2018 Great Lakes Floral & Event Expo

Excited to be contributing to two sessions for retail florists at the 2018 Great Lakes Floral & Event Expo in Grand Rapids.

The GLFEE (formerly the GLFE) is one of the very best events in the retail flower business and probably my personal favorite. It's run by the Michigan Floral Association (including industry superstar Jerome Raska, Rod Crittenden and Cindy Ching) and takes place in Grand Rapids each March.

In 2018 year I'm contributing to two presentations. The first is an all day business session on Friday March 2, alongside two of the people I respect most in this business – Derrick Myers of Crockett Myers (THE accountant to retail florists) and Ryan Freeman of Strider SEO (expert in SEO/SEM & Reputation management for retail florists).

Each year we work with hundreds of flowers shops – primarily in a professional capacity but, frequently, in a kind of bartender/priest mode, with shop owners telling us things they wouldn't admit to anyone else.

We see strange things. Like new owners, with no experience in the floral industry, having tremendous success. And seasoned second and third generation florists, with all the experience and knowledge in the world, struggling. Florists that have made decisions that looked good on paper than led to their ruin, while others have made counterintuitive, seemingly dangerous decisions that really paid off.

It can see random but, over time, patterns emerge. There are red flags that can indicate trouble on the horizon long before the trouble actually starts. Harmless looking detours that lead to ruin. And of course there are best practices, often un-glamourous and overlooked, that lead to success.

That's what this session is about. We're going to share everything that we have learned to help florists avoid costly mistakes, see when they're drifting off the path, and help them be more profitable.

The second is a 75 minute business session on how retail florists can use the most powerful tools in revenue management and value based pricing to increase sales and profits. This content is VERY different than anything else you will see on pricing in the flower business and will help your business.

Complete Guide: Showing hidden files & hiding visible files on Mac

Showing and hiding hidden files on a Mac is not quite the same as hiding and showing visible files. This looks at a complete guide to best practices for both options on Mac OS X.

By default Mac OS X hides some files from the user – they're there, you just can't see them. Sometimes advanced users will need to see these files, and they'll need to follow special steps to make them visible. Typically they will want to hide these files again later.

Other users wants to hide files that would normally be visible, most often to secure sensitive information, and make these files visible only when needed.

Toggling visibility... making hidden Mac files visible and visible files hidden – it seems like one approach might work for both. And while it can there are really better approaches.

It can be a little confusing, but this series of posts makes sense of the best way to hide visible Mac files, show invisible Mac files, and then put everything back the way it was again.

 

Showing Hidden Files On A Mac

As already mentioned there are many files in Mac OS X that are hidden by default. This is because they are typically of no use to the user and, if visible, they would only clutter up the interface.

But some users may sometimes need to see and access these hidden OS X files. A common example would be the .htaccess file on an OS X server – a web admin will often need to make this file visible so they can make edits, and then hide it again.

There are a few different ways to do this, and this first article looks at the best way to make hidden files visible in OS X. It also shows you how to hide or make them invisible again when you are done.

 

Hiding Visible Files In Mac OS X

Other users want to take files that would normally be visible on their Mac and make them invisible.

At first glance it seems like the steps above, in reverse order, would do they job. And, yeah, that kind of works. But it's really not a good practice.

And that's because of the reason why the user wants to hide the files in the first place: it's normally because they contain sensitive information that they don't want anyone to see.

If information is sensitive enough that you want to hide it then just hiding it isn't enough. This is known as security by obscurity, and it isn't real security. If sometimes finds the Mac files you tried to hide they're going to have access to all that information.

The only way to really secure your files in OS X is to encrypt then hide them. The encryption part is the most important part, it's like putting all of your files into a secret code that only you understand. The hiding part is just so that nobody even knows the files are there.

You can't get this kind of security by just making files invisible, but there is a way to hide and truly secure and encrypt files in Mac OS X.

 

Another post takes a more on-depth look at the difference between showing hidden files and hiding visible files on a Mac.

Help! LTC Litecoin Stuck In Hive Wallet

When the Hive online wallet shut down a lot of LTC enthusiasts lost access to their Litecoin. Don't worry, your Litecoin can be recovered. Here's how.

Hive was a great online wallet for storing both Bitcoin and Litecoin. Unfortunately it is gone and, even more unfortunately, a lot of people weren't notified and may assume they have lost access to their LTC.

There are some great instructions for recovering Litecoin online, but they can be a little bit daunting for people not familiar with the steps and tools involved.

This article provides in-depth instructions for recovering Litecoin and moving them to a new wallet, along with screenshots. It should make the process easy for anyone.

Little Snitch Alert: gamed wants to connect to static.gc.apple

Decrease the number of Little Snitch alerts like "gamed wants to connect to static.gc.apple" by disabling services you don't need in Mac OS X.

 

If you run Little Snitch on a Mac you are likely to get frequent alerts about connections from the "gamed" process. The full alert usually looks something like this:

 

And reads as follows...

gamed wants to connect to static.gc.apple on TCP port 443 (https)

... and means the system is trying to connect to the Apple Game Center.

You can make these alerts go away by creating a rule in Little Snitch, but if you are using the machine as a server it's likely you don't need the gamed service is running. Even a dedicated work machine is unlikely to need access to game center.

So instead of having gamed constantly trying to connect to Game Center and Little Snitch remembering that it needs to allow it why not just disable the gamed process?

There is no way to do this through the GUI, but it is possible. Take a look at this post for instructions on how to disable the gamed process in Mac OS X.

 

Recover Bitcoins From Your Hive Bitcoin Wallet

Hivewallet.com has officially closed down but there is an easy way to recover any bitcoins you may have had saved in your Hive wallet.

In September of 2015 the founder of Hive announced that after a year of very little development all development had officially stopped. In April of 2016 the hivewallet.com website officially closed down.

Because of their pro-privacy stance there was no way for Hive to notify all users, and some of us only became aware of it when we tried to log in only to learn it was no longer possible. The immediate thought is almost certainly "how do I get my bitcoins back?".

There are some approaches outlined on github, but most are somewhat daunting. There is however a much simpler approach to recovering your bitcoins from Hive documented with step by step instructions.

Sort Bookmarks In Chrome - Open Source GitHub Project

Sprucemarks is a Google Chrome Extension that automatically sorts your bookmarks. Available in the Chrome Web Store or as an open source project on GitHub.

This is another great project from Daniel Gagan at ForestMist, an extension for Google Chrome that automatically sorts your bookmarks.

This extension is a lifesaver for anybody with a big collection of bookmarks. And, like everything Daniel does, it looks great and works perfectly.

You can get it on the Chrome Web Store or as open source project (MIT license) on GitHub.

Admitting A Negative To Establish Authority & Credibility

The marketing campaign for a moisturizer admits a negative to establish authority and credibility, something retail florists should consider.

There is a tradition in marketing of admitting to a negative as a way of establishing authority and credibility right before making the strongest claim.

One commonly cited example is Buckley's cough syrup, which has long used the line "It tastes awful (admitting an inescapable negative). And it works (their most important claim)".

Too often in the flower business we want to argue subjectives. The "tastes awful" part above is subjective, but it is a feeling most people share so the campaign  chooses to own it and use it to establish their authority.

There are are parallels in the flower business. Many consumers feel that flowers don't last. Like taste that is largely subjective. How long is long enough? If we're in the business we want to argue that they do last as long, and possibly longer than can be expected.

That would be like Buckley's arguing that their medicine tastes as good as could possibly be expected given the ingredients in it. But they don't do that because they know they can't win – if someone thinks something tastes bad there is no point trying to tell them otherwise.

So Buckley's uses it to their advantage. They concede a point they were going to lose (taste) to win a bigger argument (that their product is effective).

This post looks at a recent campaign for Lubriderm that uses the same principle, and at how that same principal might be used to create a more compelling argument for buying flowers.

Call OS Level Commands On FileMaker Server From A Script

How to call an OS level command (like command line exe) on a FileMaker Server by script from a FileMaker Pro client.

This is different than the native "Execute Script On Server" step in FileMaker, which can only be used to execute another FileMaker script. Instead this involves executing an OS level command – the kind of thing you would normally have to do via the command line, which in turn requires command line access to the server.

