View Full Version : Lawn Franchises - good or bad?

08-23-2008, 10:46 PM
Does anyone have any input on Lawn Franchises... Good/Bad?

08-23-2008, 10:55 PM
Good if you can get/ retain good employees. Bad if not.
*I have no experience in franchises, but

08-23-2008, 10:58 PM
... I accidently hit 'enter' and cut myself off.. I have two employees and know first hand that a business is only as good as its best employees. If you can build a franchise, secure the capital and necessary assets, labor, etc., you can probably be successful.
Just my 2 cents.

Az Gardener
08-24-2008, 01:03 AM
I have been building a franchise model or the last 5-7 years. It solves the labor problem by providing a great hiring process. I would expect any good franchise to do the same. A good franchise will save you years of trial and error. The question is if you have the $$$ to purchase a franchise why are you looking at lawn care?

08-24-2008, 01:25 AM
I hate USlawns.

Even Cut Lawn Care
08-24-2008, 02:25 AM
I hate USlawns.

What is that based on? Have you dealt with them on some level? I subcontract to them and maintain Bank Of America properties for them. It works great for me.

08-24-2008, 12:42 PM
Yes, I was once in the business, and really enjoyed it... I am in a good position to start my own business and I am considering different options. I have done some research, and being able to jump into the lawn business, running is enticing to me, that is why I am considering buying a franchise. I have been in outside sales for over 7+ years, and I have alot of business contacts, so I am confident that I can quickly get new business. However I am very interest in hearing all the good and bad in regards to franchises, so that why I am posting this thread. I have heard alot of positive things from, of course the individual franchisees and management at the franchise. But have not heard that many valid bad reasons from outside sources.

08-24-2008, 01:28 PM
Although I am independant, I did work for a franchise operation for some time before venturing out on my own.

Their sytems and business models work most of the time, and could save you from additional expenses associated with learing it the hard way. Now if you are prepared to pay for that edge, and have no problem continuing paying for it in royalties, and be told what and how to do things, then a franchise may be right for you. Similarily, if you know how to do the work, yet dont know how to get the work, or manage a business, there may be value in a franchise system.

Some agreements include a mandatory growth in your business, say 10% yearly. I know of one guy who was very comfortable at 2.5 million a year in sales and didn't feel the need to continually grow his company. He ended up getting his franchise pulled from under him, with no legal or financial recourse, simply because his direction was against the grain.

The only person who wins in a franchise situation is the franchisor, charging an upfront fee for the priveledges, and charging a monthly fee based on your gross for the continued supposed support. When you decide to get out of the game, or if you fail, he simply resells the territory and starts all over again. I have heard of many horror stories, none of which i am willing to share on this open forum. It is for those reasons, and others, I have opted to remain independant, and keep the money in my pocket.

Az Gardener
08-24-2008, 03:35 PM
Its all about the greed. Most franchises don't do enough and ask for too much of the pie. I would add that people seeking to buy franchises often don't know what to look for, what questions to ask. So they should bear some of the responsibility for not doing their due diligence.

But most of the knuckleheads in the industry are also so stinking tight and dumb they would rather have 100% of the 3-400K volume they do after 10 years of work and thousands more in mistakes than a franchise would have cost than 94% of 1-mil volume in 2-3 years :dizzy:

08-24-2008, 07:13 PM
Az, I agree with you 100%... To me, putting the money up to buy the franchise and giving a small percentage back, is not the risk... The risk is trying to do it all on my own and failing. The franchise fee is what I would spend for a entry employee for a whole year, and the 5% royalties is just the cost of doing business. Again, I know i am sounding like I am already sold on this, so I would really like to hear some of the horror stories I keep hearing about. Johnny Royale mentioned he knew of a franchise that was taken away because the guy didn't want to grow his business. Well, if you don't want to grow your business you shouldn't be in business... Sell it, and walk away with some Cash... I have owned my own business before, and No matter what industry you are in, you have to answer to someone. In the end, isn't the goal to retire. For me, I want to build it up and sell it, because I don't want to work forever...

Az Gardener
08-24-2008, 09:58 PM
What franchises have you found in the industry? I have not seen any for upscale residential (thats me) only 1 or 2 for commercial mowing and a few more for squirt and fert. Pretty limited options.

Try the search feature it has been disussed at length. Lots of general bashing but not too many specific stories that I can recall.

08-24-2008, 10:41 PM
Why are you going into business for yourself?
Why do any of us?

The answer is almost never "I have money to invest and need somewhere to put it"

Look at key franchises that arent in lawn care. McDonalds, Burger King, Taco bell, All franhises. Virtually every restaurant chain is a franchise.
Now, WHY invest in a McDonalds?
Two reasons, tax deduction for about the first 10 years and after that steady income.

