During several of the years Herman Meinders spent growing his former company, American Floral Services, to the world's largest independent flower-by-wire service, he limited member florists to five advertisements in AFS directories. More — his national sales reps spread the word — required approval from the top, or Meinders himself.
Meinders said he learned the sales trick when he was a teen working for a supermarket in Tampa, Fla. Because it sounded urgent and better shoppers, he said, snapped up margarine at “5 pounds for $1; limit five” at greater rates than “margarine: 20 cents a pound.”
“By the way, I never failed to approve more directory ads,” said Meinders, drawing chuckles from some 200 guests who heard him speak at a Junior Achievement event Wednesday at Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business.
Meinders, who started American Floral Services in December 1970 from his garage on Classen Avenue, grew it from 137 charter florists to 9,200 in 1980 and, after a three-day telethon blitz, to 12,500 the next year. He sold the business in 1994, at age 56, to New York-based Chemical Venture Partners, which in 2000 merged with Teleflora.
Meinders said his successful sales tactics including decreased rates, rebates, free ads with new memberships, educational seminars and sales-based giveaways like luggage and stereos. A sales contest, involving chances in a drawing for $1 million, was bandied about for years afterward.
Born to an immigrant German farmer father in Minnesota, Meinders followed a schoolmate to Oklahoma City University in 1956, where Meinders studied for a year and worked full time for J.C. Penney. After the friends moved to Florida, Meinders bought a bar where a patron from the National Florists Directory convinced him one night in February 1958 to go to work in the industry.
Over the next nine years, Meinders said he drove more than 750,000 miles, calling on nearly every florist nationwide, before moving to Leachville, Fla., in 1967 to join Florafax International as vice president of sales.
It was Meinders' demotion to sales rep, unbeknown to him until he read it in a directory, that compelled him to start his own business, he said. He chose to relocate to and base American Floral Services in Oklahoma City because he remembered it as a friendly place whose residents bore a good work ethic, he said.
After Meinders' presentation, Mo Grotjohn, incoming chair of Junior Achievement Oklahoma, told guests he's volunteered with Junior Achievement since he worked in Denver in the early 1980s.
A former student, a lumbering class clown, visited him nine years later, when Grotjohn was a bank president there, to thank him for the inspiration that he could “do anything, be anything he wanted,” he said. The student, a high-school dropout, told Grotjohn he'd held several marginal jobs, but recently passed the graduate equivalency diploma test and was starting community college that evening.
Diana Haro, a sophomore at U.S. Grant High School, shared how she and nine other students in Junior Achievement have launched their own business: the “General Snack Shack,” selling snacks every morning and during the school's three lunch periods.
“In three weeks, our revenues have gone from $150 to $1,400,“ Haro told guests. “We've learned teamwork, and how to keep a company going.”
Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, which prepares schoolchildren to succeed in business, is seeking workers of all levels to help with the these JA classes on workplace readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneur skills.
JA in a Day Classes: