Simon Ogrizek needs no further introduction. Skilled landscape designer and master florist, recently elected for a second term as Florint President, summarises the last years, shares his opinion about the influence of the pandemic on the sector and presents the plans of Florint for the coming year.
You’ve been the president of Florint for four years already. The pandemic has definitely influenced your plans for the development of this organisation. Is there something you’re still thinking about as a president of Florint?
For me, the most crucial part of the business is education. If people are aware of novelties, best practices, new approaches, educated in the right way, they will be successful in the business. My vision, and that is Florint’s most important policy too, is to make the European florist a highly skilled professional and excellent manager as well. Florint started with all kinds of programs and approaches, to bring the best knowledge as close as possible to our members. Florint, however, cannot jump over its members. It can only communicate with its national associations so that they, in turn, pass on the knowledge to their members. We are pushing our national associations with many kinds of workshops, strategies and market information — all kinds of things dedicated to education.
And what are your plans for the new mandate you’ve just started?
I was confirmed for the second term of three years last year in October. And two more terms would still be possible for me afterwards. And yes, my policy will always be focused on education. I am intensely involved in national education here in Slovenia and at the European level. On the national level, I am involved in education planning, strategy and changes. And on the EU level, I am a board member of Cedefop, and I know how important education is and the long time frame in which changes are possible.
Sometimes you need to wait years
for the results of the change you started.
And now I see the first results of the implementations I made during my first mandate. And I am trying to implement as many projects of this kind as possible. And I see our members are eagerly waiting for them. They cooperate and are strongly involved in the process, and they see the results. They see they are becoming better florists. Their business life has improved. In the future, this will also be my policy.
So there are two directions you’re focusing on: the technical education of florists and the importance of raising awareness among clients.
That is how we try to succeed in countries where our members are sleeping and have failed to recognize the importance of education. In those countries, we go passive-aggressive. We push our member associations to organize exhibitions; fairs, where the new flower varieties and new approaches are presented. Sometimes it is even needed to invite a successful flower designer from abroad. The end consumers are usually visitors of those fairs, and they see those new things. And then they come to their local florist and ask questions about those new things, forcing the florist to pay more attention to their own development. But we also observe this trend in the most successful countries in Europe: the clients push florists to move forward. This is also the approach I have developed for ten years in my own country, Slovenia. In many countries, florists are self-satisfied and do not really cooperate with each other. We are trying to change that by organizing thematic exhibitions or competitions. We involve the final consumers, and then they do the job for us.
You’re pushing the floristry sector hard, but how do you manage to organize everything in practice?
I have a lot of ideas, indeed! But to be able to implement them, I also have a very good team that is working hard with me. I am lucky that they are from different countries of Europe: Heinrich Göllner from Germany, Marco Maasse from the Netherlands, Brian Wills-Pope from the UK, Lena Stryjska from Poland, Jonas Zwitserlood – our communication manager from the Netherlands, and I myself from this southern part of Europe. All together we are covering different parts of Europe. I also involved a Spanish speaking person to translate and publish documents in Spanish for our Spanish audience, and here you have to think also about countries from South America. My colleague Olga Zarzuela, Florint’s advisor for Spanish-speaking countries and director of the Spanish Florist Association AEFI, covers that part. This way, we can reach out to South America and cooperate even closer with each other. I also appointed an Asian-Pacific advisor. Rain Wang is the president of the Chinese Florist Association, UNIFLORIST, and he’s covering the huge market of the Asia-Pacific countries. With those two persons, I am also covering language communities that are not directly that obvious for us.
Let’s go back to Europe. You said it is important to invest in the promotion of green and flowers. How do you realize this priority of Florint?
There are existing organizations that are already doing that effectively, and Florint is constantly trying to cooperate with them. This is an important part that Marco is covering. We do our best to support these partners that are dealing with the promotion of flowers. But if it is not possible to make such a link, I always think about a plan B to find a way to provide our members with the best possible information about flower trends and developments in floristry.
Several times you mentioned your country members. As a president of Florint, how would you convince florists to join national associations? Seen from your perspective, why is it good and important to be a member of such a society?
The importance of being part of an organization like Florint is that you can exchange the best knowledge and practices. You can get the best info from all over the world. If there is a country that has a particularly good practice, in the field of entrepreneurship, marketing, education and craftsmanship – which are the crucial areas where we support our members – you can simply adopt this practice and implement it in your country. But this will happen only when you are part of this family of associations, when you are involved in the workshops and presenting yourself. If you’re not involved in that, you cannot even know what is happening all over the world. When Florint’s Direction Committee meets, we start by talking about what is going on in the different parts of Europe. When we begin a General Assembly, every member first presents what is happening in his county and their current best practices. It is done in the form of a regular report. And out of this valuable toolkit, you can source and implement instruments in your country. But to do that you have to be our member first.
At Florint, you have this program STAP, dedicated to florists. Can you elaborate a bit on this?
STAP is the abbreviation for 'strategic analysis and plan’. It is all connected to good managers. STAP experts help florists evaluate the company’s organisation; find a good business strategy for the company and the right target groups. They analyse the company and find the best solutions to improve the business. It is all about making good florists good managers as well. And it is done in a very comprehensive way. Experts also look at how florists are working, what exactly they are doing, and their approach towards the business and team. What is also important: every member organisation has its own STAP expert. So everything is organised on the national level. Obviously, it makes no sense to send someone from Italy to discuss the difficulties of the Polish market.
We are trying to educate local florists as much as possible, so that they too can be our support. And here I would like to mention the new development we’re implementing at the moment: 'Florint florist’. It works in a similar way. We published a handbook for teachers, and they will further educate others and implement this floristry knowledge. This way, it will establish one written standard that can be taught everywhere. Florists interested in this function should get in touch with Florint’s national associations. In Poland, where the International Floristry Institute MIF was established in Turza Śląska, Florint Florist will also be one of the employed standards. We’re implementing this education system right now!
You are in Poland on a regular basis. I assume you’re also following the achievements of Polish florists. Have you recognized something that is specific to Polish floristry?
Polish florists are keen to get quality knowledge. I think that the government should take some steps to make it a little bit easier for them. The government should recognise the importance of this profession and shorten procedures to make the educational process easier. I also think that the administrative authorities should pay attention to teachers. They should be acknowledged by the sector, and have experience and respect in the floral industry. I would like to say that they should stay creative, love nature, and look for new techniques and materials. I always see something new; they are able to create something from nothing. This is possible only when the level of creativity is very high. And I’m able to follow only a tiny part of everything that is happening in Poland. Imagine the potential of the whole country. That could be a new floral force for the whole florist industry! And with this I am also thinking about the flower production in Poland.
Do you have something you would like to pass on to florists worldwide?
Do not hesitate to educate yourself! Only that can bring added value in your profession. Education with a direct connection to sustainability is the future for florists.
Thank you and see you in Katowice!
First part of the interview can be found here.
The interview was made in January 2022.
The Polish version can be found here.
Simon Ogrizek: president of Florint, International Florist Organisation, in October 2021 chosen for the second term. President of Association for florists and gardeners by Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia; President of Education Committee by Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia; Member of the board by CEDEFOP (European Center for development of Vocational Training). Landscape designer and florist master, international judge in floristry.
Agnieszka Murawska: a graduate of German and Dutch philology at the University of Warsaw, and of agriculture at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences. Agricultural advisor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a specialization in plant production. Initiator of the Florist Survey, co-organizer of the Royal Rose Exhibition at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.