February 2013: Letter from John

Welcome to Floricane 2013. If last year was all about financial survival (it was), then this will be the year of stabilization, alignment and delight.

It's a tricky balance.

Even as I try to absorb some very important lessons about discipline and fiscal prudence, Floricane's business model pushes our team to constantly explore the edges of the envelope. And while our clients appreciate our ability to stretch the conversation and increase their discomfort in constructive ways, they also value constancy, effective planning and execution.

One of the hardest things to do as a business is to simultaneously give customers what they want, and to delight and surprise them in the process.

As I chew on the end of my pencil and reflect on my recent experiences as a customer, I'm hard-pressed to come up with truly great examples of a business that wows me in the process of meeting my needs. I mean ones that really, really wow me.

Earlier in the winter, Thea and I wandered into the new WPA Bakery in Church Hill to check it out, and get something for breakfast. It was warm, cozy, personal. The muffins were good. The staff was friendly.

And then Kendra, one of the owners, gave Thea a cup of buttermilk hot chocolate with a massive, homemade marshmallow floating in the steaming mug. The look of delighted surprise on Thea's face -- that's what I mean. It is so freakin' easy to deliver, and yet so hard.

I think it starts with the basics. You have to get the fundamentals right every time.

Then there's delivering on your brand promise. At each touch point in an interaction, customers should consistently experience the unique and distinct aspects of your business, especially the ones that you market and promote publicly.

The third element is built around relationships. Your business should feel personal. Your customers want to feel a connection with you and your employees that suggests they actually matter to you as something more than a transaction or receipt.

You have to land all three of these cornerstone elements. Only then can you delight a customer.

As Floricane hits 2013 at a hard sprint, we're taking time to work our way through our business approach. We're retooling our processes, the basics of our business. We're recommitting to ensuring each client touch point is aligned with our brand. We're redoubling our investment in our relationships -- with our past and current clients, our partners and our friends in the community.

And then we're going to make sure we deliver a massive, homemade marshmallow atop every interaction.