Herman Blume: What’s the secret, Max?
Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don’t know…I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore. From Wes Anderson’s Rushmore
My close friends and staff (they are really one and the same) know I am a bit of a Max Fischer. If you aren’t familiar with Max from the amazing Wes Anderson film Rushmore, he is an Energizer bunny of a character afflicted with a pretty serious case of ADHD and an even more acute bout of the “Carpe Diems.” Max loves doing so many things that he just does all of them; some with better success than others. But there is one thing that Max does with pure perfection and complete conviction-he goes to Rushmore. In his school, he has found his home, his kinfolk, his purpose. Driving along I-95 to a weekend conference of florist colleagues, I couldn’t help but think of Max and how we relate to each other.
Road trips are little windows of time that allow us to indulge in forbidden foods, listen to music too loud, push the pedal to the metal and chart our own course. You might venture off the GPS projected route to find the perfect scenic highway like Georgia’s coastal Highway 17. You might scratch an item off of your bucket list. (For me this is memorizing and successfully rapping the lyrics to my favorite Naughty by Nature songs. It’s going to take a cross country trip for that one.) You might have a moment of deja vu conjured by childhood memories of eating Christmas dinner in a Denny’s and sleeping in a velvet clad Knight’s Inn. But road trips can also offer solitary time for reflection and contemplation.
On this trip heading Southward to a conclave of design colleagues, I had one thing on my mind-is owning a florist the right thing for me? I’ve been truly lucky to have worked in many other fields besides the florist business-as a fundraiser, grant writer, drama teacher, actor, singer, job recruiter, ad salesperson for Over Fifty magazine, professional scotch taster (oops, that is in my next life). But during all these pursuits, the idea, or better yet, dream, of having my own florist sat on my shoulder whispering to me-a little bit angel, a little bit devil. Entering my seventh year of being a florist owner and progressing deeper into my 40′s, I often think about whether or not this is the right path for me. This weekend’s conference of the Southern Chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers gave me a chance to answer that question.
The first day of any florist gathering is filled with stories from the front. Owning a florist is not an easy job. Florists compare wounds and battle scars with the zeal and largesse of WWII veterans. After the stories and one-up-manship settles down though, florists get around to the real heart of the matter-why we do what we do.
No floral designer kids themselves into thinking that being a florist is rocket science. We are not going to save the world with an artfully crafted bouquet of daisies. But in sharing our art, our craftmanship, we can make the world a little bit better. We can make a bride feel more beautiful and confident walking down the aisle. We can help a husband in the doghouse avoid a night on the sofa. And we can help a family find comfort and solace as they say goodbye to a loved one. We are there for the good times and the bad times and at the end of the day no one else can do what we do, regardless of how many grocery stores try.
That message, that we as florists are drawn to this work for the art and the artifice, for the rewards AND the sacrifice, resonated with my Max Fischer side. Rene Van Rems, AIFD, CFD, challenged us to connect to our customers with the full hi-test strength of our creativity. He reminded us that if we don’t, someone else will. People can buy flowers from a variety of sources-online, grocery stores, vending machines, gas stations. They are going to buy from a professional florist because they feel a connection to us-to what we do with flowers, to how we share our talents and ideas, to how we listen to their needs.
Surrounded by kindred spirits, I was able to put aside the demands of owning a growing company in the fast paced, numbers laden, profit driven world of retail to find renewed purpose in my work. The EG is more than a business; it is my family, my home away from home. And my customers, who are more aptly called my friends, know that. People know that I have the most talented team, i.e. family, around. They entrust us with their wedding day wish lists, their secret anniversary surprises, their most cherished memories during a time of loss. They come to us because we are quirky and energetic and saucy and passionate. They let us into their lives because they know that just as Max we have found that one thing that we truly, deeply, madly love to do and we wake up every day ready to do it bigger and better and maybe with an exploding helicopter (you have to watch the movie now!). So to my talented team, my amazing florist colleagues, and my valued customers and friends, thank you for helping me know that my little corner of the world, my English Garden, is and will always be my Rushmore.
Hope you enjoy these snapshots of the 2014 Southern AIFD Chapter’s Conference and the fun I-95 journey that got me there. And, I hope you too find your Rushmore!
A Rushmore Moment: