Blooming success Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

When he bought Jones the Florist LLC in 2003, David Fisher wanted to change the culture and direction of the business. The only problem was, the president and principal owner had to lead the process alone because he entered the company operationally on his own.

“I was the only new team member on Day One, trying to begin that process of change alone, not without the people who were here but as an outsider,” Fisher says. “If I were to ever pursue coming into another business as an operator, I would want to do that with someone alongside me.”

Fisher went through the process one day at a time and kept a positive outlook. He also held on to talent already working at the company. “We recognized that there were some very capable and talented people here, many of whom are still here today, some of whom were capable for the job they were doing under my predecessor, but maybe not quite right for where we wanted to take the company,” he says. “You sort through that and see where your gaps are and go out and look for the best people you can.”

In three years, the company of 55 employees grew 25 percent to more than $5 million in 2005 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Fisher about what he looks for in employees and how he shapes his staff.

Q: How do you build a solid team?

You need to understand what your own weaknesses and deficiencies are. If you have a sense of that and are honest about that, then you need to make sure you have a close confidant in the business that can help complement your skills.

From there, it just goes from one area of the business to a department in terms of building the team. You have to assess what you have and see what the holes are and see if you can fill them from within. If you can’t, then come out with a game plan to get them filled and a timetable to do it.

Q: What qualities are you looking for in employees?

Common traits would certainly be people who have demonstrated a track record of success in some previous form or time in their career. That could be in an academic career, or it could be demonstrated success for what their chosen field had been previously. People who are self-motivated, self-starters and able to make decisions on their own. People who have come through some challenge or adversity. What did they learn from it? How have they overcome it? Have they been tenacious in accomplishing something they had set out to accomplish?

Probe for those kind of experiences or questions.

Q: How do you handle the interview process?

Depends on the level of the hire. Sometimes they will meet with me initially and work through some other folks on our management team and certainly direct managers or supervisors. I tend to be more involved in the hiring on our outside sales team or certainly our marketing and our senior management team, but less so when it would come to somebody in accounting or delivery or areas where I may not have the expertise myself.

With anyone I interview, I say, ‘This is where we are trying to go and this is what we are trying to do. Here’s how we see ourselves in the marketplace. Here’s how we are different.’

I basically would walk a potential hire through a sales presentation so they know, if we are talking to some corporation, they are hearing from me what it is I would be saying to that customer so they know what we are trying to accomplish. That consistent repetition and re-enforcement is helpful.

The recruitment thing is a two-way street. You have to find people who you like and you want to bring into the business and are a good fit. Sometimes you have to sell them that this is the right environment for them.

Q: How do you retain employees?

For some, it’s purely financial, and for some, it’s some financial but also creating an environment for them to grow and develop and hone new skills. In some cases, it’s, ‘Am I made to feel good about the contributions I am making?’

Some people need to be reminded and reinforced that, ‘Hey, you are doing great, and I really appreciate what you are doing.’ For some, that’s enough. For some, it comes from within and some people just take satisfaction in doing their jobs well.

Q: How do you find out what employees want?

It is getting to know the employee and having a relationship with them, whether it’s me directly or through the management team and our leadership group. I would have the same expectations of all of our managers in having those kinds of relations ships and conversations with their respective employees so they know what makes one tick versus the other tick.

HOW TO REACH: Jones the Florist, (800) 755-6622 or www.jonestheflorist.com