What advantages does a Mc D's franchise have over "Joe's Burger Stand"?
Brand name loyalty, customers know what to expect, supplying all the uniforms, food stuffs and recipes etc. Training and support and so on.

People will come to your McD's just because it's McD's.
They know what they will get and they go there because they want it.

This is not something capable of being duplicated in the lawn industry.

Not to pick on US lawns, but they are probably the best known lawn care franchise.

They cannot supply you with instant customers "just because they are US Lawns"
Their systems dont necessarily work.
And there is still the reason why you want to go into business yourself?
#1 answer in this industry is almost always "I want to do it my way"
We are all entrepenuers, we have ideas and ambitions. We want the feeling of vindication when we go out on a limb invest in ourselves and suceed.

#2 reason people go into business for themselves in this industry is opportunity. If there is already tons of opportunity, you don't need someone to generate it FOR you.

the primary bonus a lawn care franchise has, is they can teach you how to run a business. Most 'landscapers' go into business knowing how to landscape but they are crappy businessmen.
This is where a lawn franchise shines.

My opinion, go take courses, seminars, educate yourself for 2-3 years, go to the GIE, and other industry events where speakers and educators in the indutry are willing to teach you these things.
Buy books by Marty Grunder, Ed Laflamme, Vanderkooi and others and then you wont be burdened by the Franchise.

The franchise will get you in business now, but do you really want to be in business right now?
End of the season.
Going into winter.
More costs starting up than comming in?
I'd say no.
Do some home work over the winter.
Start on your own in the spring.
My vote. No franchise.

Az Gardener
08-24-2008, 11:13 PM
Why don't you think that systems/results in the industry can't be duplicated?

You said it later in your post. Most that get in this business don't have sense enough to follow a road map "they want to do it their way" They offer up "We are all entrepreneurs" as an excuse for not being able to follow directions. If franchises don't work it is usually because the franchisees don't follow the model.

Do any of the guys you offered up as mentors tell you how to hire, how to manage, how to relate to customers? I have been to them all, they teach you how to bid, some marketing techniques, and some general stuff that most with common sense could figure out. That said it is a good idea to go, I get as much from networking as I do from the speakers and you can never learn too much. But taking a few seminars wont teach you enough to be succesful in the industry.

I have not seen what a green industry franchise looks like up close but if it is anything like a fast food franchise you would have to be an idiot to screw it up.

08-24-2008, 11:17 PM
I haven't heard anyone say "I was part of this franchise and it sucked because........."

don't get me wrong I'm not endorsing franchises, but aside from some general perspectives from people I haven't seen anything that would point a person one way or another.

I think it all depends on how much you know, how much you want to invest, and how much assistants you need/want. No doubt the franchisors want you to succeed. The more you make and the longer you are in business = the more money they get and for a longer time. So they are going to help you to a point. This is going to cost you money as would going to college and getting a formal education in the fields that you need help in. It is a trade off and it will depend on the owner/operator to decide if it is something that would be beneficial to them.

08-24-2008, 11:38 PM
I was trying to brief up my opinion and left out that in high end residential landscape manintenance, there is too many IFs and Variables and in many cases it's the customers who screw things up. Lawn franchises lack the flexiblity high end resi customers not only expect but demand.

With that said. If you are going after neighborhoods of $30 lawn cuts and thinking about collecting 300 clients like that. Then a systems oriented franchise would be great. Especially if you really dont know what you are doing.
Ive said in several other posts on here (and been teaching it to tohers for over 5 years) that the "mini 30" lawn cut as a business is a huge money maker in the right market.

But most entrepenuers want to wander. They do some tree work, the get baited by high end resi, they drool over huge commerical, basiclally they wander away from their business model. Franchises dont really allow that freedom.

Ever try selling fish tacos at your McD's franchise? the answer is no.

Lets say you buy into a fert and squirt franchise. They dont really allow for lawn mowing or tree planting sure, you can do that if you want, but you have to have a separate business entity for those operations.

In my opinion if you dont have expereince running a business you should get some, unless you are independantly wealthy and looking for something to invest in, but then again it probably isnt going to be the lawn industry if you alreay have money.

Also what works in AZ. doesnt work in say..Colorado. The landscape, customer density, and demographics are so different even your hiring process may not work in a state like Maine, where things like cost of living and population density are drastically different.

My own business model I created in Connecitcut which worked awesome wont even kinda work here in Idaho. My idaho ompany doesnt even resemble my Former Ct Company with the expection I have one of the trucks:dancing: from the old company.

If i have to think of areas that are the same or similar to AZ: Florida, Las Vegas, and southern UT come to mind.
Look at larger companies in your Area like Gothic, and Valley Crest, they seem to thrive on the same business model in those areas as well (oh and parts of california i forgot)
But why is there no Gothic in New york? Business model would need to be different.

