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Last Update: Wednesday October 18, 2017

Key Idea: Step Out Ahead of the Crowd

Florists  were very slow to embrace online ordering so it turned out to be a non-florist who pulled the entire industry onto the web. Bill Tobin's life is all about planting, cultivating and harvesting businesses.  He loves business.  He has a passion for life.   More...

Key Question:

A: 

Look ahead.  Bill saw the power of the Internet before most of the people in the flower business even had a computer in their shop.

Bill also says that the idea for a business is only the spark and that, "People don't realize that an idea represents less than 5% of a successful commercial venture." People have hundreds of ideas for businesses and most of those ideas never even make it into a useful format. You might walk into an ice cream store and see a new flavor called, apple cinnamon crisp, then turn to your friend and say, "I already invented this ice cream. When my mom used to make apple pie I would pile it up with vanilla ice cream, then stir the pie and ice cream together in my bowl. This is my invention." Bill Tobin would say, fine, you tried this at home, but, the ice cream shop owner had the same idea and acted on it.

Q: What does it take to turn an invention into a viable commercial product.

A: Money and markets. You have to have cash to make the product then the market has to accept the product. There are many books on taking an idea from the mind to the shelf. What we learn from Bill Tobin is determination, application of technology, partnering with people who know more than you do, testing and continuous improvement. We can see that entrepreneurship is not for the fearful or faint hearted. You must be willing to bet on your ideas. Bill says... "An entrepreneur is the person who puts all his marbles on the table. He risks everything on an idea."

Think about it

What problem would you like to solve for people?  It is a small, local problem or a big global problem?

Clip from: PC Flowers & Gifts

Stamford, Connecticut:  Bill Tobin has always risen to a challenge. He's always been an entrepreneur. When FTD Florist told him to go away, he began looking to find a way to take over. He said, "I had to do it. I had to do it. Everybody said it couldn't be done. Everybody said, `It won't work.' "

When this episode of the show was taped, Bill Tobin was selling more flowers than any one person in the world. He started PC Flowers and Gifts in 1989 and by 1996 he had become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in cyberspace. Though he sold the business to Figis, he continues to leverage his knowledge with strategic cyber partners throughout the world.  
 
Among other things Bill established over 2,700 co-branded web sites. In 2000, Bill was awarded a patent for web co-branding protocols. 

PC Flowers & Gifts

Bill Tobin, Founder

134 Davenport Circle
Stamford, CT 06902

Visit our web site: http://www.figis.com/

Business Classification:
Internet Sales

Year Founded: 1989

Step Out Ahead of the Crowd

HATTIE: Hi. I'm glad you're back. This is the place for you to be if you want to start a business or if you already have a business and you want to make it more successful. We'll give you ideas to help your business grow and also help you get off on the right foot.

Last week you met a toymaker. Today you're going to meet someone who can deliver a flower, a stuffed animal or a ham anywhere around the world in less than 24 hours. How does he do it? I'll show you.

(Voiceover) And, of course, Jim Shell is here. He's our veteran entrepreneur. Jim has started and sold four businesses during his career.

Now he writes about his experience. He wrote the book "Brass Tacks Entrepreneur" and his newest from John Wiley Press is in the bookstores right now.

The Master Class is about to begin. If you ever studied music, you probably went to a master class. Now these classes are not taught by teachers. Teachers teach nuts and bolts. The Master Class is taught by a professional musician. And what you learn from a master is how to connect the heart and soul to the nuts and bolts. And now join me in the Master Class.

(Voiceover) The cut flower industry is a $17 billion business. The man you're going to meet now knew nothing about flowers seven years ago and today he sells more of them than any one florist in the world. When I asked him where we could come to interview him, he said, `I can run my business and show you my business on any PC in the world that has Internet access.' So in a complete stranger's office at IBM in Somers, New York, I met the man who has already become a legend in the interactive world.

BILL TOBIN (PC Flowers & Gifts): I had to do it. I had to do it. Everybody said it couldn't be done. Everybody said, `It won't work.'

HATTIE: OK, but what's the principle underlying? Do you...

BILL: The principle underlying is you don't listen to what other people tell you simply because they said it's never been done. `Never been done' doesn't mean anything. Never being done is either an opportunity or it's a wall. I review `never been done' as an opportunity, but sometimes you have to be realistic and you get involved in something and you say, `This shouldn't be done now, but I can do it some other time,' and you shelve it. I've--I've shelved things and come back to it five years later and said, `Now is the time for this.'

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