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The Man Who Turned a Part-Time Job into a Billion Dollar Business

image of bouquet of flowers with title:

Today we have an amazing story about a guy who started out just looking for some extra income with a part-time job but ended up turning it into a billion dollar business.

Click the player to listen to this episode of The BIGG Success Show Podcast. Below is a summary of our discussion.

Jim McCann started out as a social worker, which didn’t pay so well. So, in the early 1970s, he got a part-time job in a floral shop to earn a little extra money. In 1976, he took the plunge and started his own flower business.

Let’s go to The Professor’s Whiteboard as we break down 5 lessons learned from the part-timer who built a billion dollar business.

Whiteboard 1056 - part time job to billion dollar business

Jim McCann started out as a social worker, which didn’t pay so well. So, in the early 1970s, he got a part-time job in a floral shop to earn a little extra money. In 1976, he took the plunge and started his own flower business.

1) Always look for opportunities

Jim could have looked at the situation of needing a part-time job as a negative. Instead, he found his BIGG opportunity! The key is to have a grasp on your current situation with a positive outlook, have a willingness to explore new ideas, and trust that things will work out well.

Jim did well in the business, but his one little shop didn’t make that much money. So, he opened another one. Then another one. By 1983, he was running a small chain of fourteen stores.

2) Scale smartly

He only succeeded moderately. But it was enough to think he should try another store. And then he did it again. You may only jump from A to F, not A to Z.

And Jim was ready for an even bigger challenge!

He had an epiphany, one day while getting ready for work. He was listening to the radio as he shaved when he got his BIGG idea: He would build a nationwide flower service!

To support that vision, he thought he needed a memorable toll-free number. He found a company for sale that owned 1-800-FLOWERS. What a great phone number! So he decided to buy them.

3) Don’t be afraid to go for it all

Once or twice in your business career you have to be willing to bet it all. We’ll translate that as you’ve got to be willing to make a BIGG move when an opportunity presents itself. That’s what is going to take you from F to Z.

BUT buying this company was a terrible mistake!

The company had filed for bankruptcy. It was no longer an operating company. In fact, its only asset was the phone number he wanted. But Jim agreed to assume all the liabilities as well. He figured that they couldn’t have any significant debt since they were no longer an operating company.

This is how he got burned!

Once Jim owned the business, he started uncovering the extent of the debt. It was over $7 million! He nearly lost everything he had worked so hard for the previous ten years. His friends told him he should just give up and file for bankruptcy.

4) Don’t skimp on due diligence

When you buy a company, you want to get access to all of their financials. You’re going to talk with customers, employees, vendors, landlords, financiers and the like.
But Jim made up his mind that he would persevere!

He realized that he would have to scale up bigger and faster than he had planned. He used his original company’s assets and good reputation to borrow even more.

It took about five years to get back on his feet, but he did it!

The Professor & Mary-Lynn have an interesting conversation about due diligence. Learn more about this process starting at 7:15. Click the player about to listen.

5) Cover your assets

One of the biggest reasons businesses fail is because they don’t have access to capital. Cash is king, but capital reserves are worth gold. Protect your borrowing capacity and watch your profit margins.

Jim’s next move was to establish an early internet presence. That increased sales even more!

He took his flower company public in 1999. Last year, 1-800-FLOWERS recorded sales of nearly $1.5 billion!

Jim McCann turned a part-time job into a billion dollar business.

Jim’s story proves you can build a significant business  even if you are just trying to make a few extra bucks from a part-time job. The key is to just take action and do something that moves you towards a goal. It leads to BIGG success!

signatures: George & Mary-Lynn
George “The Professor” & Mary-Lynn
Co-Founders, BIGG Success


Stop and Sell the Roses, by Jim McCann


Jim McCann: My Biggest Mistake, August 1998, Inc.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file | podcast:

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Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better!

In Annie Get Your Gun, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler show their competitive sides as they sing the now well-known song Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.

With all due respect to Irving Berlin, the great writer of this song, we’re putting our own twist on it … anything I can do, you can do better!

A blooming mistake
Jim McCann was a social worker. He got a part-time job in a flower shop to make ends meet. A few years later, he started his own flower business. He made some money, but not that much. So he opened another shop. And then another.

Over ten years, he ended up with fourteen flower shops. One morning, he was listening to the radio as he got ready for work. He had a fresh idea – a nationwide flower service.

He found a bankrupt company which had stopped doing business several years earlier. Its only asset was a toll-free phone number – 1-800-FLOWERS. Now this was before the internet when ordering via telephone was huge.

He really wanted this phone number. So he agreed to buy the company and assume the debt. He figured their liabilities had to be pretty insignificant, since they hadn’t done any business for years.

After buying the company, he found out how wrong he was. It turned out they were $7 million in debt. His friends advised him to declare bankruptcy, but he pressed on. It took about five years to pay off the debt, but he did. And last year his little business sold over $750 million of flowers!

Learn from Your (and Our) Mistakes
So Jim McCann learned a valuable lesson about due diligence. But anyone who wants to buy a business can learn this lesson without having to go through a similar experience.

You can do anything better than me by learning from my mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself. Learning from your mistakes is good; learning from mine is better. You’ll succeed faster!

Shared Success
With information so prevalent today, there’s another way our title applies. In many cases, it doesn’t make sense to hoard information, you’re better off sharing it.

The final step of mastering any craft is the desire and ability to mentor others. And an interesting thing happens as you do that … the people you’re mentoring may, at some point, start doing better than you.

Then the teacher begins to learn from the student. So the teacher performs better. And the student learns and performs better.

Anything we can do, we can do better! You both help each other grow.  

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Our bigg quote today is by the great Will Rogers, who said,

“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading,
and the other by association with smarter people.”

It’s the smart thing to do!

Next time, we’ll discuss how to have the discipline to invest even if you don’t have the discipline to invest. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!


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