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Updated: June 19th, 2020
To run a successful operation, business owners have to test, adjust, innovate, and solve problems quickly.
Tali Bouskila, the owner of Flower Casita, a flower shop and design studio in Petaluma, California, understands the importance of business adaptability. After a series of wildfires devastated the Bay Area over the past three years, Bouskila had to become more resourceful than ever.
To learn from her experience, we chatted with Bouskila about how to overcome challenges and continue growing. Keep reading to understand why adaptability is important in business — and how to build it into your own.
Understanding your inventory is key to adaptability in a business environment. “You have to know your product really well,” said Bouskila. “Our shelf life is even shorter than a chef’s shelf life with food, so the urgency is pretty obvious. If you don’t sell your flowers, your product is gone.”
There’s a lot of strategy involved with buying and maintaining flowers. Bouskila stretches her product in two main ways: by taking better care of her flowers in the store and by shopping for blooms with a variety of different lifespans.
If you work with products with a short shelf life, it’s crucial to use past order and sales data to make accurate predictions about customer demand. Figuring out exactly how much inventory to purchase can help you maximize sales and avoid dead stock.
Adjusting or expanding your offerings can help you stay afloat during difficult periods. “In the beginning when we didn’t have a ton of foot traffic, and we were building our name as a business, we would have excess flowers that were going to waste,” Bouskila said. Instead of throwing out the flowers, Bouskila began drying them on top of the refrigerator and repurposing them.
Now, customers come into Flower Casita for “forever bouquets” of dried flowers. “They’re all naturally dried botanicals, and we use them in our wreaths, in wall pieces, in little dried flower arrangements, hair crowns, and jewelry. It’s evolved into this fun extension of our inventory,” Bouskila said.
As a business owner, strategic adaptability includes knowing when to pivot. Consider how you could add to or streamline your services or products to better meet customers’ needs. For example, if you own a taco truck, you could explore the possibility of hosting monthly cooking classes for customers. Or if you sell handmade children’s clothes online, see if you could make a new product using your fabric scraps.
Finding ways to modify or revamp your offerings can help you recover faster from an emergency, deal with unexpected downtime, or expand your customer base.
Cultivating a creative work environment has far-reaching effects, both in terms of employee happiness and customer satisfaction.
“Flower Casita is a fun and creative space with a lot of flexibility with our schedules and how we design,” said Bouskila. She believes in giving her employees freedom to create their own floral designs. “I never ask people to copy exactly what I’m doing. I like people to be activated in their own way, and I feel that a lot is learned through osmosis.”
Bouskila sets the tone for creativity by shopping for a combination of different floral textures, colors, and shapes to “help inform the designs.” She also holds regular design meetings where the staff can share their ideas and discuss new concepts.
When employees feel fulfilled and creatively energized, the products improve, too. And, successful adaptation in business includes all aspects: employees and products. Bouskila and her staff love using fun colors and punk-inspired design elements to put their unique stamp on arrangements. “We have fun taking something ordinary like a supermarket orchid and making it extraordinary,” Bouskila said.
Fostering a creative work environment encourages your employees to continue innovating and experimenting, which is the foundation for improving business adaptability. Depending on your business, you could promote creativity by asking for employee feedback, signing your team up for classes, or simply giving employees more autonomy over their job duties.
Bouskila has always tried to make her business sellable, whether or not she plans to sell it. “I like to think about running my business as, ‘How can I make this the most sellable, exciting business to someone else?’ How can we grow and have more of a stable foot in the Petaluma community?”
Adopting that mentality can help you spot issues and identify opportunities for improvement. Consider your business from an outsider’s perspective, taking into account your business model, pricing structure, customer base, employees, location, marketability, and long-term growth potential. How attractive is your business to a potential buyer?
Depending on your answer, you may want to pick one or two areas to work on going forward. Think: expanding your services, refining your messaging, or remodeling your store. Making regular improvements can boost your adaptability in a business environment, helping you stay nimble in the face of difficulty or change, and set you up for growth.
Prioritizing sustainability in your business is a great way to improve your operational processes and become more resourceful. Bouskila has always been passionate about making environmentally-conscious choices, which is why she works with local farmers and suppliers.
“When you buy locally, not only are you supporting a local economy, but you’re also working with farmers that are not spraying or using crazy chemicals on their flowers.” You can also reduce energy use by buying locally since vendors don’t need to ship flowers to you, she added.
Consider what you can do to be more eco-friendly. Even seemingly small changes like sourcing local ingredients or using recycled materials can make a big difference to your business’ adaptability in helping to lower your business’s carbon footprint or save money. Plus, exploring sustainable solutions helps you stay open to new possibilities for your business’s operation and growth.
Forging genuine bonds with customers can help you gain repeat business and referrals. Bouskila knows the value of relating to customers on a personal level. “Part of being a florist is doing flowers for someone’s baby shower, flowers for a funeral, or flowers for a wedding. So, a lot of big landmark lifetime events go on,” she said.
In addition to consistently showing up for families to celebrate milestones or offer support, the team at Flower Casita always aims to put kindness and empathy first. “We talk a lot about non-floral related issues in the shop. People trust us with a lot of their family stories,” Bouskila said.
Every business has a different level of communication and intimacy with its customers, but it’s helpful to lead with empathy whenever possible. That might mean updating your customer service policies, redefining your company’s mission, or using more compassionate brand messaging. No matter your industry, going the extra mile for customers can help foster business adaptability, lead to more business, and boost customer loyalty.
When it comes to her employees, Bouskila doesn’t stress about job retention; instead, she prioritizes her staff’s personal and professional development. “I’ve always recognized that in this space, it’s not necessarily a job people are going to hold onto forever. People come and go,” she said.
That’s why Bouskila created two primary job tracks for Flower Casita employees: one for people with zero floral experience who want the experience of an apprenticeship, and another for more experienced designers who wish to further their careers. “I like to build opportunities for enhancing their profession as a florist,” Bouskila said. To do that, she holds classes and workshops designed to help her employees grow their knowledge and skills.
Running a business where employees come and go can be an advantage rather than an obstacle. If you focus on providing employees with great learning experiences, you’re in a better position to benefit from short-term hires and maintain strategic adaptability.
Sometimes, adjusting to change means asking for help when you need it. That was the case for Bouskila, whose revenue was suffering after the fires in her business’s surrounding neighborhoods deterred foot traffic to the store. “We were pretty strapped for quick cash to keep us going, buying inventory, paying staff, and just [covering] the basic day-to-day needs,” she said.
After doing some research, Bouskila decided to get a loan with Funding Circle, which allowed her to stay open and continue paying for operating expenses. “While we would have loved to have expanded and grown our business with the funds, which was our initial intention,” she said, “we really needed that money due to what we were seeing as the drop in business due to the fires.”
Why is adaptability important in business? Well, emergencies and unexpected downtime happen, and you have to be prepared as a business owner. Getting a loan can help you weather the tough times and maintain cash flow until you’re ready to start growing again.
Staying flexible is essential to surviving difficult times. To build business adaptability, work on creating a flexible work culture, getting to know your customers, and constantly searching for ways to improve. Funding can also help. If you think a Funding Circle loan might be right for your business, apply today, or learn more.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.