H.Bloom is an unusual start-up: an online subscription florist. They billed themselves as the “Netflix of flowers” and that’s exactly what they do. For a set subscription fee, H.Bloom makes regular deliveries of fresh flowers. The service has proved to be a hit among those who buy flowers regularly, especially corporate customers. And the key to their business model is knowing exactly how much inventory they will need. In a industry that typically loses 30-50% of its inventory to spoilage, H.Bloom loses only 2%.
H.Bloom has ambitious expansion plans and they’re making good on them. They’ve already expanded from New York into five major cities and attracted over $18 million in venture capital. Early on, the guys behind H. Bloom identified their number one challenge: finding the talent to staff its fast-growing, unique startup. Here’s where they decided to do “Business as Unusual” – they decided to create the employees they were looking for.
Rather than looking for old hands from traditional businesses to manage their expansion, they decided to hire young and invest in real leadership training to yield the kind management talent they were looking for.
H.Bloom looks for young people with three qualities: work ethic, intellectual flexibility, and leadership ability. They hire young employees – for many H.Bloom is their first job. And they specifically look for hires from outside their industry. Since their startup is completely innovative, they don’ t want veterans of florist or delivery services bringing old ideas that might constrain their thinking.
Once they’ve identified their talent – “blank slates” in many cases – H.Bloom invests its time, resources, and expertise to train their recruits to be the leaders they want them to be. Management trainees are enrolled in a six-month program called SEED: Startup Education and Entrepreneurial Development.
Since most of the trainees have just entered the working world, the training starts with some of the most basic issues like what to wear and how to correctly communicate with clients. But the program also includes residency-style rotations in multiple management roles for hands-on learning. Finally, there’s a classroom component complete with tests and exams.
The training covers everything from how to recruit employees to how to give them regular, candid feedback. In short, they learn how to start and lead a small business. Then, they are sent out to do just that. SEED graduates are sent to manage H.Bloom locations in new markets. One such graduate is now managing the Chicago branch, which is set to earn over a million dollars this year.
The SEED program helps H.Bloom attract talent because recruits know they will learn how to start and run a business in the real world. Then they get the chance to do it. H.Bloom knows that the ambitious types it recruits will eventually want to go on to start their own businesses. When that time comes, H.Bloom promises to encourage, and even invest in, them.
The SEED program takes real effort and investment in training and mentoring, and that’s “business as unusual.” It’s unusual but it shouldn’t be. While other businesses are complaining about this generation or that not providing good employees and leaders, H.Bloom is creating the kind of employees and leaders it wants to hire.