Charles Delfs of Delfs Engineering, a FileMaker consultancy, has shared a solution that uses a simple PHP helper file that acts as a command proxy between your Filemaker Script and the Server OS command line. As long as you have an authorize token key this will allow you to execute OS level commands by FileMaker script without direct access to the server command line.

http://www.delfsengineering.ca/blog/2016/1/31/run-commands-on-server-from-a-script

Call Toll Free + 1-800-870-3001? Don't Do It!

You may see an alert in the Safari web browser telling you to "Call Toll Free + 1-800-870-3001". This is referred to as browser hijacking – don't call!

 

A misspelled url or inadvertent click may send you to a website that immediately presents the window shown below:

Call Toll Free 1-800-870-3001

This is a kind of browser hijacking, and the people that caused that message to display are not your friends. Calling that number will only lead to more problems and tremendous expense.

But don't worry, your machine is not really locked. Simply click the "Don't show more alerts from this webpage" box at the bottom left, then close the tab/window that remains. It too will display more warnings (as shown below), just ignore these too.

If that doesn't work, or you don't see the "Don't show more alerts from this webpage" checkbox, don't worry – just check out this post on escaping this browser hijacking attempt.

Using Discount Codes To Track Advertising Efforts

Great look at how discounts codes can help small business owners track the performance of their advertising/marketing efforts more accurately.

 

This short post on using discount codes to track advertising/marketing efforts looks at the poster below...

... and how the producer is using the promise of a 10% discount to motivate the ticket-buyer into doing something they otherwise would not care about in the least – helping the producer track the effectiveness of their various advertising and marketing efforts.

Getting It Backwards: Free Websites For Florists

The promise of a free floral website is grossly misleading, and represents an expensive step backwards for most florists.

 

"Free" is powerful, making it something many vendors are keen to exploit. They'll do almost anything to portray their product/service as free even when they actually represent incredibly expensive alternatives.

One example is the introduction of "free" websites for florists. Some vendors are now offering "free" e-commerce floral websites, hoping to take advantage of the magic that comes with the promise of "free".

Of course these websites aren't free at all. Instead of charging the florist a fixed monthly or yearly fee they take 30% of every order that goes through the website.

This of course gets incredibly expensive very quickly. There is a full breakdown on the true costs of a free floral website available online, but for now just consider a very low volume site that generates just four $50 orders each month.

This translates into $2400 in annual online sales, with $720 going to pay for the "free" website. Even in this low volume scenario that is $120 more than it would have cost the florist for a standard Flower Shop Network website. The "free" florist website is actually more expensive than a paid alternative.

And it just gets worse as volume goes up. Consider a florist that does $50K in online sales annually:

If those florists had "free" websites they would be giving away $15,000+ each year. The free website that they hoped might save them maybe $1,200 ends up costing them almost $15,000.

This is almost $14,000 more than a florist would pay for a fully customized website from the best providers of customer websites in the floral industry – vendors like Strider Florist 2.0 and Epic Flowers.

 

It's Also Completely Backwards!

It's not uncommon for a new business to choose higher variable costs than lower fixed costs simply because their lower volumes and cash flow means they can't take advantage of, or benefit from, the savings that come with fixed costs.

Here is an old school example. Twenty years ago it was still common for florists to fax their floral orders into their wholesalers. A new shop, with limited capital and low volume, would often choose to pay the convenience store in the mall a couple of bucks a page to send the fax for them (a variable cost).

But as soon as they could afford it they bought a fax machine (a fixed cost) so they could enjoy significant savings. You never heard a florist say "I can't wait to ditch this fax machine and pay much more to have someone else send these faxes!".

But that is what's happening here, all because the word "free" is so powerful. It can blind some florists to the fact that a "free" website will ultimately cost them much more.

FileMaker and Google Maps: Complete & Proper Integration

FileMaker and Google Maps are both incredible platforms, and a full integration offers amazing possibilities. Doing it properly is very difficult.

 

There are many FileMaker solutions that involve waypoints – service calls, inspections, deliveries, etc. FileMaker is a great platform for managing this kind of data.

Google Maps is an outstanding tool for visualizing that data (by displaying those waypoints on a map) optimizing it (organizing the stops into the quickest possible route) and calculating times, distances, etc.