Even larger companies like TRu Green and Brickman arent sucessful where their business model wont work (high end residential).

?Most of the time if you have something that will work and does work, the people who should be buying into it end up resenting you for inventing it first and taking away their freedom and indivdiuality. IF your goal is to just make money off of them then great.

MArty grunder does teach customer service, retention and how to choose a customer instead of them choosing you.
LaFlamme is more of a big business model kinda guy (teches you howto become the next tru green)
I dont like Vanderkooi, In my opinion he just compiled alot of stuff that was already out there in one place and called it his own. But then again I have never read anything of his, Ive only heard things and anything I have heard I already knew long before Charles V was doing what he does.

However, that being said, if you are a newbie and you need those things go listen to and read all those people.

Simply, in my opinion the franchise would limit your individuality and the whole excitement of small business.

my hat is off to you if you are trying to create a franchise system. If I had the patience for such things I might have tried that a few years ago.
But like the half a dozen books I was going to write, I have forgotten, lost insterest in and moved on to other things on all the thing I was going to put into it.

All my own systems are inbred now because I came up with them an have been using them for over 8 years now.

I'd have to spend time decompling what is a system and what is a habit now.

Az Gardener
08-25-2008, 12:39 AM
Great discussion, thanks. I agree that much of what I do is regional, it would need to be in the south where you can operate year around.

My opinion is the big boys have not made it in this area (upscale res.) because it is not low hanging fruit like the commercial work is. It is considerably more difficult also they guy you would use to operate a 5-7 man or more commercial crew would only be running 2-3 guys in my work so in their opinion they would be under utilized.

The thing is I can get guys to work for me that would not otherwise even be in the industry. Its not because I am magic it is because I am not greedy and I give them more than a job, I give them an opportunity.

I think that the first guy to build a sustainable franchise model will be quickly bought up by one of the big boys or at least have the opportunity to.

I am curious why your Conn. model wont work in Idaho? I am guessing different demographic? I know my model won't work in rural America. I need to have that top 1% for our service and there are still bugs. For instance the bridge from running a crew to the break even of 9 men when you are out of the field.

That said there is still a lot of work in So Cal, Texas, New Orleans, Georgia, Fla. Not to mention some choice places in Europe and beyond.

08-25-2008, 03:05 AM
1.) Location

2.) Winter work

3.) Maintenance

08-25-2008, 10:41 AM
My Conn business model was based on repetition, systems, proper equipment for the specific job requirements (instead of a 60" ZTR for every lawn on the list) and the fact it was an employee owned company (everyone had stock in what was going on and how much was or was not made...well not everyone...but every crew had a leader who was in the ownership)

Here? It's a resort community, the municiplaties do there own and dont out source and there simply isnt the volume to make something like that work here (not to mention only one in 10 homes has a lawn with a sprinkler system)
This is the land of native (read NO) Landscape.
Idaho (at least this part) tries to copy colorado with their "native Landscape" but colorado spends money on it, where Idaho lets the weeds grow and calls it "native".
They dont or wont pay for any regular sprinkler checks (heck its 'automatic' right? that means we dont have to do anything to it! I hear that argument alot)

Just basically figure we are a decade behind anything you or anyone else would consider 'normal'.

Hiring is also based on who is HERE (which is nobody) there is a summer crowd thats only here for three months and a winter crowd only here for four.
If its hunting season litterally the entire crew wont show up to work and if there is good snow fall instead of having shovelers? Youve got skiiers who arent showing up to work.
In the summer if you have a good day they are off jet skiing on the lake.
Work ethic doesn't exist here as it a "resort" community.
The people are either wandering vagrants (ski bums) or locals who where born with a job in a municiplaity inherited through 9 generations of family memebers who hook the good ol boy up with a job.

Honestly the only reason I'm here is because my wife's family is here.

Boise is a good market for what you might be trying todo is AZ but it's 2.5 hours from where we are.

In about 10 years (or maybe 15) we will be where sunvalley is now.
Then Ill be living fat, happy and wil be entrenched with a good solid name.
I also have a good in with several long term developers and one of them is going tobe bulding a white water park in the next few years and we are almost a shoe in for the work (already have a relationship, are the only local company with previous expereince etc)

Up here, there is such a requirement for diversification, it's nearly impossible to implement systems as you may know them in the 'normal' landscape world.

Id be interested to see a franchise work in high end resi.

most people in high end resi dont want what you are selling, they want what they want.

08-25-2008, 11:34 AM
I don't know about lawn care franchising, but as an equipment manufacturer for the past 15-years we chose to start franchising to expand our brand and to build marketing power for our customers. Franchising is a growing trend among construction equipment manufacturers. Others such as Volvo and Wacker have started a franchise operation to allow territory protection, dealer exclusivity and better brand support for each local market served. Good franchisors know that supporting individual business owners is vital to the ongoing success of the entire operation. The advantage that manufacturers have in entering the franchise world is the benefits gained from watching the best business practices of their current dealer base. They apply this field knowledge from divergent markets to build a stronger franchise system for all. Manufacturers traditionally do a lot of research and development. Volvo, Cart-Away and Wacker each have a reputation for being manufacturers that stay on the cutting edge in the marketplace. Relationships with large vendors for buying power is another area that manufacturers use to benefit a franchise system. These are just a few of the reasons we chose to enter franchising. I hope that this gives you the perspective of the franchisor. READ the Franchise Disclosure Document carefully! Good luck with your decision.

Az Gardener
08-25-2008, 11:37 AM
"most people in high end resi dont want what you are selling, they want what they want."

Oh I agree, I have a good system to find out what that is and then of course you have to deliver. But honestly the bar is set so low, you don't have to be perfect you just have to be the best available which again is just not that hard.

I understand your grief I grew up in rural Indiana and it is a completely different world. Good buddy of mine has a branch office in Park City, Utah and has the same problems you do with labor. Except he has the good ole boy Mormon network to compete with. He has pretty much given up dealing with locals he brings H2B workers up there.

He has clients from here that build homes up there and since he is light years ahead of the market up there in terms of the sophistication of his landscapes he has no problem getting the work. These people want to be wowed and most of the locals don't have the comfort level to deliver a 200-K landscape proposal.

How did your employee owned situation function? That is very interesting to me.

08-25-2008, 02:55 PM
Park city UT? Ha I almost took the park and rec director position there not that long ago.

Pay system on the employee owned company was based on the guys getting paid $8.00/hr.

Of course they never actually got paid that. Their ownership was based on their truck, equipment, and route.

Let's say you run a route for me. That route consists of 60 man hours of work so your weekly billing is $3000.

As the crew leader you got $1500 of it.

But here's the catch you have a route, with fuel, expendables etc figured into it. Go OVER the assinged expenditures it comes out of your $1500 (so basically dont go off route, floor the gas pedal for fun, do lawns on the side etc and you come out even. IF you actually came in under your alottment you got to keep half the difference.

Wreck a truck? loose apeice of equipment? All came out of the $1500. (of course by lawn you got paid a minimum of your $8.00 per hour)

Basically MOST of the guys went home with $1000 to $1600 per week (weeks always varied, flat tires, rain, PIA homewoners, etc.
Where th guys made the most bank was always on the athletic fields, they wouldnt take a helper (helpers ran at $10 per hour andcame out of your $1500 if you needed one) they would put in 12-14 hour days (4 days per week and the mowers had headlights on them) and go home with $1600 for a single week of work.

It worked well, everyone took care of everything, never lost equipment had very little damage.

Its more complicated than Im explaining, Im just giving you the run down of how it worked.

08-25-2008, 03:23 PM
I am just interested

Az Gardener
08-25-2008, 06:06 PM
Sounds a lot like piece work to me. I'm sure you had the legalities worked out but I don't like the gov't involved anyway. If two people want to enter into a business agreement the gov't should stay out as far as I'm concerned. As long as the work is legal and tax's are being paid I don't see a problem. BTW I like your plan better than mine.

08-25-2008, 10:15 PM

I have looked at this website for several years and never thought about becoming a member but I joined tonight because I thought your question and my experience was too important.

After owning a lawncare business for 7 years I bought a franchise from USlawns. I sold the franchise six months later. I've since told people like yourself that getting into USlawns was the second best decision I have made and getting out of USlawns was the best decision I've made!

I too was very excited about being associated with a national company. I loved the thought of buying equipment at discounted prices. Inaddition, I was looking foward to belonging to a family of fellow business owners that I could bounce ideas off of.

Unfortunately, for me, the view from the inside was vastly different than from the outside. I did not own or want any of the equipment they wanted me to buy. They wanted me to drop all of my loyal residental customers. I quickly discovered that if I continued with them that I was going to be in a lot of debt. They were only concerned with my expansion without any reguard to money to support my family.

I did find however, that the owners of the other franchises were very supportive and often worked and helped eachother. I still consider them my friends and often pray for their families.

Please understand that the salesman on the phone will always sound as if he has all the answers. My suggestion to you my friend is to walk away. No, on second thought RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. 5% of your gross is alot bigger than 5% of your net! l

Az Gardener
08-25-2008, 10:31 PM
Manicured I'm so glad you spoke up. :clapping: I have always wondered about them, I am a residential guy myself so would never even consider something like us lawns. So what are you up to these days? Did the franchise experience help your business education? You must have been doing pretty well on your own to afford a franchise (I think) Spill it man, we want to know :laugh::laugh: Welcome to lawn site.

08-25-2008, 10:51 PM
Sounds a lot like piece work to me. I'm sure you had the legalities worked out but I don't like the gov't involved anyway. If two people want to enter into a business agreement the gov't should stay out as far as I'm concerned. As long as the work is legal and tax's are being paid I don't see a problem. BTW I like your plan better than mine.

Az, yes it is based on a peice work concept. The legality of it is that they have to earn at least minimum wage (including OT) no matter what.
They are also listed as officers of the company and, as such there are differnt rules that apply to them (i.e. you can't get into trouble for not paying yourself, right?)
There were also some other stretches and things to consider, taxes were confusing at times and it took hiring out to get it done.

I just like running things right now with the 2-5 guys we have now.
Simpler, smaller, more manageable. Less gross almost (maybe next year) as much net.

Az Gardener
08-25-2008, 11:29 PM
As officers they were board members I am guessing? With no shares, or did you have a process for them to earn shares? This is some of the best thinking outside the box info I have received. Thank you!

08-26-2008, 01:10 AM
As "Officers" I mean "members" as we were speaking of an LLC.

If you had an LLP it would be "partners" I'm not aware of what the real legal difference is, Im sure it varies state to state.

As Members they were associated with a certain percentage of "ownership"

For example, they "owned" 50% of their route.
With 4 "routes" consisting of 80% of the company (the other 20% was construction) a single route represented 20% of the company and therefor they were 10% owners.

I was the "managing member" and as such held 60% interest in my company (well actually 40% with my then spouse having 10% and my father having 10%) but the point is the employee-owners couldnt gang up on me and run the show.

They were paid their $8.00 per hour, plus their 'dividend' or draw on a bi weekly basis.
They were also given the option to "bank" their draw to buy new equipment for their route.
(some guys actually decided they wanted another weed whacker, or a faster mower and put their money...not all of it, but a good amount toward things like thus)
Most of the guys enjoyed the fact that they could earn a grand or more a week (and on good weeks considerably more) and only work 4 days of the week. We had half the crews (2) run monday to thursday and the other half run Tuesday to friday. This way there was two days a week (monday and friday) where there were extra trucks and equipment "just in case" and they were availbale for service as well.
This also allowed us to stay on a weekly schedule even if there was down time or rain. We had the extra days/hours to make it up and never fell behind.

It was a pretty sweet operation.

There are really no laws I know of in any state against paying a worker MORE than he is supposed to get paid, as long as it is all reported on taxes and within the same pay period. (for example if worker X earned a draw or peice work in july, he has to pay the taxes in july, even if say he only pulled the draw at the end of the quarter, as some companies do it.)
But I'd check on AZ laws and get your labor/tax attorney to go over everything.
When I was doing my thing, no one could find jack on what I was trying to do (Maybe I was the first guy to try it)
But as you pointed out, it's really no different than peice work, which has been carried out successfully by the auto industry since, well before I was born.

I didnt invent the idea, I stole it from Glenn Zior of Clip fame and modified it to make it work for us.

We don't use this model right now in idaho, there isnt enough steady work for the guys to make it attractive for them.
So right now we are paying hourly like 99% of the rest of the industry.

I havent even required any help in the last week and a half (they are all on "on call basis") most of these guys right now bounce between two or three companies trying to get a months wages.
Work has really ground to a halt around here.
IT will pick up next year though, several companies have just packed it in and left town.
I'm forcasting three times the blowouts this year than I did last year.
Blow outs are huge for a month and half up here. I'll do 8 to 10k in blow outs and another 15k in firewood and hope that plus some snow removal will get me to next may.:rolleyes:

Albery's Lawn & Tractor
08-26-2008, 02:25 AM
I thought about doing the US Lawns thing, but like Manicured said they wanted me to drop all of my residental customers. In my area that would have been the dumbest move to make. My area is a military town, we have alot of turnover here and are expecting around 20K more military here withing 1-3 years. We do not have large commercial complexes. We have roughly 400 businesses here but most have little to no landscape to maintain. The start up fee if I remember correctly was only around $29K, so it wasn't that bad of an initial investment, but you have to buy what they want. They want you to use exmark, great but the only exmark dealer near me is brand new, and doesn't carry any real commercial mowers in stock, not to mention he has no full time mechanic, and is constantly sending work over to our repair shop. So for me it was the little details like that that really turned me off. Plus I didn't like how they wanted a percentage of the gross, that 5% will really be around 10% or more of your net.

08-26-2008, 08:53 AM
Dropping accounts to get one of their franchises...........I think the run fast from US lawns might be a good idea

08-26-2008, 10:40 AM
Thanks for the welcome Az

I bought a US Lawns franchise because I wanted to expand my business into the commerical market. I had great sucess in the residental market but I always felt intemidated when it came to bidding on large properties. Secondly, I was looking the answers in solving employee issues (finding and keeping good employees). I had really began to feel frustrated and angry when I thought that I had a large number of loyal customers and excellient equipment but the success of my business was always being sabitoged by the incomidence and lack of commentment of others. Third, I was looking forward to buying equipent and supplies (seed, fertilizer and chemicals) at a discounted price. Lastly, I was looking forward to being a part of a non-competing group of other franchise owners that I could bounce ideas off of or ask for help.

