Building an Emotional Connection with Customers – Episode 22: Flower Shop Secrets

How can you exceed your customer’s expectations?

Even after a fire devastated their flower shop, Nicholas Flouskakos and his brother never stopped working to meet their customer’s needs. In this episode, Nick tells us all about how and why they work tirelessly to exceed their customer’s expectations, adding personal touches to the floral experience. Check it out!

Quick Summary

Key Takeaways

  • Exceeding Customer Expectations
  • Adding a Personal Touch
  • Surrounding Yourself with Good Employees

More About Our Guest

Nicholas and his brother are second generation florists and have been working at their shop Country Arts in Flowers since the early nineties. Adding to the crazy year that was 2020, the Flouskakos brothers had to rebuild their shop after a fire destroyed their business. They continue to work in a remote location to manage orders and creatively seek solutions to keep business going. Their goal is to keep Country Arts in Flowers vibrant and profitable for another generation of owners.

Full Episode Transcript

Everyone has tragedies in life, but that’s what makes you different. Whatever problems you may have that day I get it. Yeah, we had a fire but I was still thinking of my customer, I need to keep my customer base, everyone that is your customer you want to still keep them and make them happy…

Nicholas 0:00
Everyone has tragedies in life, but that’s what makes you different. Whatever problems you may have that day I get it. Yeah, we had a fire but I was still thinking of my customer, I need to keep my customer base, everyone that is your customer you want to still keep them and make them happy.

Joe Vega 0:17
So the big question is this. How can small business owners like us in the flow industry, overcome the greed of order gathers and bypass that the CFO games played by wire services? How do we market sell and deliver flowers online, so we may break free from these antiquated practices and earn our freedom? Those are some of the questions we will answer on this podcast. I’m Joe Vega. Welcome to flower shop secrets. Watch now on YouTube, like, subscribe and ring the bell for new episodes.

What’s up everybody? This is Joe Vega, and welcome to another flower shop secret podcast and today I’ll be speaking with Nicholas Flouskakos from Country Arts in Flowers in West Hempstead, New York. Welcome to the show, Nicholas.

Nicholas 1:02
Thank you. Thank you very much for having me, Joe.

Joe Vega 1:05
You’re very welcome. It’s a pleasure. Can you tell us a little bit about your backstory? How did you get in? How did you get started in the flooring industry?

Unknown Speaker 1:13
Well, I got started in the floral industry in 1989. My got into the flower business with my brother. We bought our first flower shop in the town that we’re actually in right now. In 1989, there was a couple that was retiring. And it was introduced to us to buy this place by a friend of my he wasn’t my wife at the time by her family. We were out at a barbecue with my wife to be and her neighbors were florists. And they had indicated they couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in the flower business if my dad was in the flower business. And I said, Well, I went to college. You know, I had a degree, I was working towards my Master’s in finance. And that was just something that I did while I was going through high school and college, both high school, college elementary school, all I knew what to do was work in a flower shop. So it wasn’t a career path that I had actually chosen to take. But, you know, things are things turn out in life that you really don’t expect then though, my brother and I ended up buying a flower shop in 1989 that was recommended to us. And two years later, we bought our second flower shop. And a few years after that, we decided we wanted to buy another flower shop, we just kept on striving. We both knew the business. We both worked at my parents store. And my parents had a small store maybe 400 square feet in a very busy area in Queens in Flushing, New York. And my father did very well for himself. He was also in business with his brother. And you know, we looked at it as you know, we can do something on our own that will be ours. We won’t have to work for someone else. We’ll be working for ourselves and we follow that path in

Joe Vega 3:10
life. That’s terrific. See a second generation Flores. What was your experience like growing up with a father in the floor industry? What did you learn from him?

Unknown Speaker 3:18
Hard work. That’s what I learned. It’s nothing is ever easy. And I just remember my dad working seven days a week at the flower shop having an occasional day off. And that was always instilled in me. And in order to become successful, you need to work hard or you know, you didn’t leave anything up to chance where people say sometimes you need luck to be successful. I believe that but I also believe that you really have to work hard.

