Industry Members Ask Congress for Common Sense, not Politics
By Mary Westbrook
This week, Tagawa Senior Business Manager Bill Kluth shared that story and others with legislators in Washington, D.C., during SAF’s 34th Annual Congressional Action Days (CAD). The tongue-in-cheek anecdote (40 hours a week is full-time at Tagawa, but days can stretch much longer during busy seasons) helped Kluth and his fellow Coloradans break the ice during the group’s meetings Tuesday with lawmakers and congressional staff, but it also emphasized that the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) definition of full-time work (30 hours) is out of touch and impractical. “The story made them laugh,” Kluth said, “but this health care law is a really big issue for us.”
During the two-day conference more than 70 growers, wholesalers, retailers and suppliers from 20 states met with representatives from congressional offices to advocate for immigration reform for agriculture and targeted fixes to the Affordable Care Act, including an adjustment to raise the definition of full-time employment from 30 to 40 hours. Using personal stories, the SAF delegation tried to do what many members of both Congress and the media have failed to do on these highly charged topics — they put aside politics and instead focused on the human toll of bad policy and the fundamental economics of each issue, messages SAF President Shirley Lyons, AAF, PFCI, said must be reinforced again… and again. “CAD is about the power of persistence and moving the needle bit by bit,” said Lyons, owner of Dandelions Flowers and Gifts in Eugene, Ore.“(These issues) affect the bottom line of our business. Coming to Washington really does make an impact.”
Highlights from CAD include:
Immigration Reform: Solutions for a Broken Program Immigration reform for agriculture has become a perennial issue for many SAF members; despite passage of a Senate “comprehensive reform” bill last year, against the backdrop of political in-fighting and looming mid-term elections, passage in the House is a much harder battle. “I'm not putting money down either way, which actually makes me an optimist (on this issue),” said Lisa Desjardins, the Capitol Hill correspondent for CNNRadio, one of four Washington, D.C. reporters featured on a panel at Monday’s Kick-Off Breakfast. “The politics are really unclear. I don't see anything sweeping or comprehensive.”
“Can (immigration reform) get done this year? I’m not sure,” said Chris Adamo, Chief of Staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee, when he briefed attendees Tuesday morning. But Adamo, whose parents, Connie Adamo and former SAF board member John Adamo own Conner Park Florist in St. Clair Shores and Detroit, Mich., urged SAF members to remember that the timeline and current standstill are far less important than the end result — an immigration system that works for employees and employers. For reform to happen, lawmakers need to hear stories from floral industry members, he said. “You, leaving stories behind today…that’s what matters,” said Adamo, who attended CAD as a kid alongside his parents in the mid-‘80s. “You have no idea how important that is. Congress is much more open than you realize.”
The need for immigration reform drove first-time attendee Mike Mooney of Dramm and Echter in Encinitas, Calif., to attend CAD this year. “We’ve been growing (sales) for four years, but the potential to be stagnant next year motivated me,” he said, noting that myriad issues, including labor shortages and the convoluted immigration system are posing steep challenges. Like many southern California growers, the team at Dramm and Echter depend on immigrant labor and need a stable workforce. About 11 of Mooney’s employees come legally from Mexico to work and then return home in the evenings. Crossing the border can take up to five hours in the morning, and then another two or three hours at night. “That’s on top of a 10-hour workday,” Mooney explained. The wasted time takes a toll on employees and reduces the efficiency of California growers, Mooney argued. If the system were improved, “we could start planting more plants tomorrow,” he said.
Ben Dobbe of Holland America Flowers in Arroyo Grande, Calif., conveyed similar frustration to lawmakers and staff when he described the current immigration system in action — a system so broken that it forces employers to adopt a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality with workers. Even when the law is followed to the letter, Dobbe said, employers are left exposed and the burden on immigrants and their families is extreme. “Two years ago, we had an employee who had been with us for six years, a great tractor driver, who came to us one day (out of the blue) and said he was illegal,” Dobbe said. Holland America followed immigration law, let the employee go, and lost the benefit of his training and experience. SAF Senior Director of Government Relations Lin Schmale said it isn’t unusual for growers to lose valued workers in that way, only to see them turn up at a competitor’s farm later.
“These are economic issues,” said Schmale. “We’ve taken immigration reform to the Hill for many years. Don’t be discouraged by that. Every time we talk about immigration reform, it helps.”
Want to know more? Read SAF’s position paper on immigration reform.
ACA Fixes: Jobs Over Politics CAD attendees also rallied to educate lawmakers and congressional staff on the real-world implications of how the new health care law defines full-time staff members (“with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week”) and seasonal workers (the ACA’s seasonal exception applies only to determining business size and can only be utilized by employers whose workforce exceeds 50 full-time equivalents for 120 days or less; only after those conditions are met can the limited seasonal exception be applied.)