Well, shorting after getting into US Lawns they told me that they wanted me to drop all of my residental customers. I of course refused because it was those loyal customers that had provided for my family for seven years. Inaddition, I was making more per man hour doing my residental customers than they claimed I would make only servicing commerical properties.

US Lawns answer for finding good employees often centered around hiring H2B seasonal workers. I did not except the idea of letting a foreign worker drive my new primary work vehicle with thousands of dollars worth of equipment on it.

The discounts at supply stores were not that big and only applied to certain products. US Lawns had national purchising contracts with John Deer, Exmark, Grasshopper and Echo. I use Walker, Gravely and Honda. There was no established John Deer or Exmark dealer close to my location. I did however, take advantage of the discounts on Echo products. The sad thing was that my local Echo dealer had to sell me the products at a discounted price but at his loss. In other words, Echo did not reimburse my local dealer. After buying 2 line trimmers I began to feel a little guilty. One of the "trainers" with US Lawns really tried to chastize my in front of other new franchise owners by saying that walker and Gravely were bad mowers. I of course responded by asking him how many hours he had operated a Gravely 260Z or a Walker mower in the field to which he said none. I then stated to him that perhaps he should make recomendations based from actual field experience rather than from igorience. From then on I was considered a rebel.

I was not rich when I applied for a US Lawns franchise but I had an established business, great credit (over 800) and very little debt. US Lawns also allows you to finance the 29,000 franchise fee.

Now let's discuss the debt issue. I had a 2000 Ford F350 extended-cab dump truck. This truck was in great shape but it was bright red. US Lawns vehicule color was white. So, I kept my red Ford and bought a new 2005 GMC cab-over-box truck (18 ft vanscaper). The truck was great. But after six months of bidding properties their way I did not get one single contract. As some of you might immagine the alarm bells started to sound off. In six months I suddenly found myself in a lot dept and going into the Winter months. Some debt is ok but I was at my personal limit. Sadly, most of the franchise owners are in a lot of debt. One franchise owner stated to me that he had been in US Lawns for 3 years and was still unable to take a salary from the business. It was only because of his wife's great paying job that they were able to provide for his family. Inaddition, a lot of the franchise owners finance their equipment purchaces by using home equity loans. I incorporated my business in 2002 so I never wanted to put business debt on personal property.

I did come to enjoy the friendships I had made with the franchise owners that were located close to me. They were always very helpful and there was no question I couldn't ask. I still talk to them every now and then and consider them as friends.

With all the differiences of oppion with me keeping my residential customers, my refusal to use only their approved equipment, the fact that I was already grossing more per man hour than I would with a contract using their bidding method, the idea of the sucess of my business would be greatly hinged on the ability of me applying and paying for seasonal foreign workers, the fact that I had not gotton one single contract, the fact that I was 60,000 in US Lawns debt with no new income to service the debt as I was going into the Winter months was all I could take. So, I call US Lawns and told them I wanted out. Surprisingly, they were very helpful and arranged the sale of my franchise to another franchise owner located in city close to me. In February of 2006 I sold the new GMC truck to another franchise owner and I was out. My net loss was about 10,000 but learned about 10,000 worth of knowledge.

During the year of 2006 I concentrated on paying off my debt and focusing on what made my business a sucess in the first place. In May of 2007 I bought a new superlawn truck and began to change the ways I hired and compensated my employees.

Last week I got my first HOA property that will pay 2,000 a month. I have two really great employees and now for the first time I feel confident in my abbilities and at peace with my future.

I hope this was a blessing to someone.

08-26-2008, 11:04 AM
Very informative post, thanks for taking the time to post this. :drinkup:

Az Gardener
08-26-2008, 02:22 PM
Thank you very much I really appreciate the information. I am surprised that anyone is still buying one of those.

08-26-2008, 02:32 PM
I hope that we are not suggesting that all franchises are a poor business decision. There are many great franchise systems that do a very good job in allowing franchisees to prosper, keep existing business and expand their opportunities well beyond what can be done as an independent. Franchising still remains one of the safest ways for new business owners to enter many industries. Support from a dedicated franchisor, who is flexible to the franchisee's needs find a win/win solution for everyone involved.

08-26-2008, 02:36 PM
I would like to say thanks to all of you for giving your input on franchise opportunities... Manicured, your post really hit home. I was hoping that someone, like yourself, who had experienced with a franchise system would reply... Hopefully, others will do so too. Please continue sharing your thoughts on this topic... I still want to hear both sides of the story...but as of now, I am leaning more toward doing this on my own.

