Last week on the blog, I shared all about how I approach the client lead process and the initial consultation meeting. This week, I want to share what happens after the client books. This is the part where we get to do what we do best – designing flowers and being creative, but there is a smarter way to approach ordering product than with a pencil, paper, and calculator. I’m sure you can already guess what I’m going to say…my lifesaver is my recipe program, Ularas. I know, I know…this is the thorn in all of our sides. But hear me out, because this is hands down how I’ve been able to find freedom in my business and scale from doing small weddings to large luxury six-figure floral budgets.
A recipe program is perfect for every business structure: solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, large teams, small teams – as long as you want to be profitable (of course you do!) and put yourself in a position to scale your business, a recipe program is right for you. As a solopreneur, it’s a lot easier when the flowers come in for you to make modifications on the fly – we are creatives, after all. However, using recipes creates a structure which allows you to step away if necessary.
There is so much pressure on us to deliver, especially when we’re a one-person show. We’re working with couples on one of the most memorable days of their lives, and as great florists, we don’t take that lightly. But at some point in time, we have to set ourselves up to not be the be-all and end-all in everything we do. What if we have a family emergency or crisis to tend to on the same day as an event? Now you’re faced with the task of having to choose between a family emergency and work, or you’re scrambling to try and convey to people exactly what needs to happen to create the event the way you would. Putting those parameters and safety nets in place through using a recipe program will save you SO much stress and give you a huge amount of freedom if something like this ever comes up for you.
Let’s be honest, to err is human, especially as you start scaling your business and doing five and six figure floral budgets. The old school way of calculating your numbers using pencil, paper and a calculator is scary because those errors can easily be made. For many years, I used a comprehensive workbook in Excel. Over time, I found that the formulas and calculations can become tainted, which increases the margin for error when ordering product. Needless to say, working with an online based recipe program like Ularas ensures that I’m not making those mistakes that I made so easily with the less reliable methods I was using in the past.
I get the question all the time, “How do you design events with five and six-figure floral budgets, and where do you even start?” Honestly, you start with one design element at a time and it starts with having a recipe and organizational system in place. You can’t do an event of this scale all by yourself, so that means you either hire a team of experienced freelancers or your current staff works in conjunction with the guest designers to help execute the event. This team not only needs to be excellent at what they do, but they also need to know exactly how to create the designs you dreamed up with your client’s vision in mind. Effectively communicating this with your in-house staff and freelance designers will help keep the event production running smoothly and efficiently.
I recipe all flowers and hard goods per the approved design document provided to the client. All containers are either pulled out of our inventory to ensure we have no crossover with another event or new hard goods are purchased. A list of flowers is sent off to our wholesaler for pricing and all tentative rental orders are placed.
To help keep us organized, I print a copy of the Ularas production report which includes a pull list for my logistics coordinator so she can pull and prep all containers and hard goods along with our bagging systems for bouquets and corsage and bout boxes.
On Tuesday morning, I have a staff meeting where we go through any pertinent information pertaining to the overall design and client expectations along with reviewing what product will be arriving. I provide them the workbook complete with the final contract, the design inspiration, production report and a full recipe book which covers everything from the bridal bouquet to centerpieces. Everything is spelled out for them making it easy for anyone to jump right in.
Typically our product arrives between Tuesday and Wednesday morning unless specific flowers need longer to open. The team processes the flowers and cross references the quantities against the production report. On multiple event weeks, the buckets are labeled with the event name and placed on designated metro racks. Once the product is hydrated and accounted for, the design team dives in! Each designer is assigned a specific area to focus on based on their overall design strengths, a sample design is created for my approval and we’re off to the races. Quite often there is a mock up I’ve create for the client months prior for the designers to use as a guideline.
Side note, I also order 5-10% additional product in case we need to make adjustments on the fly during production. This gives me and my design team a little more creative freedom and flexibility which is so important.
On event days, I typically have a team of anywhere from 4-10 designers working on-site including an incredible support team. The beauty of our recipe workflow is that I don’t always have to physically be onsite at every event. However, it’s also important to remember that whether you’re doing large or small events, it’s important for everything leaving your studio to match your brand and meet your client’s expectations.
I love comparing this to food….because really, is there anything better than a food analogy? If you were a chef who created fabulous and delicious meals, you probably wouldn’t let your sous chef just start throwing in whichever ingredients he wanted to. You would have a recipe for them to follow to make sure your guests received a consistent and on-brand dish. This is exactly the same in our floral design world with recipes.
Many of the freelance designers I work with tell me how much they appreciate when things are organized. They love the fact that they can jump in and design right away. The best thing you can do for your designers is to keep yourself organized so they can come in and knock it out of the park for you.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
Even though I love Ularas, there are several other programs out there you can choose from. Here are some of the most popular options:
The reason I like Ularas is because it’s a highly functional program with lots of customizable options for proposals, contracts, organization, ordering the product, and lots more. But, like anything, I would encourage you to find one that best meets your needs and run with it!
One of the biggest arguments I hear against using a recipe program is the financial investment. I get it, it IS a big investment, but I encourage you to really take a long hard look at what your time is worth. Our monthly obligation is $99.00 per month which is nominal in comparison to the time I save, not to mention the increased profitability.
At the end of the day, using a comprehensive recipe program like Ularas is by far the biggest contributing factor to how I’ve scaled my business and become more profitable. As your business grows, so will the demands on your time and talents, so be kind to yourself. If this old girl can do it, so can you!! I’m wishing you all the success and I hope that this information is helpful, but please do not hesitate to reach out or leave a comment below.
Photography courtesy of Nathan English Photography