There are tremendous benefits to integrating a FileMaker solution with the Google Maps platform.  A database that keeps track of service calls or deliveries could feed the waypoint data into Google Maps and get back an optimized list, times, etc.

And doing it isn't very hard – the waypoint data can simply be sent into a FileMaker web viewer, and Google Maps does the rest. There are a number of approaches and products for this, all designed to make getting the waypoint data into Google Maps easier.

There is also a lot of room for improvement. A big part of that is getting data back from the map. Sending data from FileMaker to Google Maps is relatively easy, getting it back is much harder.

Why would you even want to get data from Google Maps back into a FileMaker solution? Imagine the goal of the solution was to optimize a list of deliveries (organize them into the shortest, fastest, most efficient route).... fairly easy. Just send the delivery data into Google Maps and it will do the rest.

But it would be even better if you could then sort the FileMaker records according to this new optimization order. You might even want to go one step further and get projected distances and times into the FileMaker records. That means getting data from Google Maps back into FileMaker, and this is much more difficult.

Another very important consideration is what Google calls page loads. You are only allowed so many of these, and using more starts to get very expensive.

For a traditional web app, where the map is embedded onto a page viewed through a browser, this isn't an issue. When the visitor first gets to that page it's one page load. The visitor then interacts with the data (adding waypoints, etc.)in that window. This does not involve additional page loads.

the FileMaker web viewer is very different because, by default, it triggers a new page load each time it pushes a change to the Google map. Imagine a FileMaker solution with a portal of deliveries. The user toggles these in/out of a Google Map where they are optimized.

Each and every time FileMaker pushes that change to Google Maps it is considered a new page load. This impacts performance, and can greatly increase costs.

Delfs Engineering is renowned FileMaker development and consulting company. They are often considered a "developer's developer" meaning that other FileMaker developers hire them to solve the problems that they can't.

In this role Delfs recently solved all of the problems above. They have a unique approach to FileMaker/Google Maps Integration that minimizes page loads (and the associated costs) and facilitates two-way communication between FileMaker and Google Maps. It's the kind of full-featured and cost-aware Google Maps integration FileMaker developers have been waiting for.

The Problem With Profitable Delivery

The goal to aggressively increase profit from floral delivery fees presents some serious problems for florists, and the industry, that are often overlooked.

Over the last few decades the floral industry has changed the way it approaches delivery fees. At one point delivery was, at least in many places, included free of charge. Then it was heavily subsidized.

Later it became a break-even proposition, then a profit center. Now florists are often encouraged to aggressively pursue greater profits from delivery fees. Making money in the flower business is very difficult, and pricing in the flower business is a very complicated subject, but high delivery fees overlook some known facts:

 

Everybody Hates Delivery Fees

The research on this is overwhelming...

Econsultancy found that 74% shoppers abandoned baskets due to high shipping costs.

http://luminadatamatics.com/articles/top-5-strategies-entice-price-sensitive-buyers

Amazon Prime was introduced because so many people abandoned their carts once they saw delivery fees. Prime uses what is known as a high-low pricing model to take the sting out of ordering from Amazon – Prime members don't have to pay shipping and buy much more often as a result.

 

You Can't Assume A Dialog

It is often said that if customers don't complain about delivery fees they don't mind paying them. That is a big assumption.

If you're in a restaurant and are surprised by the high prices, you aren't likely to complain about them or start a conversation on pricing with the owner. Instead you are likely to order less, and not go back.

This is the other glass ceiling, the one comprised of consumer expectations, and breaking it is dangerous. Your customers will leave, and they aren't likely to tell you why.

 

Everybody Hates A Monopoly

We're the only ones that can do it!

It is often pointed out that only real local florists can offer same day delivery. Floral drop shippers can't do it, and order gatherers can't do it without a real local florist to fill for them.

Since local florists are the only ones that can charge for local delivery, nobody will mind them charging a lot for it... at least that is how the argument goes.

Really? Do consumers really like it when business take advantage of a monopoly to jack their prices? Before Netflix and streaming became popular did people feel good about their cable bill?