08-26-2008, 02:39 PM
Cast-Away, Could you give me some more input on your post. It sounds like you have some knowledge about specific franchise opportunities, and I am interested in learning more.

08-26-2008, 02:57 PM
We started looking into the franchise industry about 3-years ago. We manufacture concrete batching, mixing and delivery systems. Cart-Away is the leader in this market niche and has been supporting customers for over 15 years. Our experience working with rental store operators and landscape material yards taught us that there was a great opportunity to build a national brand around the combination of landscape materials, small batches of ready-mix concrete and small tool rentals. We have seen hundreds of locations use parts of this formula successfully and we have packaged it all into a franchise system. Manufacturers like Cart-Away (Cart-Away Supply), Volvo (Volvo Rents) and Wacker (Equipro) are entering the franchise business because we have a support structure already in place to assist the new operator to hit the ground running. Our team has successfully operated landscape material yards and small batch concrete systems for many years and we are willing to share that knowledge and support to build a national network of retail material yards. Some franchises are restrictive in what you can do within their set system. Others are more flexible and open to others ideas. You will need to visit personally with the franchisor to see if you could feel comfortable with their system. Franchising can be a great support to individuals who are just starting out, but you need to do your research before you sign on the dotted line. I hope that this helps, good luck with your search.

08-26-2008, 11:35 PM
could you start a franchise and learn the ropes using their proven system and build up a good account list then quit the franchise and take all the customers for your self i know this is dirty or unethical but is it even legal when i was a service tech in the heating and air world i've seen many a successful business get started that way

08-27-2008, 08:01 AM
could you start a franchise and learn the ropes using their proven system and build up a good account list then quit the franchise and take all the customers for your self i know this is dirty or unethical but is it even legal when i was a service tech in the heating and air world i've seen many a successful business get started that way

The start up fee is too high to make that practicle

08-27-2008, 10:44 AM

Do you think under different circumstances that the franchise opportunity you were part of could have worked? Meaning, if you were new to the business and had limited experience, No established accounts, No equipment, Etc. would the US Lawns deal, be more enticing?

08-27-2008, 10:50 AM
I was thinking about franchises last night. My wife works for A&W and was a manager formWendys before that.

More often than not the franchise works for an owner who is NOT there.
It's not a mom and pop operation and wouldnt work in that scenario.

They are set up for you to drop in your set up fee and have an instant business. The less involved you are, the better they work for you.

The A & W my wife works for work like a 5 year old child with a broken back.
But no body cares, people come and buy burgers and ice cream, no ones ever happy (workers and customer alike) and everyone goes back.
It's not a good buiness, it's just a running one.

I suppose that would hold true for lawn franchises as well.
AS long as YOU arent DOING the work, why does it matter HOW it gets done,WHAT lawn mowers are being used or WHO your customers are?
These things are designed for business owners,not business operators, and less you know about (and care) about mowers, and customer service and landscaping at all? the better.

08-27-2008, 10:45 PM

Please keep in mind that a person who buys a franchise really doesn't own their business. When you buy a franchise you own it for only 10 years. Then you have to buy it again from US LAwns. I bet they didn't share that tad bit of information with you. Furthermore, you can "own" your business for a total of only 30 years. So, the grand idea of passing a family owned business down to your son is totally out of the question. And in reference to Larryinalabama's question if you sell your business they have first option to purchase it. Also if you sell to someone else they have to approve of the person(s) first. If you sell your business or just "get out" you are already bound to a "noncompete for 2 years clause in your original contract. They have thought of everything.

I think that a person who bought into a franchise would need to have a lot of money (maybe 50,000-75,000) to bridge the gap until the business took off. This is where I failed to plan. And as stated before in this forum a person needs to ask the right questions. When I was in Orlando I asked US Lawns how much does the average franchise owner make? The vice president stated that they had no idea. Followed by the statement that it was none of their business. I should have follwed up more on that reply. Please don't get me wrong guys (Cart-away) I am in no way trying to slam US Lawns or any other franchise for that matter. I just wanted Zimbo to realize that your relationship with the home office is often not as you might orginally think.

When your assigned "coach" comes to visit you (approximately once a month) it can be a great experience or a bad one. Often there is a lot of turnover in feild coaches which adds a lot of stress. Keep in mind also that your coach is also the policy compliance officer. Thus a person who buys a franchise must be a individual that has no problem with being subservant to a higher authority. This is another area that I personally struggled with because I usually speak-up if I don't agree with a certain action or rule.