Joe Vega 3:48
Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. You know, a lot of people nowadays they believe that they have the skill sets and they have the talent. And even if they have the money to start a business, that it’ll just work and they don’t realize that you need to have the grit to actually make it work.

Unknown Speaker 4:02
Right. Right. Totally, totally agree with you there.

Joe Vega 4:07
So what are the three big changes you’ve noticed in the Florida shift from when your father ran a flower shop today today with your flower shop?

Unknown Speaker 4:15
Well, back then, when my dad was in the flower business, florists sold flowers, they were the only ones that sold flowers. You didn’t have the type of competition that you have today. You can buy flowers anywhere, you can buy flowers at a gasoline station, you can buy flowers at Home Depot, you can buy flowers at a bodega, you can buy flowers at a supermarket. Back in the day back in the 70s and early 80s. The only place you can get buy flowers from was from a flower shop. And people just have so many choices now that things are harder. Things are a lot harder. But But then again, there are also more opportunities right now to do even better. So people are more edgy. cated and you just got to stand apart from the crowd somehow.

Joe Vega 5:06
Right? Well, it sounds, it sounds like there’s a ton of competition out there as that’s the major difference.

Unknown Speaker 5:12
So how do they, how do you stand out from the crowd, the customer knows what they want, and you got to make sure that you can deliver to the customer, what they’re looking for, again, they have so many choices, you have to, you just have to keep on catering to a customer. And you have to be willing to change with the environment, you can’t take your customer for granted. And if you realize you can’t take your customer for granted, you just have to You got it, you have to grow, you have to be you have to watch the trends, you got to see what people are buying, you got to stay involved in your business. Because if you don’t stay involved in your business, it’s just gonna go right by the wayside. You got to follow the trends, you got to read trade magazines, see what people are doing. See, when people are buying, because business changes, business evolves. And you’re, it’s, it’s just not the same. It’s, it’s like not in any type of business. Right? It’s a try to stay ahead of the curve.

Joe Vega 6:10
So what it’s like, you know, being in business or having a business partner that is your brother, like how’s that family dynamics, like,

Unknown Speaker 6:17
and we’ve dynamics that’s, that’s, that’s very interesting, and people go, you’ve guys never had a fight, you never. You never get you know, get at it. I am the oldest, I am the oldest in the family. My brother is the youngest in the family. There’s a four year age difference. And you know, something, we have our differences, but at the end, we’re family, right? So you know, a Ying Ying Yang. He does certain things that I can’t do i do certain things that he can’t do, I’m better at certain things. He’s better at other things. And when we both recognize that, we knew that we could be successful, I can’t do everything, and he can’t do everything. We tried to do the best with it.

Joe Vega 7:00
Right? Well, we’re stronger together, for sure. It seems like you guys complement each other very well.

Unknown Speaker 7:05
Yes, we do. Yes, we do. I think you need that in business, too. You can’t. You can’t have two similar personalities running a business. We are similar in our drive. We’re both driven men. We’re both goal oriented.

Joe Vega 7:21
Would you recommend for two brothers and two sisters to get in business together?

Unknown Speaker 7:27
What I recommend that, why not? Yeah, it’s still family. If you have communication. There? Of course you can. It doesn’t work for everyone. But it’s worked for us. So I can only speak for ourselves. I can’t speak for anybody else. So

Joe Vega 7:44
yeah. So something interesting happened to your shop in 2020. I mean, this story is is is insane. But you had you had a fire at your shop. Can you talk about that a little bit? Sure. I can. Oh, week after

Unknown Speaker 7:57
Mother’s Day, may 17. I get a phone call at the 430 in the morning, and they’re telling me that my store is on fire was a prank phone call. I get another phone call from the alarm company about 10 minutes later indicating that your store is on fire. So when into my car, you know went to my store and sure enough I see 125 firemen from like the surrounding towns join try trying to put out a Flower Flower trying to put out a fire at our flower shop. And wow. You know it was it was it was surreal. You know, it was something that no I never would have expected in my life. You know we’ve gone through so many different things but I just never expected our store to be on fire.

Joe Vega 8:54
So what what caused a fire and what actually ended up getting burned or like what was the story there?