The definition of full-time work in the law is unprecedented and potentially damaging to businesses of all size, said SAF Senior Director of Government Relations Corey Connors. “Until passage of the ACA, employers were free to determine what constituted full-time employment within their businesses,” Connors said, noting that terms defined in a law can have a “viral effect” moving from one piece of legislation to another. “Virtually all SAF members consider something greater than 30 (hours a week) to be a full-time standard.”
Like Connors, Martin Meskers of Oregon Flowers in Aurora, Ore., said he’s worried that the ACA’s 30-hour standard could “seep into” other laws and regulations if left unchallenged. (His company defines full-time work as 40 hours a week.) Doug Fick of Broadway Floral Home and Garden in Portland, Ore., who lobbied lawmakers and staff alongside Meskers, expressed similar fears: His eight full-time employees work four days a week, 10-hour days, for a 40-hour standard. In metro Philadelphia, Chris Drummond, AAF, of Plaza Flowers said his full-time standard has long been 35 hours. When Toomie Farris, AAF, AIFD, of McNamara Florist in Fishers, Ind., met with some opposition from the office of Congressman Andre Carson (D-Ind.), the second-time attendee brought stories about his own struggles grappling with the law, and the detrimental effect the 30-hour standard already is having on his community. “Thirty-hour folks are being reduced to 22, 25 (hours a week) because (many employers are) afraid of touching that 30,” he said. “It’s costing (our country) in lost wages.”
Leo Roozen, AAF, of Washington Bulb Company Inc., in Mount Vernon, Wash., spoke for many business owners in the industry when he expressed deep, pull-your-hair-out frustration over the ACA’s definition of seasonal work — and the many questions that definition raises for industry members across segments who rely on short-term workers for specific, condensed periods of time throughout the year. Prior to coming to Washington, Roozen had already invested time and money parsing through the law with his lawyers to try and ensure compliance; even those experts had trouble pinpointing his liability (seasonally, the company has up to 600 employees, a group that includes full-time employees, seasonal workers who contribute from six to 12 months a year, and non-resident seasonal H-2A employees).
In anticipation of his meetings in D.C. this week Roozen, a past SAF president and former head of SAF’s Government Relations Committee, brought personalized background sheets on his business and the floral industry to share with lawmakers and staff, and he said he’s following up with invitations to visit his operations. “The best thing you can do is to get people to sit down with you in your home area,” he said. “Then they come back and have credibility (with other lawmakers). They can say ‘I’ve seen it. I’ve been in the field. I’ve walked in the coolers.’ There is nothing better than credibility.”
Want to know more? Read SAF’s position paper on targeted ACA fixes.
Look for more coverage of CAD — including the latest updates on how industry members’ efforts have already turned into real results and insight on the conference from the perspective of first-time attendees — in next week’s E-Brief and in the April issue of SAF’s Floral Management magazine. Did you attend CAD? Don’t forget to send a thank-you email today to lawmakers and staff members. Invite them to visit your business — and keep SAF updated on your progress.
SAF would like to extend a special thank you to the generous Congressional Action Days underwriters: AmericanHort, BloomNet, FTD and Teleflora.
Photo Highlights from SAF's Congressional Action Days
AFE Offers Wire Service Members A Chance to Win
By Suzanna McCloskey
BloomNet, FTD and Teleflora have partnered with the American Floral Endowment (AFE) for the 2014 Friend of the Endowment Pledge Campaign, which runs through June 30.
Retail florists belonging to BloomNet, FTD or Teleflora have a chance to win a free registration to the 2014 Society of American Florists’ Annual Convention (Aug. 13-16 in Marco Island, Fla.) or a free iPad (their choice), just by becoming a Friend of the Endowment (a three-year, $50 per year pledge commitment).
Signing up is easy. Visit www.endowment.org/pledge and complete the pledge form or watch for information in the monthly wire service billing statements.
“BloomNet, FTD and Teleflora have all been generous longtime supporters of the Endowment," AFE Executive Director Debi Aker said. “Having their support in reaching out to retail florists is a win-win for everyone and helps support AFE’s continued efforts to create a stronger, more sustainable industry.”
AFE-funded projects have directly helped:
Become a Friend of the Endowment today! A winner will be selected at random and notified on July 7.
US Retailers Say Business Picked Up Later in February
Sales for many U.S. retailers rose in February, as shoppers ventured out later in the month after a dismal start when ice, cold and snow kept many of them at home. The unusually cold and snowy weather that slammed retailers in January continued into February, including an ice storm that idled much of the Southeast for days. Read more.
How to Build an Audience and Drive Sales with Video Marketing
By Katie Hendrick
Creating a branded channel and consistently filling it with new video content does more than improve your Google rankings; it also gives fans a sense they know you as a friend. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt genuine affection for a character in a television show you’ve watched on a regular basis.)
