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  • My Way: Leadership — Sharing Your Vision
    By Sam Viviano

    The Retail Florist

    As the manager of a retail flower shop, you have the responsibility of sharing your vision with employees. One of the best ways to do this is to meet regularly with your staff.

    When I actively managed Bartz Viviano Flowers and Gifts, I held monthly staff meetings. We talked about where Bartz Viviano was headed and our goals for the future.

    Most importantly, I asked my staff for their input. I presented our progress on not only where we were in regard to our yearly goals but also our progress toward the company's five-year plan.

    Asking for input let the employees know they shared in the responsibility of meeting the shop's goals. And that was critical because the management team and other employees had to buy into the program or it wouldn't work.

    Inspiration from Abroad

    We also set up a suggestion box, which I wish had been more successful because I considered it to be important.

    Many Japanese companies, for instance, receive more than 90 percent of new ideas from employees, not from a research and development department.

    Sony is one good example. Sony had a program whereby employees were rewarded simply for submitting their ideas — regardless of the quality of the suggestion. Sony tied pink balloons on the desk of each employee who submitted an idea. A committee determined the quality of suggestions and gave cash rewards accordingly.

    Sony didn't try to hit home runs every time but followed the dictum of striving for a little improvement every day. It stuck to its plan and constantly tweaked the plan for improvement.

    That is basically what I did with Bartz Viviano. I made a plan and followed it. If you constantly change your plan, it shows that you didn't think through the plan in the first place.

    Required Flexibility

    I don't mean to say that changing direction is never warranted. For example, when I first started in Toledo, Ohio, the major emphasis in the floral industry was to increase the size of the pie — to get more people to use more flowers for non-occasions.

    Consequently, Bartz Viviano grew to six stores within a short time. "Location, location" was the mantra by which we lived. We went where the people were.

    That worked well for about 15 years, until the early 1980s. For eight straight years our business doubled every two years. But then the supermarkets got into the act — in a big way. I saw our business level off and actually start to decline.

    Obviously, we were on the wrong path. I called my management team together, and we decided to change direction. We changed our focus from being basically a cash-and-carry florist to becoming a full-service florist.

    Making the Change

    Of course, we were actually always a full-service florist, but our focus had been on cash-and-carry items. We decided to become the best at being a full-service florist. After a couple of years, our business started to rise again. We were the first in our area to open on Sunday and the first to offer a one-hour delivery service.

    We started providing strong competition in the area, and my fellow florists didn't like me. I considered that a good sign. We were doing something right.

    We didn't give up on cash-and-carry flowers, our single stem flowers, or our Hero Bouquet®. We continued to sell cash-and-carry flowers. But we simply couldn't overcome the convenience factor of the supermarkets on that item, even though our flowers were fresher and cheaper.

    Types of Leaders

    How do you share your vision? I don't believe that only one style of management or one type of personality works. People with very divergent personalities have been equally successful. In my mind, there are two distinct types of leaders: directive and supportive.

    A directive leader tells people what to do, how to do it, where to do it and when to do it, and then supervises their performance.

    A supportive leader listens to people, provides support for their efforts and then facilitates their involvement in problem-solving and decision-making. There have also been successful leaders who are a combination of both styles.

    I believe certain qualities are common to all effective leaders. A good leader:

      • Leads by example;
      • Has the "fire in his belly" — a love for the business;
      • Loves the job;
      • Lives and breathes the business.



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