‘Flower power’ may be just what’s indicated to make a business commercially sustainable

In recent blogs, I have talked about changing the paradigm and retooling the model of how we look at sustainability. The more I think about it, the more I think that we can figure this out in ways that we probably haven’t considered.

Just the other evening, for example, I was having a discussion with a colleague related to a subject with which I have been familiar all my life – the commercial fishing business. In this instance, we were talking about what it would take to make a seafood enterprise commercially sustainable. The conversation was one that evoked a company I founded and built into a three-city operation in San Francisco, San Diego and St. Louis called the Fresh Express, which provided restaurants with fish caught off the Pacific coast of Central and South America.

Food service operators and restaurateurs (especially those in St. Louis) loved The Fresh Connection because it provided speedy, direct delivery from airport to restaurant and we were using Latin America workers to do the jobs of filleting and portioning. But we still struggled to make money without having to add tripolyphosphates ,or water-absorbing chemicals, to our fish, which is something I flatly refused to do. So rather than compromise the quality of our product, we expanded our delivery service to include fresh flowers. In addition to offering our customers a whole new incentive by making flowers on the table of a restaurant just as important as serving great-tasting, unadulterated seafood, this addition proved to have an incredible profit margin.  In essence, the Fresh Connection was saved by what we used to refer to as “flower power.”

This is but one illustration of what I mean by taking a whole new approach to sustainability in business. I would never have thought of adding flowers to the delivery if I hadn’t been so stressed over our ability to turn a profit on our main commodity, which was fish that was truly fresh rather than chemically preserved. So in case you’re rolling your eyes by now and saying “there he goes again,” well, yes here I go again: we have to start thinking more creatively when it comes to commercial sustainability. In fact, I challenge anyone whose enterprise may not now appear sustainable due to diminished profit margins to ask themselves this question: how can I upgrade my current business model by adding some “flowers”?

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