How to Keep a Business Legacy Alive in a Rapidly Changing Climate

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Here's the tale of Pearsons Florist.

For Pearsons Florist, the Pollak family is as integral to the success of the business as the flowers that they sell. When Fred and Clare bought the Pearsons Florist store in Sydney’s Bondi in 1969, they couldn’t have known they were acquiring a slice of a family business that would span both decades and generations. Indeed, the now multifaceted company is today run by their children Bernard and Barbara, along with Bernard’s children Avi and Ellen – the third generation of Pollaks on hand to help keep Fred and Clare’s legacy alive.

Perhaps it shouldn’t then come as any real surprise that for Fred and Clare’s granddaughter Ellen – who heads up the company’s floral design and communications department – it wasn’t just her love of flowers that inspired her to join the family business.

“I always had a love of flowers and plants, being in a garden and being surrounded by nature, but I never knew until a few years ago how intricate the floral industry is,” she reveals. “The part that really captured me and drew me in to the business was the strong relationships my grandfather and my father developed with their growers and their families, our customers and our team. It was this that pulled me in to the business.”

Today, almost 50 years after they took on the business, Ellen’s grandparents (an entrepreneur and innovator in his own right, Fred was a highly-regarded tailor before becoming a florist, even counting former Australian Prime Minister Sir William McMahon among his clients) continue to be a source of inspiration.

“Their strong work ethic was undeniable – up at 3am, closing the store at 7pm and back again the next day,” says Ellen of the invaluable lessons they instilled in her. “They worked hard to establish themselves in Australia by connecting with those around them. You can be a strong entrepreneur on your own, but without a team to support you, top-quality suppliers and a strong work ethic you won’t last long.”

Indeed, as well as an emphasis on quality (“My grandfather ­– Mr P, as we all knew him – only bought the best flowers; they always lasted the longest as they had the best care”), the ability to nurture customer and client relations underpins Pearsons’ reputation as a quality florist.

“My grandfather was a people-person, able to strike up a conversation with anyone wherever he was,” recalls Ellen. “My father is even better at this and it’s [a trait] I believe I too have adopted in some small way. It allows you to create a personal touch and emotional connection to the people you engage with. We pride ourselves on our customer service, remembering people’s names, their stories from one week to the next and then designing floral arrangements to capture their emotions. It all comes down to building valuable relationships with our customers, team and our growers.”

Yet the landscape of the floristry industry has altered beyond recognition since the late sixties – the digitalised age we live in means we can send both our condolences and our congratulations with a click of a button. Indeed, from relatively humble beginnings Pearsons Florist has grown to where it is today, occupying five stores across Sydney, as well as a thriving online store and the highly-regarded Pearsons School of Floristry, where the Pollaks pass on the secrets of their craft to other aspiring florists. “Like any other creative business we continue to change and update ourselves – our skills and our stores – to stay ahead of the game,” says Ellen, who urges us to keep our eyes peeled for the launch of a new website next month.

Protecting the legacy of your business while staying progressive is clearly a continual challenge – so too is being in business alongside your relatives. “Working with your family has its challenges, like most things in life,” Ellen admits, noting that she firmly believes family comes first and the business second. “We all work to balance out each other’s strong and weak points and complement each other every day.”

Finally, what can Ellen tell us about making the perfect floral arrangement? “My father has taught us all to engage with the emotion behind the flowers,” she says, adding that once you’ve captured this you’re guaranteed to have a breathtaking bouquet.

Ellen Pollak

“Then it comes back to the same three principles ­– colour, texture and working with the shape of the flowers,” concludes Ellen. “Allowing the flowers to fall organically, continue to bloom the way they naturally want to and simply working to enhance their beauty will give you a stunning bouquet every time.”

Visit pearsonsflorist.com.au

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