New owners learn on the job + staff stays = business thrives
Janine Reynolds is an owner and buyer for Billies Flower House in Squamish, B.C., which she and husband Francis purchased in September 2018. Just more than a year later, with business growing and staff still in place, Janine reflects on their decision to buy the much-loved Billies and shares what she has learned since joining the floral trade.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
“We’d just had our third child, and it was time for me to return to my massage therapy business. My husband, Francis, was returning from yet another business trip to London, UK. We loved living in Squamish, between Vancouver and Whistler, but I was tired of massage, and Francis was tired of the travel associated with his work, so we took stock. We wanted to work together in our hometown, and we wanted to work on something that not only provided for our family but also supported the community.
We spent days driving around and doing research. Our neighbour heard that Billies was going to be up for sale, and she headed over to tell us. I was ecstatic because of all the Squamish businesses, Billies was my all-time favourite. It was meant to be.”
A LEARNING CURVE SO STEEP, WE WERE DIZZY
“Francis has an MBA., and I owned my own business. We have strengths as business people, but we did not have a clue about flowers. The design staff , who had made Billies successful, began our floral education and training. They continued what they had been doing so well, which was doing wonderful design and providing topnotch caring customer service.
As the trusted staff carried on as normal, we painted the store and moved things around, and I began to purchase gift ware with a more urban vibe. We wanted a modern and less country aesthetic to reflect the changing demographic of our town, as people move here from Vancouver and other cities.
We finessed processes and systems, saving time and resources and improving productivity and the bottom line. Francis is the back-of-house finance guy. He also worked on our website and is having great fun building things we need for weddings and events, like our frames for moss walls.
This year, we focused on increasing our wedding business, and we doubled the number of weddings. We are turning our attention to the corporate business that we know is here. It’s been a great first year.”
LOCAL AND CANADIAN GIFTS SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES
“Eighty percent of our business is walk-in. The community enjoys walking the town and shopping, and we have lots of out-of-towners. Fifty percent of our revenue comes from gift sales. I have grown this by sourcing candles, jewelry and cards locally. Anything I can’t purchase nearby, I’m buying from other Canadian craftspeople. Our giftware is a market within a market, and people are responding well to our changes. I’m the buyer for everything. Once a week, I order from the Vancouver Flower Auction and place a weekly order with United Flower Growers. One of Francis’ duties is drive and pick up the orders.”
QUALITY OF OUR STAFF HAS BLOWN ME AWAY
“In addition to Francis and me, we brought in my sister, Sarah Heslop, to be our bookkeeper. We inherited Amanda Smit, the manager and lead designer, and she is supported by assistant manager Jen Burry and designers Kelly Zavitz and Lynn Read. We have four part-time people who help out as needed. The talent and commitment of this team has been the most wonderful surprise, as they go above and beyond for our customers, their team and us.
WORDS TO THE WISE
“If you are embarking on a new business or thinking of expanding your present one, here’s what I’ve learned over this year: If you don’t know an aspect of the business, trust the people who do. Additionally, really treat your staff right. Pay them a bit more, provide benefits, treat them to lunch and off er thanks for work done well. We all hear that you are only as good as your staff , but here it is tangible. We are so grateful!”