 

Delivery is expensive to provide, and "free" may not be an option. Bundling is one option, one that works very well in other industries, but being reasonable with delivery fees is absolutely critical. Remember – the pizza guy does mostly out-and-back deliveries for a much smaller fee.

Being too aggressive opens the door for competition shown in the picture. These flowers will, almost certainly, be absolutely terrible. But the distaste for delivery fees is so powerful, and the appeal of free delivery so compelling, that this store will take some business away from local florists.

 

Your Supplier Might Be Stealing From You

If you have ever seen one of your suppliers crashing or suitcasing at a conference, convention or trade show they're stealing from you. You need to get a new supplier.

At almost any convention you will see vendors not just crashing but also suitcasing. It tends to be the same deadbeats with the same stories and excuses over and over again, but even first-timers are stealing from you and you need to get better suppliers.

You probably understand what is meant by "crashing" a convention or trade show – attending without a paid registration. There are always a couple of vendors prowling around the resort or convention center without a badge, acting surprised to see people.

They usually insist they "just happened" to be there, and that the whole thing is a remarkable coincidence. It's generally laughable, because so many conversations among paid attendees revolve around how hard it was to get to that particular vendor. But the crashers just had the good fortune to accidentally wind up there at the same time. Right.

If you see your supplier walking around a trade show, conference or convention without a badge remember something – they are stealing from you. You paid to be there. It's your money being used to pay for whatever your vendor consumes.

If you see your vendor suitcasing... that is a much, much greater sin.

 

Suitcasing is a parasitic business practice in which unethical companies will gain access to an event by obtaining some type of event credential (attendee badge, expo-only badge, etc.) and then solicit business in the aisles or other public spaces used for the conference. This practice skirts the support of the organizer and the industry. This does not pertain solely to soliciting the attendees of an event. As we all know, some of your biggest customers/vendors can be other exhibiting companies. So, when a salesperson for "Joe's Manufacturing" (who is not exhibiting) shows up in your booth in an attempt to earn your business ... they are suitcasing.

Definition of Suitcasing From Meetings & Conventions

 

Just to clarify – a suitcaser may also be a crasher. If someone crashes the event (no registration badge) and is also suitcasing they are being unethical twice. If they do have a paid registration they can still be guilty of the more serious crime of suitcasing if they have not paid for the right to exhibit.

Suppliers that are guilty of crashing and or suitcasing have proven themselves to be unethical, and that is reason enough to stop doing business with them.

But they are also stealing from you. If they aren't paying to attended and/or exhibit you are covering their share of the costs. Why would you buy from someone that was stealing from you?

 

Highest Rated POS Software For Florists

FloristWare is the highest rated and best reviewed POS system for florists on Software Advice review site.

Last week a review site called Software Advice started contacting our customers, asking them to review FloristWare.

This was done without our knowledge or consent. We did't ask Software Advice to do this because we wouldn't want anyone to bother our clients. Florists are busy, and it's not their job to to write reviews of our POS software. We wouldn't ask like that, and we were concerned that another company was doing it.

Fortunately our clients are great, and they didn't mind. They like FloristWare enough that they were happy to take the time to submit reviews.

The also said incredibly nice things in their reviews and ratings for FloristWare, things like:

I love the ease of use, all employees have had no problem learning how to use the program. The marketing features like reminder notices and the customer points has been of great value to increasing sales and customers love the reminders and points. The staff at FloristWare has always been terrific to work with from explaining a feature to resolving any issues that have ever arose. The owner is a pleasure to speak with and try to accommodate special request.

 

And:

There is very little I don't like about FloristWare. It does everything I need. New features are continually added to the software, and older features are updated regularly to allow superior customer service from us to our clients.

 

Our support department also got singled out for some special praise:

Support - from the research to the set up and from training to ongoing help desk - unparalleled. Response time for any question was the best I've ever experienced with POS systems.

 

And again here:

The vendor is superb - friendly, responsive and dedicated to the support of their customers. Floristware is a partner in my business, not just a tool.

 

The features in FloristWare also got several mentions including:

New features are continually added to the software, and older features are updated regularly to allow superior customer service from us to our clients.

 

More details on these latest reviews and ratings can be found on the FloristWare POS website. We really can't thank our clients enough for their loyalty and support.

