Franchising: A support system

August 17, 2020 -  By
Grounds Guys crews performing work (Photo: The Grounds Guys of League City)

All systems set Joining a franchise can help franchise owners avoid the complications of developing a set of systems. (Photo: The Grounds Guys of League City)

Looking back 12 or so years, Travis Reed and Travis Hicks were unlikely candidates to own a landscaping company.

“I had never worked for a landscape company growing up — I’d never planted plants,” Reed says. Hicks was managing a private golf club and Reed was in banking as a loan officer when they were recruited to help a struggling landscape business with sales. After Hicks quit to take over his father’s business, Hicks Gutters, he added on sprinklers and irrigation, then recruited Reed to join him several years later.

Taking the plunge

“We had started looking into software and marketing, and basically doing all the things a franchise does, but all on our own,” Reed says. “Once we heard about the franchise process, (it) saved us the hassle of having to go and develop systems.”

The pair started The Grounds Guys of League City, a Neighborly company, in Friendswood, Texas in 2013. Today, it offers one-third maintenance and lawn care, one-third design/build services and one-third sprinkler, irrigation, lighting and drainage services to 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial clients. The company has 22 full-time employees and reports $1.6 million in 2019 revenue.

Business support

Hicks and Reed said they started out at about $150,000 their first year and didn’t get to $1.6 million without help. Reed says that aside from The Grounds Guys branding and name recognition, the biggest benefit is that there’s always someone to bounce ideas off of, because you’re assigned a franchise business coach.

The camaraderie with the other 200-plus franchisees is an additional plus. “We communicate with new franchisees and try to help them out,” he says. “And if we get a job that we’ve never done before, there’s someone out there who’s done that job.”

The challenges

Some of the costs associated with a franchise are higher than those of an independent business — including branding, branded trucks and franchise royalties. Also, it’s a challenge to find customers in the middle ground where people are looking for fair pricing and a higher quality of work, Reed says.

To hit its 2020 goal of $1.9 million, the company has plans to expand service operations and hire a second salesperson. He advises franchisees operating a residential model and not seeking commercial work should be growing by $150,000 to $300,000 a year, by expanding services and actively seeking new customers.

As for the current business climate, The Grounds Guys has been a valuable resource during COVID-19, Reed says. It’s provided frequent information on Paycheck Protection Program loans, sources for personal protective equipment and safety signage for offices. Though his company has been busy during the pandemic, Reed says some maintenance contracts are on hold, and the owners are working with clients on payments and services.

“We’re prepared to take a hit,” Reed says. “But, we’re staying cautious and responsible and seeing what happens.”

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Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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