Unknown Speaker 9:01
The story there is that it was arson. The person was apprehended A week later was just arbitrary. They the the person was responsible for 10 fires from March 16 until May 17. You know we also have cameras outside of our store and all the other businesses that were targeted. In the last two months they were able to put something together and the person was apprehended a week and a half after our fire actually trying to put another business on fire. It was just it was just our It was a lucky day.

Joe Vega 9:35
So he would just pick any business.

Unknown Speaker 9:37
It just put a fire to a car wash a nail salon, a restaurant, a deli, they were all small rubbish fires, you know fires that were put out our fire. They put a cardboard box on fire on the one of our vans it exploded then the next man went up and Then the building just kind of went up. And yeah, we had a total loss. Total or building was burned down. We’re still not in our location yet. Oh, wow. So

Joe Vega 10:11
you you basically had to reopen in another location?

Unknown Speaker 10:14
Yes, we did. Yeah, we, what we did is the day of the fire while the fire was burning, you know, my brother and I are thinking, well, there’s like six casket pieces in our back refrigerator that had to be delivered the next day. And we’re like, what are we gonna do I go, we’re gonna get them delivered. We’re gonna get them done. Wow. Like we do a lot of business with the funeral homes in the area. People know us. We’re an established business been there over 70 years. And we, you know, we have close ties with a lot of people in the industry. And there were many people that just offered to come and work out of their flower shops until we caught our bearings and started, you know, rebuilding. And we went, a friend had asked us, you can work out of my store. Now, we used to own his flower shop 25 years ago, before we bought this car location. So it was more of a natural fit, we knew the store. So we started working out of his store. The day after the fire, we were able to deliver our six casket pieces that were sitting in the back, because back then was you know, in the midst of COVID funeral homes or just doing an arrangement, you know, no viewings, no nothing going straight to the church. So we were still doing some sort of funeral work. And we, we were working out of his store. And you know, I’ll give him a shout out, you know, his name is Billy kanopolis, from New Hyde Park florist, great guy. And, you know, we didn’t miss a beat, we had a devastating fire, but we were still in business the next day. And we were able to save all our computers, all our records, our hard drive, and I have a very close friend who’s in the computer industry was able to save everything. So our computers were up and running the next day. So we just have to explain to our customer base that we were working from a remote location until we set ourselves up in another store for the time being. So we were at my friend, Billy store from May, May 18, until July 15. And we had rented a spot across the street from our original location, country arts and flowers. So we’re working out of a store in a shopping center. So things have been good, considering, you know, going through COVID and, you know, business has been off because we’re not doing the weddings or the parties that we used to do. We’re okay. We’re okay. Yeah, no, we’re in a lot better condition on a lot of other flower shops are in. So

Joe Vega 12:51
that’s an that’s an amazing story. I mean, Billy definitely deserves a shout out for sure. And the fact that you still deliver, managed to deliver those flowers. I mean, that’s just I mean, that says a lot. You know, not everybody would do that.

Unknown Speaker 13:06
Well, listen, again, everyone has tragedies in life, but that’s what makes you different. I believe for someone else, you still have to deliver. If someone’s paid for a product, you have to deliver it. Whatever problems you may have that day, I get it. Yeah, we had a fire but I was still thinking I was thinking of my customer. I need to keep my customer base. You know, we’ve established a great customer base, and you know, things are rough, and things are rough with COVID. But everyone that your customer, you want to still keep them and make them happy.

Joe Vega 13:35
Right? How did the customers understand that? Did they get it?

Unknown Speaker 13:41
The customers have been so understanding, so supportive, the whole community of West Hempstead, you know, they all reached you know, what the organizations in West upset, they all reached out to us. We were you know, my my brother and I were like, wow, they made a great impression on us. But we’ve also made an impression on them, too. We’ve been there for we’ve been there for them, and they’re there for us. So that’s community. You know, I feel like it’s family. Everyone were very, very supportive. very supportive.

Joe Vega 14:15
Yeah, that’s a beautiful thing to see. I mean, florists are, you know, a staple of everyone’s community of the community itself. And when it actually when something actually bad happens like that is it feels such a great story to hear them, the community actually take care of you guys as well and being understanding with all that.

