Stop and Sell the Roses: Lessons From Business and Life


Lessons from Business and Life

Everybody knows Jim McCann. He's the "flower guy," the CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS, who appears in all those terrific television ads. McCann is actually a unique corporate leader who in less than a decade took his company from the verge of bankruptcy to a $300 million business that ranks as the world's largest florist. Now in this upbeat, engaging book, McCann tells the amazing story of how he bootstrapped his way to ...

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Lessons from Business and Life

Everybody knows Jim McCann. He's the "flower guy," the CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS, who appears in all those terrific television ads. McCann is actually a unique corporate leader who in less than a decade took his company from the verge of bankruptcy to a $300 million business that ranks as the world's largest florist. Now in this upbeat, engaging book, McCann tells the amazing story of how he bootstrapped his way to phenomenal business success--and how you can do it too.

Forget the hard sell, the killer instinct, the power suit, and the iron handshake. If you want to make a business take off these days, you need to base it on relationships--warm, real, human contact with the people you work with and sell to. McCann says it best: "Like all human relationships, business involves a need to make contact. Satisfy that need and the money will follow."

In Stop and Sell the Roses, McCann shares the secrets he learned along his unique road to success, a journey that began in one of New York's toughest neighborhoods and resulted in a multimillion-dollar business. Learn from McCann how to:

Build invaluable loyalty through emotional bonds
Pick the technology that frees up your creative time
Harness the awesome power of the brand
Prepare for crunch times and stay tough when business is slow
Make money on the Internet by reaching beyond the computer screen
Hire passionate people
Leap-frog from job to job with an eye to your long-term success

And much more!

Funny, insightful, brimming with McCann's irresistible wit and street-smart wisdom, this is a business book like no other you've ever read--a book that will make you laugh as it gives you the tools you need to build your own winning business today.

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What People Are Saying

Robert Pittman
Jim McCann -- one of AOL's most innovative and successful on-line commerce partners -- demonstrates how he made 1-800-Flowers a true pioneer in telemarketing and E-commerce. A must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the future of retailing. (Robert Pittman, president and COO, America Online, Inc.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345416759
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/14/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim McCann is the president of 1-800-FLOWERS, the world's largest florist. Prior to becoming a florist more than twenty years ago, he was a social worker in New York City.

Jim was recently named Toastmasters International's top business speaker. His other honors include the Entrepeneur of the Year Award, the Retailer of the Year Award, and the Direct Marketer of the Year Award. He is also active in numerous business and community organizations, including the board of directors of Gateway 2000, OfficeMax, the National Retail Federation, PETCO Animal Supplies, and Very Special Arts. Jim lives on Long Island with his wife and three children.

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Read an Excerpt

When I was in college, I took World Lit 101, and among the books we had to read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. We had a few choices, but I went with Anna because the back cover said it had to do with adultery and I was an eighteen-year-old boy, so I hoped for some hot parts. I have two things to report. Although it is a terrific story, there are no hot parts. And secondly, I urge you to consider the opening lines. "All unhappy families are the same, each unhappy family has a different tale to tell."

That may be true for families, but not for business. In my experience, all unhappy businesses are the same: they go out of business. But every successful business is a thing unto itself. If I hadn't seen an ad for a flower franchise while wolfing down a baloney sandwich one afternoon in Queens, I might today be the proud operator of a carwash on Lefferts Boulevard, or maybe a McDonalds somewhere on Long Island. A lot of things had to happen just right before my desire to be a businessman turned into a successful enterprise. The original 1-800-FLOWERS guys in Dallas had run out of time with their big idea so they would need to unload the company. Bernie Lynch had to front me three months' worth of flowers because my cash flow was basically minus. And on and on. So, yes, there are lessons to draw from my experience, and I am not going to let you finish this book without laying my deeply considered wisdom on you (again). But before I do that, remember that businesses, like people, have lives. And life is a one-time event....

Or, to put it another way, opportunity never announces in advance when it is going to come knocking. Make sure you're not hanging around in your underwear. Put some jeans on. Answer the door.

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Interviews & Essays

On Monday, May 11th, welcomed Jim McCann to discuss STOP AND SELL THE ROSES.

Moderator: Good evening, Jim McCann, and thank you for joining us to chat!How are you doing this evening?

Jim McCann: I am having a blooming great day.

Tina from Petersburg: What inspired you to write your book? How did you find the time in your busy life?

Jim McCann: They say the best way to get something done is to give it to a busy person. I saw it as a way to improve my proficiency, and I hired a terrific collaborator to work with me who imposed the necessary discipline. On my checklist in life, writing a book has been on the list, but frankly, I never thought I would get to it. My feedback from speeches and other presentations showed that people took away something from my experience, and I wanted to find a way to document them and share them.

Sarah S. from Queens, NY: Internet commerce is very impersonal. How can businesses make it more user-friendly? What does 1-800-FLOWERS do?

Jim McCann: At 1-800-FLOWERS, we try to enslave technology to free us up from the mundane process application so that we have more time for dialogue that begets relationships. The irony is we use technology to get personal. Further, we use technology from a database point of view to manage the information and to know our customers and to serve them by having harnessed their personalized data.

Anita Stevens from Ann Arbor, MI: You were a social worker before starting 1-800-FLOWERS. What are some lessons that you learned with those kids that you apply today?

Jim McCann: The first and foremost is that everything good in life happens as the result of a relationship. You can't have a productive relationship with a group, only with individuals. Also, work should be fun, and the motivations for work aren't just financial (every social worker knows that!).

Ian McCall from Newport: Give us some of your secrets for establishing a brand.

Jim McCann: People use brands to help them avoid looking stupid. Therefore you have to stake out your terrain. The key knee-jerk value proposition of your brand. As Dr. Michael Tracey, who wrote DISCIPLINE OF MARKET LEADERS so eloquently, points out in that book, you can't be good at everything. You have a choice of being an operationally excellent company like FedEx, an intimate company (like banking), or a high-end product innovative like Sony.

Stanley from Trenton, NJ: What are some of your best business commandments? How did you come up with these?

Jim McCann: Some of the best commandments are 1) Everyone is brand manager and the most important brand they manage is themselves. 2) The brand of you is defined by If we took your coworker Dan, tied him to a chair, and injected him with truth serum -- what he said in those first few sentences would be his brand position. Every day we have to be improving our brand, and every conscious decision we make impacts it. The integrity we demonstrate, our sense of humor, our work ethic, our continuous improvement, i.e. continuing your education, all impact the brand of you.

Tammy Lyons from Orlando, Fl: What made you believe in the Internet as a venue for expanding 1-800-FLOWERS? Was it a difficult decision for you to invest?

Jim McCann: No. No because we were a company that was born from embracing the new technology. Twelve years ago very few companies marketed 800 numbers...we were cutting edge. So when the online world began to appear on our radar screens five-six years ago, our cultural compasses screamed for us to be involved so we weren't rendered obsolete by the next potential technological innovation. And it is still early in the game. I am hard-pressed to think of a business that shouldn't be involved on the Internet.

Wes from St. Louis, MO: In your book you say to "trust those family ties." What role does your family play in your company? What are some of the benefits of having family members work for you? Doesn't it create family tension sometimes?

Jim McCann: It can create tension, but in our case, the benefits far outweighed the pitfalls. My family plays a critical role in contributing to the casual-but-friendly aggressive work atmosphere. Secondly, being from a Catholic family of five kids from New York, they keep my ego in check. Third, they bring a sense of permanence to the corporate culture because they have the ultimate job security. I have certainly seen horrible family relationships in business, and we work to keep ours good.

Earl from San Francisco: I have always wondered how florists can be profitable when flowers die so fast and easily. How do you guys do it? Do you see flowers ever going out of fashion?

Jim McCann: Flowers never die. They only fade away, and frankly that is the magic of them. What the first scent of lilac from a bouquet can do to attitude and disposition is nothing short of magic. What the sight of a dozen long-stem roses can trigger emotionally in a young lady's heart should be illegal but it isn't, and we sell, and they aren't ever going out of style! Flowers have been a celebratory part of every culture known to man since the beginning of time, so we are dealing with a wonderful tradition.

Craig from Richmond, Va: What are some things you can do to build loyalty among employees? How do you get employees to really care about your company and want it to be successful?

Jim McCann: I think that employers have a new set of responsibilities in the fast culture we live in. 1) Keep your company's brand high in the sky. 2) Offer a stimulating variety of work. 3) Manage your company properly, i.e., be financially prudent and keep an edge on innovation. 4) Invest in your people (we do that through education -- due to the fact we have many entry-level employees) and it doesn't hurt to do the above in a fun atmosphere.

Steven from Albany: Who have been some of your greatest role models? Who inspires you in today's business world?

Jim McCann: Ted Turner, Steve and Lynn Riggio, Wayne Huizenga, and Rupert Murdoch. From a business [standpoint], these are folks that make me feel very humble.

Sarah from Yarmouth: Did you have any business training when you moved from social work to owning a flower shop? If not, did you just learn on the job and hire key people to help you?

Jim McCann: The only business training I had was from my dad, who was a small- business man. Nothing formal, though I truly wish I had been smart enough to get some. If I knew then what I know now, you would have to hold a gun to my head to get me to finish school.

Leonard from New York: If you had one commandment for business, what would it be?

Jim McCann: Simple: Find something, anything, you can be passionate about. Everyone I know who is good at what they do, loves what they do. It could be running the best dry cleaner in town, being a teacher, doing biotech research. It is important to sample around as a young person so you give yourself the opportunity to find something that makes you want to jump out of bed.

Mary Jamison from Pennsylvania: Do you have a favorite flower?

Jim McCann: There are so many that I love, especially in springtime. My favorite Spring flower is the peony. But at the end of the day, a rose is a rose is a rose.

Sam from Newark, NJ: Commerce has changed radically during your lifetime -- from shops on the corner to, as you describe in your book, "commerce as entertainment" stores. How do you maintain good relationships with customers in this new business environment?

Jim McCann: I think by changing often enough to make it interesting but not so often as to unsettle them. And there is that fine line I describe as "feel."

Stan Treehan from San Diego, CA: Describe a typical business day for you now.

Jim McCann: The nice thing about my life is that there isn't a typical day; in fact, when I look at the calendar and see a day scheduled in the office, it feels like a day off to me. But if I am awake, 90 percent of the time, I am involved in something work-related.

Paul Brooks from Delaware: Do you think that one should get an M.B.A. if one is serious about succeeding in the business world? If you could do it over, would you?

Jim McCann: Yes and absolutely.

Randall Y. from Newport News, VA: What do you see as the future of Internet commerce? Do you trust information technology and the pace that it is moving at now?

Jim McCann: I think that we are still on the threshold of the interactive age. I don't think there is anyone in business who shouldn't be technology proficient. And understand your education will never end in this arena. We are saying "Wow" now, but we will need an exclamation point at the end of the year. The pace will only increase, and that is terribly exciting.

Moderator: Thank you for joining us this evening, Jim McCann. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience and readers?

Jim McCann: I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't say, first, buy some flowers -- it will bring some of their joy into your life and the life of someone else, and secondly, please buy my book -- I have three kids in college!

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