My Week: Will Wynne of ArenaFlowers

The flower entrepreneur on late rising, frequent flying, and why the names of flowers still elude him.

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
I’m going to be honest: I’m not one of those guys who gets up at six o’clock in the morning. When I used to work in the City, where there were these macho guys who used to say to me, ‘I always get in first and I’m always last out - you’re weak if you’re not’. But that’s ridiculous.

Now we’ve built up our online flower delivery business, ArenaFlowers.com, and we have team leaders who know what they’re doing, I find it’s more important to be able to sleep and be nicely rested. I used to get in early, but as soon as you’re in the office, you just chat, and people would be asking me questions all morning, which drove me slightly mad. So now I do most of my strategic thinking in my flat, with a slice of toast and a cup of tea.

Don’t get me wrong. From time to time, we work insanely hard. For instance, on Valentine’s day this year, we probably had about two hours’ sleep over three or four days and the same thing over Mothers’ day. Next year, we’re expecting Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Christmas to be twice as busy, and we’re going to take up a massive amount of space. So this week I went up to Droitwich to see our courier company to talk to them about basing ourselves in their depot over those peak periods. They’re hard work: we’re loading two trucks an hour - that’s 2,000 boxes an hour - for almost 24 hours, so sending dozens of giant trailers up the motorway doesn’t really make sense. This is just a way of making sure things run smoothly.

I usually get into the office at about 10 or 11. It’s in Park Royal, in North-West London, which I love and hate. It’s an odd place: it’s teeming with industry, there are lots of small businesses and people work really hard, and it’s got great connections and all that good stuff. But it’s also something of a hell-hole: my choices for lunch are McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut. Basically, I just don’t usually eat any lunch.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve done nothing all week; sometimes I feel like a complete maniac. So for example, over the last month, I’ve been to Utrecht for a week twice, because we have a flower purchasing operation based there. I spend a lot of time out there: my business partner, Steve, has been living out there for about a year and a half. Of the two of us, he’s the flower authority, whereas my role is more about strategy. We spend about three hours a day just chatting to each other on Instant Messenger and Skype, making sure everything’s going ok.

Steve and I met when we were both studying at Oxford, so we’ve been mates since we were 18. We didn’t start the business straight away, though - I went and worked in the City for five years, and then went to work at eBay when it was still relatively small. When I left eBay, rather than get a job back in the City where I knew I’d get bored of doing the same thing over and over again, I thought I’d start my own business. Steve was working in the flower business, and we thought, it’s not being done particularly well by anyone - we can do it better. We just thought, sod it. Let’s do it.

We’ve also been to the States recently, where we went to visit a big US company. We went to Miami to check out how they do all their production, and then we went to San Diego to see their head office. It’s been a pretty supercharged few weeks, actually - I think I took 14 flights in three weeks. For most of those flights, I was playing with my iPad like a super-geek. Actually, that’s not true - my colleagues were playing with my iPad, I was writing a presentation...

My only problem now is that while Steve is the expert, I still don’t know a lot about flowers. When we were in the States, Steve said to me: ‘Will, you’ve been working in flowers for four years - surely you should know some of them by now?’ My answer was: no. Still, I can distinguish a few: red ones, yellow ones...

Will Wynne runs Arena Flowers, an online flower delivery company.

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