Q&A: Am I ready to open a new lawn care branch?

November 21, 2016 -  By
Day two of the Lawn Care Forum featured a panel discussion on new branches and satellite operations.

Day two of the Lawn Care Forum featured a panel discussion on new branches and satellite operations.

On day two of the Landscape Management Lawn Care Forum, Nov. 17, a panel of lawn care professionals discussed the ins and outs of opening a new branch or satellite operation.

Here are some highlights from the discussion.

How do you know you’re ready?

“It’s when you get to that point where you’re growing out of your building and you’re not close to your customer. I think the other key to me is understanding where you’re employees live and where they’re coming from. People don’t want to drive 45 minutes away to go to work. So, for example, I might open a satellite or new location in Columbus, Ohio—1.3 million in population with a very high awareness of lawn care. That’s a market with tons of customers and tons of potential. Our main office is down south of that. So, our satellite operation, which will eventually become a new branch, will be up in the Northeast so we can tap into a new market and into a new employee pool. The other ‘why’ is operational efficiencies. We want to reduce fuel costs and the amount of time guys are sitting in traffic. It’s a lot of no-brainer things, but it’s about your people and servicing the customers and being responsive.”
—William Hoke, president/CEO of NexGreen, based in Columbus, Ohio, with operations in Maryland and Michigan

What should you think about from an operations standpoint?

“Think about McDonald’s. If I go to Anchorage, Alaska, and buy a Big Mac or if I go to Florida and buy a Big Mac, it’s exactly the same sandwich. When you’re a customer of Lawn Dawg, I want you to have the same level of expertise, the same customer service, the same experience whether you’re in Portland, Maine, or Rochester, N.Y. When you open a separate location, the most difficult thing is not having a separate culture. Your entire leadership team needs to be singing off the same sheet of music. We have a customer service commitment checklist of about a dozen items so that everyone in the company understands exactly what the values of the company are. Then we put that into place with something called Production 101, where every lawn specialist is taught exactly how to do a job exactly the same way. If you’re training to that level, every job will have consistent results or you’ll know exactly what went wrong immediately.”
Bob Mann, corporate agronomist for Lawn Dawg, based in Nashua, N.H.; 10 branches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut and Maine

Who will lead your branch?

“First, we see if we have a person who has a little bit of tenure and the capacity to handle a little more responsibility. That’s the very first decision we make. It’s the toughest decision because you might think you have a great person, who’s worked with you for years, but they’re not necessarily right. Yes, they have to have sales capacity, but more importantly than that, they have to have an honest character to them. They can’t be blowing smoke all the time. They have to have leadership skills, which is not necessarily something that everyone has. They have to be able set internal goals, as well as company goals, and be able to go after those goals and be determined to accomplish them because you’re not going to be doing it. They have to be the ones to do it. So the people side of the decision has to come first. Once you have a good person, then you look to the market.”
—John Prusa, owner of Highpoint Lawn Service, based in Stow, Ohio; seven branches in Ohio and New York

Check out a related story from the May issue of Landscape Management, “3 reasons to consider a satellite.”

Watch the full panel below:

 

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About the Author:

Dillon Stewart graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, earning a Bachelor of Science in Online Journalism with specializations in business and political science. Stewart is a former associate editor of LM.

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