead of time rather than having a conversation later in the relationship about why they aren’t following up with client quickly enough.

When you break it down, as we have, and focus on training the new team member in one area at a time, it becomes much more palatable for both you and them. It takes time, certainly. And honestly, it feels a little awkward the first or second time you do it. But it’s worth it to gain a high team member retention rate. Ultimately, you’ll end up having to train fewer people because you were thorough upfront.

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Ryan O'Neil
Ryan O’Neil is the co-founder of https://Curate.co, a proposal software for florists that creates beautiful, on-the-spot proposals accurate down to the last pincushion protea. His beautiful bride, Rachael, and he started Twisted Willow Design in St. Louis, Missouri two years ago, which is now one of the quickest growing event floral design companies in the midwest.
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