 

What A Difference A Year Makes

A year or two ago florists started asking about the cloud, and the context was usually that they felt they needed a cloud-based POS system. How things have changed since then!

At a recent industry event, the biggest gathering of florists in the world with over 1000 in attendance, the cloud continued to come up, but this time in a very different way. The florists that are using cloud-based POS systems are looking to get away from them.

Why? Because what they were promised didn't begin to cover what they lost. For example...

 

  • They were promised that a cloud solution would make it easy for them to connect and work from home, but it also made the system painfully slow to use at the flower shop where it really mattered.
  • They were promised that cloud-based systems would be easier to maintain because they only required a browser, and no additional software. They didn't realize that if their internet connection went down, or the cloud servers went down, they would be without a system.
  • They were promised that cloud-based systems would be simple to learn and use, but nobody mentioned that this was largely because they were missing so many of the features that are taken for granted in the flower business. Things like automated printing for example – florists had to start printing every single document manually.

 

These are just some of the examples.

There are some great things about the cloud for retail flower shops, and it makes sense to take advantage of these when it works for the client. But, for most serious florists, the latest cloud-based floral POS systems involve just too much compromise.

Order Gathering in Floral Retail Sucks – How To Avoid It

Something called order gathering can really take the fun out of sending and receiving flowers. This is how it happens and how you can avoid it.

When you order flowers you take a risk – the risk that you fall prey to something called order gathering. This starts with a business that can't really fill your order (because they aren't really a florist, or because they are too far away from the recipient) trying to convince you otherwise.

They'll show you a great website, with great photography of beautiful flowers, and promise that is what you will receive. And of course they'll happily take your money.

Now they have a problem – they need somebody to actually prepare and deliver those flowers. But order gathering only makes sense if the order gatherer, the company that just took your order, gets to keep a big percentage of what you paid them.

So they start contacting real local florists that are near the recipient and seeing how cheaply they can get something, anything, delivered to the recipient.

They don't disclose what the customer paid, they don't want the filling florist to know. Instead they explain that they only got a little money, and ask what can be delivered in return. The emphasis is not on what you were promised and paid for, it's on finding the cheapest possible alternative.

The real florist, the one that does all the work, doesn't make any money. You don't get what you paid for. The recipient doesn't get what you intended. The only party that benefits is the order-gatherer, who did nothing but get in the middle and trick you from ordering from them. They didn't add any value, but they typically skim at least 30% of the total order value.

Order gathering in the flower business absolutely sucks. The good news is that it is easy to avoid. Follow these simple steps to make sure that you deal with a real local florist.

It's worth it. Research, and anecdotal experience prove that flowers really are the best gift in almost any situation.

EMV Payment Technology For Florists

We've recently had some questions about how the EMV payment standard affects florists. It is a important subject for any merchant (especially with the October deadline coming into view), but the flower business really is different.

Here are a few key points about EMV and how it relates to retail floral:

EMV transactions require three things: a credit card with a chip, a cardholder that knows the PIN, and a special EMV terminal that can read the card, allow the cardholder to enter the PIN, and confirm the result.

The technology makes it almost impossible for someone to make a fraudulent card-present purchase using a counterfeit, stolen or otherwise compromised card.

The EMV standard only protects the florist from liability for in-store card-present purchases made with a counterfeit, stolen or otherwise compromised card. In-store card-present transactions represent a relatively small percentage of overall sales for the typical flower shop. The use of counterfeit, stolen or otherwise compromised in-store is an even smaller percentage of that.

The EMV standard does not protect online/ecommerce transactions or telephone orders. Typically 70%-90% of the sales in retail floral are handled over the phone or an an commerce website and they will never qualify as EMV. As a florist you are much less affected by EMV than regular retail.

As of the deadline a florist can, if they wish, continue exactly what you are doing now with the equipment that you already have. Nothing stops working.

What does happen is that there is a shift in liability. Before the deadline the losses from a fraudulent card-present transaction fall back on the payment processor or issuing bank. After the deadline they will fall back on whichever party is least compliant, in most cases the merchant.

If your system is secure and has never been breached it does not become any less secure or more susceptible to a breach after the deadline.

Even the ABA expects only 50% of retail to be on EMV by the end of the year.