Unknown Speaker 14:30
Well, they were they were very supportive. And again, we’ve ran our business like we were still wanting it out of our own location, you know, there was nothing too small for us to do and nothing too large for us to do. We just kept on continuing doing business as we weren’t our original location where our original location was a 3000 square foot building. And the place that we’ve rented now is 1000 square feet, which is other challenges, you know, especially going through You know, Valentine’s Day, but we’ve been able to overcome them and, and then we can get back to our old location, you know, bigger and better than what we were before.

Joe Vega 15:11
Wow. So, overall, though, how did you maintain customer engagement? When your back office? is such a state of change? Did you? Did you place extra focus on customer engagement? What did you do

Unknown Speaker 15:22
extra focus on just customer service. We were doing a lot more business on the internet. And you know, something, just by looking at our, I’m sure you can see a lot of our reviews still, it just said, Listen, every quarter that we’re getting in through the internet, every word that we’re getting through lovingly, you better make sure that it exceeds the customer’s expectations. Because this is what people read this is this is the era that we live in, people look at reviews. And reviews are very, very important. And just because we had a fire, and they were out of commission for a little while, we need to keep our customer base, we can’t take it for granted that we built a great business. Okay, so we had a fire. So now we can take the foot off the gas. And when everything is fixed, we can get back to normal again. No, you just got to keep on striving, you got to keep on pushing.

Joe Vega 16:14
In terms of being a florist. What’s your favorite part of being a florist

Unknown Speaker 16:19
and dealing with people? I love dealing with my customers, I’ve, I’ve become friends with many of my customers. I like people, I still you know, I have no problem talking to people, I have no problem asking them about their lives. You know, just that extra touch, you just personalize things a little bit more. That’s all I’m there every day My brother is there every day. We’re both hands on owners.

Joe Vega 16:52
So you know, we we’re still engaged with our customers, you make it personal, right? You want to you want to give that extra touch, you want to be able to make sure that it’s all about the the entire experience, not just the flowers or the delivery. Does that sound right?

Unknown Speaker 17:06
Definitely. Definitely, you know, that’s what’s gonna pull you apart, you know, from everyone else. And, again, I know customers by first name many customers by first name. And I think people want that that’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking for a more personal touch. You know, like we discussed before, you can do anything you want. Now you can buy flowers from anywhere. But the people that are looking for that personal touch, we are that personal touch florist, as cliche as it may sound. I do believe that.

Joe Vega 17:41
That’s, that’s fantastic. What part of it seems like the best part of the part that brings you the most joy is obviously just those personal connections, then

Unknown Speaker 17:51
that is correct. Yeah, I believe that. I believe that in most of them have been more well good.

Joe Vega 17:58
Or good. Which part of the business do you is your responsibility,

Unknown Speaker 18:03
I take care of more the business aspect. And my brother does a lot of the backroom stuff. My brother’s the one quality control. You know, just dealing with a lot of the other stuff that I don’t deal, you know, that I don’t deal with, we both deal with the same stuff. But Tommy’s more quality control, Tommy’s the one that makes sure that the store is run properly, efficiently. My brother is very big in organization. And, you know, he he said it this way, in the way things are run evil, you know, he believes in an organizational model that this is the model that works. This is the model that we’re using efficiency. You know, being that both brothers we both actually have, we’re hands on workers. You know, we’re running a store that at one point that you would normally need 10 people running a place like this, there’s like six of us at the moment right now. So because we’re both still working, we’re both you know, we’re both one of us, you know, we have a full time driver helpers, this nut, but we have no problem trumping on a truck, doing that extra delivery that hasn’t been done, or someone that called in for something late in the day. You know, we’re cleaning flowers. We prepare we we look at every single flower that comes in every single day. And we’re also the ones putting it in buckets, we’re helping our employees in a sense that, you know, when we have like 40 or 50 arrangements that need to be done that have to be delivered by 12, one o’clock, we’re filling out their buckets with flowers that all they need to do is just design a beautiful arrangement. So we’re taking away a lot of the steps from them to make us more efficient. So we’re just producing a lot more work with a lot less people and we know exactly what’s going out. We know everything. customer, we see I see every customers or water, I rap orders, my brother raps, waters, you know, everybody’s helping each other, everybody’s job is basically interchangeable. You know, my designers will pick up the phone and take orders, they’ll design the. So everybody, we all multitask

Joe Vega 20:22
in there. That’s great. And it must be so influential in a positive way for your staff to see you, the owners actually get, you know, roll up their sleeves and actually work side by side with them.

