Welcome back to '10 Questions to' and today's segment takes us to the UK, where we get to have a tete-a-tete, with the Finance Director of the Tom Brown Wholesale, John Davidson. John Started his career in the corporate banking world, making a switch to the world of flowers when redundancy occurred 12 years ago.
John takes us through his intriguing journey and passion for finance, data, and great work culture. Being involved in a family business, he has witnessed tremendous growth and expansion of the business, and the recent award gained by the company during the British Florist Awards is a testament enough! Dive into this intriguing and insightful segment and get to learn John's approach to work-life balance and dealing with stressful and challenging times.
For those who don’t know you, who are you and what do you do?
"I am John Davidson, the Finance Director at Tom Brown Wholesale Florists Ltd and its two sister companies. I started my working career on the LIFFE floor in London in my late teens working for some of the world's major investment banks, however after being made redundant twelve years ago I decided to join the family business.
This has been the best decision I have made, I now oversee the all financial and business development aspects of our companies. Combining my love of finance and data with the best product means that work no longer feels like work.
Away from business I am married to Elizabeth and have two wonderful children – Alex who has just turned 11 and Primrose who is 7 going on 17."
What is so special about your job?
"There are so many aspects of my job that make it special, we work with the most beautiful products in the world, and by supporting our florists we create special memories for customers during both happy and sad times.
No two days are ever the same in our industry and each customer has their requirements, working closely and supporting customers to help achieve their dreams is the best feeling. I am also immensely proud that we now create over 75 jobs in the UK for others who share our passion for the industry."
Are there any specific challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your job, and how did you overcome them?
"There have been many industry challenges in my twelve years but one of the most interesting has been the growth of our current businesses and the setup of our new operation in Carlise.
Growth is great but comes with its issues and one of the main ones for us is how we go from a family business to a more corporate structure.
Using my investment banking background we have had to change how we recruit and now offer salaries that reflect the nature of the work and sacrifices our employees make daily. We have implemented transparent bonus schemes, pay increases, and company health care policies.
We have invested in better facilities in our warehouses and have tried to create a culture where our employees enjoy where they work.
The change in the business in this aspect has been very challenging but it now makes me very proud to know that we are a responsible and caring employer."
What are the threats in the industry, and if so, do you have any solutions for them?
"Over the past few years, we have seen huge threats to our industry, Brexit, COVID-19, fuel prices and the cost of living crisis have all impacted what we do and how we do it. Yet our industry has remained remarkably persistent and robust which is a testament to the whole supply chain.
If I could change one thing it would be better understanding and information flow from the UK government with regards to importing – there are still more grey areas and all we ask for is clarity. It is hard to plan and manage risk when uncertainty remains.
Hopefully 2024 we will get clarity and can start working together to make the industry stronger."
How has technology like e-commerce platforms or digital marketing affected your industry, which strategies have you employed to stay competitive?
"The biggest change we have seen in the wholesale market over the past twelve years is the development of technology and T Brown Wholesale has embraced it fully.
We now have webshops that are open almost 24/7, we introduced a picking and packing system that achieves close to 100% accuracy while also saving time allowing us to deliver earlier than before.
The next piece of IT we will be implementing will be in Q1 2024 when we introduce a system that will advise customers of a delivery time and once delivery has been completed. This technology now isn’t just available to the likes of Amazon and though expensive I believe it is the way forward."
Who (in or outside the floral industry) is an inspiring example to you? And Why?
"I have been extremely lucky to work alongside some very inspiring people in both my investment banking career and now my floral career.
Outside of those that are members of my family I would say my first boss at Deutsche Bank Scott Shellady (Home - The Cow Guy | Scott Shellady) has had a huge influence on my approach to work and my work ethic. He always used to tell me “You don’t have to be the smartest person to get out of bed on time, once you are here everything is teachable”. I still believe this to be true.
Closer to home and more industry-focused it would be hard for me not to mention my uncle Tom Brown, he has been a huge influence on me both in work and outside.
We seem to complement each other well, he is always happy to grasp opportunities and push forward in business and I balance this with my analytical look at business.
At this time I would also like to mention two people who have unfortunately passed away but always made my life richer and offered me good advice, my father and grandad were always there for me and I miss them both hugely x"
How do you handle stress or difficult moments in your life?
"My role can often feel like it is 24/7, however, over the past twelve years I have learned that it is important to achieve a work-life balance that works for me. Pressures of not just work but also everyday life can cause anxiety and it is important to take time out for yourself and those you love.
I am a keen runner and gym goer and for me, this is time to think over problems or to completely clear my mind. Even during peak periods, I try to make sure that I train most days and achieve the sleep that I need – this is easier said than done but it ensures I make the right decisions at the right times."
What has been the best (floral or non-floral) news for you lately, or of the last year?
"Despite 2023 being a challenging year for the industry I have been lucky to be part of some exciting events. On a personal level, I have been voted into the board of directors of the British Florist Association, I am immensely proud and excited about my involvement as I feel strongly that the only way to make a difference in the industry is to be involved on all levels.
On a business level, Tom Brown Wholesale has continued to grow and invest, and this has allowed us to work with some very prestigious clients in London. In the recent BFA awards we were voted Local Flower Wholesaler 2023, but even more pleasing was to see some of our clients pick up industry awards such as Wedding/Event Florist of The Year. Seeing our customers succeed in business makes our job worthwhile."
Which is your favorite flower and why?
"I love flowers that continue to do something after they get placed in the vase, for this reason, my favorite flowers are tulips, they come in so wide varieties and their unruly behavior makes me smile"
What are you doing this weekend?
"This weekend I am looking forward to some downtime with the family after a busy peak period followed by festive fun. Saturday after I drop my son off to his tutor I will take my daughter Primrose for breakfast, I love this hour as we never spend time just together and she always has a lot to tell me!! In the afternoon I will go to the gym for an hour and then meet up with some old school friends, for me it’s important to socialize with people not involved in the industry and to catch up with what they are doing in their careers.
Sunday will be spent watching my son Alex play rugby, hopefully, the weather will be kind and in the afternoon the whole family will spend the afternoon together.
I usually have to log into work both days but I will try and keep it to a minimum."
The key takeaway from 10 Questions to John Davidson is the highlight of Tom Brown's wholesale to continuously improve the work culture and compensation model, this is to be a desirable employer. This is a display of value for people and putting people first before profits and often this is a winning strategy!
10 Questions, is an insightful segment, where you get an opportunity to learn from the experts in the field and be inspired in the process. Stay tuned for more interviews to follow!
Pictures by@John Davidson.