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Last Update: Monday December 18, 2017

Key Idea: Modify Your Philosophy

The founder explains to host Hattie Bryant that he had never taken partners until he got involved with the Internet.  He insists that the web is one huge partnership.

Key Question:

A: 

Seek out other people' s money and expertise.

Owning a business is not for the faint hearted but it can be extremely rewarding. By the time Bill was out of college, he had 50 employees in his lawn care business. He never even considered working for someone and believes that many "corporate types" may think they want to own a business, but they probably should keep their jobs. Bill says, "An entrepreneur is the person who puts all his marbles on the table. He risks everything on an idea."

This is one of the first commercial success stories on the Internet's World Wide Web; the world of electronic commerce will never be the same. When this story was produced, PC Flowers & Gifts wass the most comprehensive floral and gift service in the interactive world. Bill Tobin became a businessman at the age of 11, yet he has never had a job. This newest venture is a result of his vast experience in creating partnerships.

Q:
What does he mean that his web site is one huge partnership?

A:
Before the Internet was being used by the general public, the on-line services could get thousands of subscribers to use their path to the Internet. In 1996 the biggest service is America On-Line. Bill started his virtual flower shop by forming a partnership with the on-line service Prodigy. It had the infrastructure Bill needed. No one entrepreneur could afford to create what had already been built by Sears and IBM, the former owners of Prodigy. The other partnership critical to his success was the FTD florist group which is an association of shop owners. To be an FTD Florist, you must own a flower shop. Without the shops located all around the US and the world, Bill's customers could not receive the flowers they order via the Internet. 

Think about it

How did you find the right partners to help you get started in business?  Where could you go to find the right partners?

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

Modify Your Philosophy

BILL:  I've really never had a financial partner ever, mainly because I felt when you take money from an investment banker or any other source, you become an employee, and that's been very alien to me and I've always, I guess, felt that I would like to be the decision maker and not have to go back and ask permission. And so right through this company, I've never had a partner, but all entrepreneurs must know that there's a time within a certain life cycle of a company or a product--the Internet is a perfect example. The Internet is bigger than any company in the United States and any government in the world. And consequently, I've established a paradigm that, over the past six years, has proven financially successful and that it can be ported to the Internet, and I've done that successfully.

Now I believe for the first time in my business career, at the end of 30 years, that I'm going to take in a financial partner. And so consequently, I believe that to be a major player on the Internet, you need a lot of resources--not only dollars but synergistic resources that a large corporation can bring to it that has a synergistic goal. They have the network, they have the technology and they have the desire.

HATTIE: What kind of partners do you want with PC Flowers & Gifts?

BILL: I want a company that will give me the ability to go and bring PC Flowers forward and expand it to have a complete interactive shopping paradigm on the Internet utilizing PC Flowers' magnetism to bring in traffic and to pass that traffic to other sites which unto themselves would not be able to bring the traffic.

In my opinion, if you don't bring up the best graphic capability, the best navigation capability and the best considerable amount of dollars in, A, your Web site, the tools you have for autoprocessing, credit card processing, customer support and insight, at a bottom line, to bring it up and develop the transactional service from the bottom up. If you bring on a service without doing all of this homework ahead of time, you've bought yourself a ticket to anonymity in cyberspace.

For the same reason, over 30 years, I've made a reasonably good living out of being faster on my feet and more creative than corporate America.

BILL: And as I say jokingly, but not so jokingly many times, in the '70s large corporate America considered me a parasite. In the '80s, I became a valuated partner. In the '90s, I'm Inc. magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year and I'm doing nothing differently, except it's the perception of what I've been doing.

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