Unknown Speaker 20:34
We know no other way. And I believe that’s one of the main reasons why would I believe that’s why we’re successful. Because we work and all my employees, we can do what we do without employees, and we have good employees. You know, we, we surround ourselves with successful people, and people that want to learn people that want to enhance themselves also. So it’s, you know, we’re all striving towards a certain goal.

Joe Vega 21:05
How do you balance the following? Because when you’re working in your business is very difficult to work on your business. So when you’re that involved, how do you still see the big picture?

Unknown Speaker 21:14
The big picture is just staying successful? And I have no problem working hard, you know, again, like, you want to take your foot off the gas just a little bit just to relax and, you know, catch your bearings, but I don’t, I don’t,

Joe Vega 21:34
it just seems to work for you. Right? I mean, plus you have your brother there. So it’s not it’s not always on on on one, it’s not on one person.

Unknown Speaker 21:42
That’s right. And again, that’s why that’s successful is because there’s two of us. One person complements the other.

Joe Vega 21:48
I mean, you’re definitely in it for, for for the right reasons. And you seem to care a ton you and your brother seem to care a ton about your staff and your your employees, but also your customers, the town, that community. And it’s a great thing to see.

Unknown Speaker 22:03
Overall, I

Joe Vega 22:04
mean, it looks like you guys are doing a fantastic job. How have you been able to make up for the difference in revenue, because as you said, the revenue from wire Services has decreased over time. So how have you been able to actually because a lot of shops haven’t been able to actually make that, you know, make that change or adapt to

Unknown Speaker 22:23
that we’ve tied our businesses very well diversified. We’re affiliated with six funeral homes in the area that we get constant work from, we do anywhere from 75 to 100 weddings a year, we’re affiliated with several country clubs in the area too. We’re also affiliated with a dozen churches. So we have a lot of commercial accounts still. So we have a lot of people that feed us a lot of business. And we’re just fortunate that we’re not concentrated or heavy in one industry. So like right now with COVID, you know, all our pointy work and wedding work has been off. But we’re still doing the funeral work, we’re still doing it and I find people are spending more money on flowers. Right? You know, people sending out more flowers. Uh, you know, we’re in the past the, it was just broken up differently. I find that, again, we’ve just been very fortunate that we have all these different revenue streams in the business that and when they when they all click together, you know, we’re, we’re very busy store.

Joe Vega 23:43
Wow. So it seems like dice certificate dice certification is a huge part of your strategy. Right? How could florist you know, develop those strategies, develop those relationships with those other businesses?

Unknown Speaker 23:58
Well, we were fortunate the business that we have right now country arts and flowers, we just deal with, when we have purchased the place, it was considered a carriage trade, in other words that most of our customers that we had were wealthy customers. And they, you know, we also heard from a lot of people in the industry that you may not be able to run your business model with these type of customers. And I just didn’t understand the fact that you know, that the former owner, the former owner, just a different did business differently than what we did. And I just wanted more of a diversification he just basically the party and parties and weddings. And that was it. I just wanted to start doing all the other stuff in the in the flower business that he didn’t do. And we were able to enlarge it in that aspect. As before, when we bought, it was basically known as a big wedding store, they did a lot of high end weddings, they did a lot of high end parties. And my brother and I had the background of working from a mom and pop flower shop, well, let’s bring all the other areas of the business into this to the funeral work. Also, he didn’t know, from what I understand, he didn’t do much in funeral work. And we’ve developed all these relationships with all the funeral homes in the area. And again, that they feed us, they feed us our business,

Joe Vega 25:30
are you getting more growth by working with businesses versus focusing solely on customers,

Unknown Speaker 25:35
the majority of your revenue is coming from funeral homes. As opposed to your customers, again, we have affluent customers that own businesses that sell flowers to other people. But when you’re dealing with funeral homes, you’re dealing with them on a daily basis. So they’re feeding your work. And if you have five or six funeral homes, you know, you multiply that by today. So you have you have that type of that type of exposure in the market. And then other people, you know, and then again, other people see your work. And you know, we’re getting customers left and right saying, you know, I saw your flowers at a week that I went to, and I had to call you up and then they’re becoming our customers, right?

