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.
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