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How to make your business bloom

Liz Marsh of Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design started her small business 25 years ago and from working part time in a flower shop she now provides bespoke designs for the likes of Four Seasons, Harvey Nichols, Rolex and La Perla (pictured). She took a few moments out from her preparations for Chelsea In Bloom, which will feature an array of designs in nearby shops throughout the Chelsea Flower Show this week, to tell us how she has made her business bloom.

Liz Marsh

Do what you love

“I fell into floristry almost by accident and spent the next 20 years trying to climb back out of it again. It’s not the ideal career path for anyone with any great ambition because it’s very long hours and it’s not very well paid on any level. But I did actually fall in love with it and by the time I eventually realised that I wasn’t going to be doing anything else I was completely unemployable, not that I ever could have worked in an office.”

Make the most of your opportunities

“The first job I had in a flower shop, the woman who ran it went on holiday for about six months a year and left me and another girl to get on with it. We were only working one day a week each but after about a year and a half we were both working full time and we’d taken on two extra staff. I had no training in business but I had a certain amount of common sense, was happy to work hard and I was very good at what I did.”

It’s essential to communicate – with everyone

“In floristry, like most things, communication is very important and in business, good communication skills are essential. When I started I had no idea how to manage people for instance. I would be focused on the task at hand and wasn’t always particularly nice to the people doing it – the whole idea of talking around a subject just never occurred to me. That was one of my biggest challenges initially.”

Entrance to La Perla, Chelsea, by Elizabeth Marsh Floral Design

Think positively

“Floristry is always about the next crisis. The ability to plan ahead. Plan pessimistically, think positively I always tell my staff. You’ve got to love life, you’ve got to love living in the moment, you’ve got to love people, you’ve got to love the spontaneity of the work with all its colours and textures. It makes you feel glad to be alive.”

Get a kick out of your business

“Creative people often have a business partner who takes care of that side of things but I never met someone who I trusted enough or who offered to do that for me. So I ended up having to shift my creativity from the flowers to the business and now I get almost as much pleasure out of running the business as I do out of arranging flowers. I get my kick out of creativity and I really enjoy having an unorthodox approach to management and tweaking the way we do things so that the business becomes a thing of beauty just like the flower arrangements.”

Use technology

“Technology’s always been a struggle for me, but it’s really the answer for modern-day business. It’s very challenging to try to run a business without it these days, especially if you want to be profitable. There are so many costs and overheads – just employing people is about 50% more expensive than it was 20 years ago. So we have no choice but to use technology to help us be more efficient and more effective.

“Using OneDrive as part of Office 365 for instance has been a great help for us. It’s a hub that we can all dip into and keep an eye on, so at a quick glance you can tell if you have any notifications or messages. We have drivers who deliver our flowers which helps keep costs down, but they’re not florists. So when they deliver, they can take a picture and post it to OneDrive. We can then see it from the studio and advise them straight away if the arrangement is okay or needs to change – I’d say it’s revolutionised our communication.”

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