Shopify’s Dan Wang recently highlighted a few small businesses that have mastered the art of YouTube marketing.
Among them: Mirabeau Wine, a vineyard founded by Stephen Cronk, who left a 15-year corporate career in London to take his family into the heart of Provence. Mirabeau’s YouTube channel includes more than 225 videos and has 2,397 subscribers.
Cronk amassed that following by showing Mirabeau Wine not as a company, but as a lifestyle — one without a hint of stuffiness. His videos demystify wine with topics ranging from “why we age wine in oak” to “how to open a bottle without a corkscrew” (a topic that’s attracted more than 5 million views!). He also lets viewers experience a day in the life of southern France with videos on topics such as olive harvesting, cheese making and truffle hunting. He touched on this approach in his introductory video, saying “in addition to making great wine, we’re on a mission to share Provence with you. It’s such a beautiful part of the world, steeped in culture and history, with a rich tradition of food and wine.”
Follow Cronk’s lead and, every so often, step outside the design room. Take fans to a flower market, a design show or even the mall (where you can talk about dress trends, for instance, and personal flowers that complement them). Show them your dining room table with a delicious meal, ambient lighting and, of course, flowers.
Hardcore Ways to Motivate Your Team
By Katie Hendrick
For Seattle-based entrepreneur and consultant Val Wright, CrossFit sparked new ideas about leadership.
In a recent Inc. article, she shared the parallels she drew between challenging workouts and spurring employees to improve their job skills:
The Best Bait You Can Take (and Give)
By Tim Huckabee
On a recent CSI: Flower Shop call I made for my monthly column in Floral Management, I happened to mention to the salesperson at the flower shop, during the course of the placing an order for birthday flowers “for my wife,” that that our anniversary was the next month. The clerk missed the cue, however (and the additional sale). Once the birthday order was taken, she could have reeled in a second order, by saying:
7 Tips to Make Killer Sales Calls
Minda Zetlin writes:, "'Do you have sales-call reluctance?' Connie Kadansky asks me point-blank. 'Um...' I trail off. She's a sales coach at Sales Call Reluctance with 20 years experience. I'm supposed to be interviewing her. But somehow I've let slip that I'd rather have my teeth drilled than pitch total strangers over the phone." Read more.
For Better Sales, Watch Your Language
By Katie Hendrick
That’s the advice trend-hunting gurus Bill Schaffer, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, and Kristine Kratt, AIFD, PFCI, of Schaffer Designs in Philadelphia shared with attendees at SAF’s One-Day Profit Blast, Jan. 26, in Baltimore.
Generic adjectives (nice, pretty), they say, undersells your work and leads to mediocre sales.
“Vocabulary is key,” Kratt said. “If a bride intended ‘stunning’ but you only offer ‘pretty,’ she may settle for (a lower-priced option) because that is all she thinks she can have … Or, she may go elsewhere to find her ‘stunning’ bouquet.”
Encourage employees to swap out those hackneyed terms with vivid phrases by keeping a reference sheet handy. Then watch your sales skyrocket. “’Beautiful, lush seasonal stems arranged in a vase’ has much more verbal power than ‘a nice mixed arrangement,’” Kratt said. “Enhanced vocabulary shows you offer something special and are willing to create something unique.”
Read more of Schaffer and Kratt’s profit boosters in this month’s Floral Management.
60 Percent of Millennials Willing to Share Personal Info with Brands
Retail Customer Experience
With consumer privacy at the forefront of the nation's collective consciousness, given the recent Target data breach and ongoing NSA spying scandal, new Mintel research finds that while consumers are becoming increasingly protective of their personal information, millennials are much more prone to oversharing relative to their Baby Boomer parents. According to Mintel, 60 percent of millennials would be willing to provide details about their personal preferences and habits to marketers, whereas baby boomers are much more protective of their personal information. Read more.
Consumers Spend 3.3 Hours Per Day on Their Smartphones
Smartphones are right up there with wallets and keys as items consumers cannot leave home without. But unlike their all-important counterparts, smartphones hardly remain relegated to a pocket, purse or drawer throughout the day. On average, consumers spend 3.3 hours each day using their smartphones, according to new data from digital marketing firm ExactTarget. Shoppers know it, too – 85 percent of smartphone owners say mobile is a central part of their day-to-day life, with 90 percent of those ages 18 to 24 in agreement. Read more.
90 Million People Can't Be Wrong. So Get Your Video Ads Right
By Shelley Estersohn
Hunting for More Profits? These SAF Tools Will Help
By Shelley Estersohn
Treasure Hunt: Finding Your Hidden Profits — floral industry financial expert Derrick Myers, CPA, dives deep into the six main cost centers of your business to show you how to track, measure and adjust costs — and increase profits in ways you never thought possible. Here are just a few of the takeaways:
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