Anniversaries are a time to reflect on past accomplishments and to evaluate plans for the future. Flowery Beauty Products takes the occasion of its 75th Anniversary to do just that.
Geoff Geils (left) and his brother John
Anniversaries are a time to reflect on past accomplishments and to evaluate plans for the future. Flowery Beauty Products takes the occasion of its 75th anniversary to do just that. “The company that’s been the choice of professionals for 75 years” reviews its reputation for stability, quality and innovation as it prepares to initiate a new generation of management.
And having reached a landmark as significant as its Diamond Anniversary, Flowery has announced plans that promise a continuation of these strong points, built on the company’s 75-year foundation.
Flowery's parent company, Columbia Manicure Manufacturing, was founded in 1910 by the Lupo family. Initially, they manufactured manicure sets for department stores and beauty salons. They are also credited with inventing the emery board to replace expensive metal nail files. Columbia formed Flowery as a subsidiary to deal directly with retail stores.
The first plant was located in the Bronx, New York. Fifteen workers were employed there in 1966, by which time the original founders had passed away and John H. Geils bought the company. John took the company from that point and built it up.
In 1974 the firm acquired another subsidiary, Requa Manufacturing Company, a leading producer of pumice stone. (Today the company accounts for 80 percent of the man-made pumice market.) The Bronx facility and another one in Port Chester, New York, were consolidated into one facility in Greenwich, Connecticut, about 13 years ago, adding considerable space to the plant.
In spite of the company’s growth, John continued to manage the business by himself for many years. However, the company eventually reached a point where it was so big that John could no longer look after everything single-handedly.
The timing works out well for a new generation of management to step in. Two of John’s sons, John L. Geils (known as J.) and Geofff Geils, have built a support team around themselves and are ready for the transition; John can now step into the background and do the work he enjoys most, long range planning and product development, while J. and Geoff assume daily management of Flowery.
Both J. and Geoff have spent the last five years getting solid management experience with the company. However, it should be noted that both have worked at Flowery— in fact, they have grown up with the company — since their father acquired it 20 years ago. Geoff recalls boyhood days spent cleaning, cutting emery boards and packing products, while J remembers building shelves, unloading trucks and making pumice stones. Both took time off to pursue higher education.
J. entered Colgate University and majored in theatre. While enrolled in a masters program he started the Colgate Student Theatre, which is still active. Later J. and his wife Sarah, formed a theatre company in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Geoff attended the University of New Hampshire. “I majored in Social Science and skiing. Not necessarily in that order,” Geoff reported. After school Geoff “free spirited” around the country before making his way back East.
Geoff’s return coincided with J’s decision to leave the theatre. In 1980 the two returned to Floweryand got their feet wet in the business world. As Geoff tells it, “I learned that my feet are neck high.”
Through hard work and a series of changes in the company, the two worked their way up to executive positions. J. is vice president and general manager, responsible for administration, sales and marketing. Geoff is vice president of production, purchasing and personnel.
With J. and Geoff responsible for clearly defined aspects of management for Flowery, each might be expected to talk about his own area of expertise. This is not the case, as it is clear that both are knowledgeable of various topics pertaining to the business. However, each has definite individual strong points.
J. is analytical and applies his skills to forecasting and planning in terms of sales and marketing. Geoff is more intuitive and is guided by feelings when dealing with management and operational questions. He is people-oriented and enjoys talking to dealers, distributors and salon technicians, getting feedback that can be applied to product development.
Recognizing that the company will continue to grow, they have adopted management styles that are different from their father’s one-man show. “We’ve brought in some new people who have gone through this kind of growth process before; people with experience in the growth factors that multiply a business. They are helping us to prepare for an overall escalation in product development, production and sales,” J. explained.
First step in this process was to change the company name from Flowery Manicure Products to Flowery Beauty Products. This reflects the broadening of the product line into related phases of the beauty industry. “We plan to maintain the manicure business,” said Geoff. “But our plans are to add pedicure products and treatment products used in manicuring. We are staying with the professional basics, the products and implements the salon nail technician uses.”
This supports Flowery's position that quality professional products are the essentials of the future. “Our strength has been in providing the basic tools of the trade to technicians,” said J. “When we provide them with the best tools possible, they can do the best job possible in the shortest period of time for their clients.”
J. continued, saying, “We furnish products in the familiar green and yellow packages for easy identification of Floweryquality. We also offer dealers two racks, the Abrasive Center and the Finishing Center, on which our line is conveniently displayed.”
“We don’t anticipate our current product line changing,” Geoff interjected. “We plan to expand it; to get more into nail care, the health of the nail and nail extending. However, as you know, our business is abrasives, We often find in developing new products that something is a redundant product, especially if it doesn’t provide an additional function, But if it’s something that will help the salon technician, we’ll come out with it.