Joe Vega 26:22
So if you were talking, if you were on stage talking to a bunch of florists, and you had one single message to tell them, what would you say to them,

Unknown Speaker 26:29
do work that you care about. You know, just make sure what you’re doing. Make sure you like what you’re doing in any type of business, not just in the flower business. And hopefully, try to surround yourself with good people, because you can’t do it all by yourself. Right? And just believe in your goals.

Joe Vega 26:50
You need to be passionate about it,

Unknown Speaker 26:51
and be passionate about what you want to do.

Joe Vega 26:54
Absolutely. In terms of, you know, hiring a good staff hiring a good team is vital. It’s incredibly important for any business owner, right? How do you how do you attract and keep the talents that you have?

Unknown Speaker 27:07
That’s interesting when we first bought the business that we’re in country arts and flowers, the I bought the business and I kept this old crew, they kept this old crew, he had a crew of eight people. And I just started realizing but this is this is not what I want. This is not what I need. It was it was time to make changes. So in one year, I just hired my own crew, I just hired people with the same vision that I had. I also hired people that had a knowledge of the business like a flower business. Just the dynamics of how, you know, a flower business works. And my well my first my first hires in my store, were a former business owner, a another young lady that was whose family was entrenched in the flower business. And these people just knew the dynamics of working in busy stores knew the dynamics of owning their own business. And these employees stayed with me until they retired. So and then everyone that I hire I when I when I hire someone, I need to know that they have more than 10 years experience, I need someone that’s been experienced working in a store that’s busy. I’m not looking for an employee that’s work that one location, you know, again, you’re you’re also looking for people that have the same type of mindset that you have. It’s hard, it’s just hard finding good employees. Yeah, finding good employees.

Joe Vega 28:47
Absolutely. Is it you know, you set a magic keyword right, then that’s mindset mindset is so important. Like if you need to, for example, I like to work with people who have a growth mindset. And that’s really important if you want to grow your business. So I couldn’t agree with you more. How important is the online, your website or the online channel for you guys right now?

Unknown Speaker 29:10
Well, that’s been growing the last three years, you know, and I’ve been watching the growth, which is you got to keep paying attention. You got to keep on paying attention because again, customers can go anywhere ago they’re fickle, but they’re also loyal to. So if you keep on doing the right thing by you know your customer he will remain your customer. And I pay a lot of attention to our website, a lot of attention. And we just, again, we try to exceed the customers expectations. And in most of our reviews are also showing that that the Wow. Customer Service to a lot of customers are also impressed by our turnaround time. They give us an order at 930 and it’s delivered by one o’clock in the afternoon. If it’s for sale for, you know, same day delivery, so, you know, I wonder that very, very carefully.

Joe Vega 30:07
So what do you like to do for fun? How do you guys unwind after a busy holiday have to after like, you know, you know, a long hard day of work, what do you do to unwind?

Unknown Speaker 30:15
What do I do to unwind? And well, I’m in Florida right now. You know, it’s a few weeks, a few weeks after was a few weeks after Valentine’s they put I like to get away. I like to unwind I like, I like to travel. Uh, you know, I, I like going to the gym and working out three, four days a week to blow off steam. But I love traveling. I love traveling with my wife. You know, I enjoy gardening. I enjoy golf. But yeah, that’s that’s the why and why.

Joe Vega 30:53
That’s fantastic. Nicholas, thank you so much for joining me today from country arts and flowers and went west Hempstead, New York. Where can people find you online?

Unknown Speaker 31:01
country arts and

Joe Vega 31:03
Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us.

Unknown Speaker 31:07
Thank you very much, Joe really appreciated. Thank you.

Joe Vega 31:11
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