11 Tips For Safe, Speedy Growth From The Roses Only Founder

James Stevens, LinkedIn

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James Stevens’ family has been in flower retailing for nearly 50 years.

What started out as a single shop grew to a number of florists throughout Sydney. Now, trading under the Roses Only brand, there are no retail outlets, instead all of its sales are done online and over the phone.

“Fundamentally, I’d see my parents coming home at the mercy of a landlord,” he explains. “They were caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Stevens said a number of issues including stressful lease negotiations, cash shrinkage and the inability to inventorise led him to begin thinking about how the business could change for the better.

“I needed to simplify the business,” he said. “I knew I needed to create a brand that wasn’t at the mercy of a landlord – one that was easily transferable to other retailing platforms. The business of selling flowers is very tough.”

In 1995, the Roses Only brand, targeting time poor, professional men, was established and in 1999 the business was taken online.

“We systemically closed our bricks and mortar stores,” said Stevens, who now jointly owns the family flower business with his father Peter.

“We began advertising to our target market. Our growth trajectory was quite amazing from the outset – we were borderline cash positive from day one.

Roses Only now delivers Australia-wide, with the exception of the Northern Territory, and is trading in Singapore and the United Kingdom.

“I have one vision, to sell the world’s finest roses globally,” Stevens said. “Since I joined the business, I have been hell bent on growing it.”

Roses Only is expected to achieve up to 30 per cent growth this calendar year. Three new websites are planned for launch with the Roses Only website to be redesigned with a “more elegant” look.

Stevens says he is proud of the company’s growth.

“The foundations of this business are rock solid,” he said. “I’m very proud of how the brand is perceived in the marketplace and how our company makes people feel.

“We’ve built a great brand that can live on and we never take that for granted.”

Here are Stevens’ tips for businesses undergoing speedy growth:

  1. Don’t spend more than you can afford.
  2. Cash flow is critical. Being undercapitalised is not a good position to be in.
  3. Circumstances and opportunities always change. Be prepared to take advantage of them.
  4. You need fresh people in your organisation to help take it to the next level.
  5. You need a lot of time to grow a successful business.
  6. Expect everything to cost three times as much and take three times as long to achieve.
  7. Leaders need time to fulfil long-term visions and build prosperity for the business.
  8. Never take your customers, employees or suppliers for granted.
  9. Be mindful of what is happening in the world economy.
  10. Plan to build something that lasts.
  11. Don’t let your ego get in the way.

There’s more information from the Australian Institute of Company Directors here.

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