Fit for a franchise

May 15, 2019 -  By
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Man performing lawn care services (Photo: Naturalawn of America)

All systems go For those companies with little experience in lawn care, franchising may help establish systems and processes. (Photo: NaturaLawn of America)

After decades of providing landscape construction and irrigation services, leaders at DeVisser Landscape Services in Kalamazoo, Mich., became interested in adding lawn care to its offerings. But, with no prior lawn care experience, they didn’t know where to start. After attending a Weed Man roundtable at an industry expo, they realized franchising might be the best way to incorporate a lawn care division without having to start from scratch.

“We thought franchising would be a great way to get some systems in place,” says Nathan DeVisser, vice president of the $4.5 million company that provides 58 percent landscape maintenance and snow removal services and 42 percent lawn care services to a 75 percent residential, 25 percent commercial clientele. “We wanted to tap into processes and resources that have been around for a while and have been successful.”

Industry experts agree that franchising can have benefits — such as established processes and support systems — but there are several factors to consider before deciding whether a franchise is the right fit.

“The type of support and expectations should be made clear by both parties before you move forward,” says Blaine Young, franchise sales and development for NaturaLawn of America in Frederick, Md. “What are the goals of the franchisor and the franchisee — do they match?”

First, Young says a franchisee should be treated like family, not like a customer.

“We want all franchisees to become successful in reaching their goals, so we provide support in all areas of their business — from training and marketing to IT, purchasing and accounting,” he says. “We also remain part of a new franchise startup team for two years.”

Franchisors should be willing to open the financial books with full disclosure. Young says the two most important financial statements for potential franchisees to review are the balance sheet and the income statement. The financial statements should be audited and should contain at least three years of data.

“Financial statements are the track record of the franchise,” he says. “They contain important information about the franchisor’s financial status and strength.”

While DeVisser says there are very few, if any, downsides to running a franchise, he says one challenge is clear and consistent marketing. The company does its best to market both DeVisser Landscape Services and Weed Man by putting both company logos on its trucks and on most of its marketing collateral. While many of DeVisser’s maintenance customers also receive the company’s lawn care services, a smaller percentage of his Weed Man clients also receive maintenance services. The company’s Weed Man territory is also much larger than its maintenance service area, and the company has to be sure it follows Weed Man franchise guidelines when communicating with those customers.

“There are people who still don’t know we are part of Weed Man, even though we’ve been in our area for 80 years and have been part of Weed Man for 15 years,” he says. “You can always market better or do a huge campaign, but based on my experience, people just don’t pay real close attention to the details.”

Young adds that a franchise’s success depends on the franchisee’s ability to follow the established guidelines. “If you have a problem with following systems and processes, then a franchise might not be for you,” he says.

DeVisser and Young agree that lawn care operators interested in a franchise opportunity should seek advice and information from current franchisees. Failure rates, customer retention and renewal rates and average annual growth are all important factors to consider.

“Do your due diligence and ask questions, not only of the people who are selling you the franchise, but of the people who are in it,” DeVisser says. “This is how you will get a good feel for how things are run.”

This article is tagged with , , , and posted in 0519, Current Issue, Featured, Turf+Ornamental Care

About the Author:

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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