“We’ve been strong innovators, being the first to develop the Satin Buff, the Black Beauty and other abrasives,” Geoff continued. “Ten years ago, before acrylics, technicians needed only one type of emery board. Now, with all the different kinds of tips and acrylics, technicians need different abrasives to deal with these polymers in addition to natural nails. So we developed the Black Beauty and the White Knight. We develop and sell our products to be the best purely for the sake of function and durability. Sure, we can make just about any shape, size or color product you want, but Flowery's overall philosophy is to stick to the quality basics for now and for the future.”
As for maintaining a reputation as innovators, Flowery is committed to keeping abreast of new technology in abrasives. “Because of the development of microabrasives in the last six to 10 years, there’s always something to consider and analyze,” said Geoff.
A perfect example is the development of the Satin Buff. In 1979 Flowery became aware of an industrial product, cushioned microabrasives, used in refinishing aircraft windows. They recognized that if the product could polish plastic windows so well, with modifications it might do the same to nails. After extensive testing and revisions, the original Satin Buff was born.
In developing new products, Flowery relies on professional contacts, “I feel it is absolutely necessary to communicate with the professional in every aspect of this industry from dealer/distributor to salon technician so I can evaluate their needs and considerations in order to develop the best programs and products,” said Geofff.
An example of this is the Flowery Fantastic Finger Saver. Manicurists approached Flowery with a problem: how to avoid developing callouses and blisters from a day of hard work. Flowery responded with the Finger Saver.
Flowery works with numerous salon technicians to test products. “We bring them a new product and they immediately test it on themselves, their friends and clients,” Geoff explained. “No one hesitates to give a candid opinion and suggestions; they are professionals and know what they are talking about.
“When it comes to working on shapes and sizes, everyone has their own opinion as to how a product should work and feel. We try to formulate the best product from the criteria we are given.”
In addition to the regular network of salons, Flowery often hears from other technicians who contact them. It’s an unexpected benefit of Flowery's money-back guarantee on all products. “Often there’s an inquiry or a problem and a salon calls us,” Geoff stated. “One thing leads to another and we get a dialog going. That’s how we get feedback on a lot of our products. It’s not terribly sophisticated, but it works.”
There are still new avenues open to Flowery for getting information. For example, by giving the company more visibility, they expect to get more response from the field.
Greater visibility will be the most obvious difference after the management transition at Flowery, as J. and Geoff represent the company at industry trade shows.
“In the past we refrained from going to the shows because our master distributors were there, exhibiting our product,” Geofff explained. “But now we’ve opened up our channels of distribution to communicate more with our dealers and end users. We’ll be going to the nail shows with our distributors and salespeople. However, our primary role will be to introduce new products, which the dealers will carry afterward.”
Flowery won’t have a problem being more visible because they plan to have plenty of new products to introduce. The company has always been progressive, and this tradition of innovation will continue, but at a quicker pace than in the past.
A key goal in this respect is to maintain quality so Flowery can continue as “the choice of professionals.” In the past, quality control was never a problem, J. and Geofff agree, and in an area when employees are generally less dedicated to their jobs and less loyal to a company, Flowery has experienced the opposite phenonemon. When the plants in New York were moved to Connecticut, most employees stayed with the firm and were transported daily to work in a company bus driven by Ralph Lovero, who is still head of the shipping department.
The long-time employees have had a strong influence on the other workers. “We recently hired a new sales manager, Ed Chatfield, and he has been especially impressed with the attitude and spirit of the people here,” said J. “They have had high standards for so long that it rubs off on the new employees.”
Also contributing to quality at Flowery is the fact that employees do not work on a piece rate. Emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. “Our people are conscious of what they are doing through every step of the process. Materials are inspected when they arrive and each step of the manufacturing process is inspected,” Geoff affirmed.
However, with projected growth, maintaining quality in the future needs special planning, which Geoff and J. are working on right now. “The emphasis is on proper middle management training and cross-training of responsibilities. We’re developing support groups, promoting people from within the company, delegating responsibilities and follow-up. Throughout all this, we try to maintain a sense of pride in our employees,” Geoff said.
Geoff’s and J’s responsibility now is to preserve the company’s leadership position in a dynamic market.
To keep this aim in perspective, J. relates his position with Flowery to his past experience in theatre. “The product is like the play because we create it; it is our effort which makes something that people recognize and appreciate. The employees are like the actors; each has his/her part and is essential for the production. My position as general manager is much like my favorite capacity as director. I am responsible for setting the goals, communicating the purpose and meaning of the whole and the various parts to the employees, making decisions to keep us going — and in the right direction, and inspiring people to work together and to be proud of their work.”
A final point was made by J., who stated, “One thing we haven’t talked about is price. We always want to be competitive, but we believe in the price/value relationship — reliable quality at a favorable price. If we give our customers top quality that helps them do their job faster and better with products that last longer, we believe we’ll still be leaders 75 years from now.”