I will tell zimbo another thing as well. If I knew nothing about the green industry I would have been totally unprepared to start a lawn care business afer attending US Lawn's one week basic training in Orlando FL. Most of the time was spent on the computers filling out proposals and how to submit your monthly reports. If I recall correctly only 4 hours was spent (by a doctor from Valley Crest) on how to mow, identify turf diseases, properly prune plants, explain the need for aeration, fertilizers and annual plant beds. Needless to say it was a masterpiece in action! And keep in mind that a lot of the people who buy a US Lawns franchises have no prior experience. I wonder if many of them know that a person might actually sweat and work long days. US Lawns wants all of their franchise owners to stay busy searching for new accounts and never work in the field. But as we all know employees like that are few and far between.

Cart-away might have a great opportunity for some of you. US Lawns has probably been a fantastic decision for others as well. And as stated (very well by another) look over the franchise offering very closely. Ask someone in your family, a member of your church who is gifted in fiance or ask an attorney to review their uniform franchise circular before you buy.

Zimbo, I hope this helped.

Black Bear
08-27-2008, 11:15 PM
I owned a lawn care franchise, run fast.
Promised buying power, promised training, promised great marketing, promised fertilizer that was solely their's-what a joke.
As was pointed out in an earlier post, service fees. Most are 7-11% of GROSS, not net, add in the "rebates" they get from suppliers add another 2-5% on top of the service fees in higher material costs. Bottom-line is you are paying them over 50% of your NET, if you are making 20% which is never going to happen in the first few years with start-up costs.
BTW, most take their service fees each week right out of your checking account. As for taking the accounts and just leaving, most agreements state that the franchisor own's the customers. Bottom-line is you are buying a job, they are your 50% partner and have no risk.
Should you have any detailed questions send me a PM.

Az Gardener
08-28-2008, 12:23 AM
In fairness to Cart Away and possibly myself in the future each franchise is sets their own parameters. Percentages, length of contract and so on, like any other business some are better than others. I am still amazed anyone would buy such a piece of crap. No offense manicured and black bear :waving: Maybe my model has hope after all, I sure wouldn't sell something I wouldn't buy myself.

08-28-2008, 08:08 AM
US Lawns advertises ont this site I wonder why they dont respont to this thred.

The whole deal with a franchise is the name. If you want a Taco you go to Taco Bell, there all the same.

But lawn care varies from place to place even from yard to yard. I ran a lawn care business in So California for 4 years. Here in Alabama its a completely different world.
However a Taco Bell Taco is the same in Bama as the ones in California.

If you know nothing about lawn care your something better than any franchise would be to buy a existing route and have the seller ride with you for a month.

Az Gardener
08-28-2008, 09:59 AM
Yea if all you want to buy is accounts but what if you didn't want to deal with all the problems that are discussed at nauseum here on site? What if you just wanted to forgo all the trial and error and just start making money?

Franchise buyers don't want a job or a hobby they want a money making machine they can manage. As difficult as we all make this industry it is not rocket science. Grass/plants grow the same in Cal and Bama I will grant you there are different varieties but for the most part it is the same business.

Az Gardener
08-29-2008, 10:37 PM
This is just freaky. This company was brought to my attention by Johnny Royal from our brethren in the great white north. www.hirethegardener.com (www.hirethegardener.com)

What is so ironic is this is the name of my company prior to Sept 1st is "The Gardener" I just had to change it. So not only is the name the same but the model looks way too familiar Zimbo you may want to look into this one.

Hell if I wasn't so far along I might buy one myself. 25-K is pretty reasonable and they have a revenue guarantee. Man I could have saved a bundle on uniforms over the last 8 years. At the very least I am going to have to shop them.

04-14-2010, 08:39 PM
I've been reading past threads on franchises and this is the best one so far. As a token of my appreciation...free bump!

Zimbo - So did you go with a franchise?

Az Gardener - Any update on your franchise model or still working on it?

Manicured - Great insight on US Lawns, thanks!

TPendagast - very interesting the way you ran your CT operation. Thanks for sharing!

07-13-2010, 05:28 PM
So it has been a little while. Zimbo, What did you decide to do? How has your choice worked for you?

07-13-2010, 09:39 PM
I actually had several talks with US Lawns about 8 years ago because my area was open after going around & around I backed out. A guy about three miles from me bought the franchise and now has 12 rigs running so it must have worked out good for this guy.

Lawn Man Dave
07-15-2010, 04:41 PM
I have only ever seen 1 US Lawns truck in the Indy area if that tells you all anything..... and there are a lot of LCO's around here.......

Im sure it could work but there is allways the exception to the rule with anything in life.

07-19-2010, 12:05 AM
Nothing has changed since this question was first asked. If you are thinking about buying a franchise- DON'T!!!! It's a trap. Don't listen to their unrealistic business perspective. Just simply do one thing- RUN!!!!

07-20-2010, 02:19 AM
Lawnsite has all the information you need to run your own company. I don't see the need in purchasing into a franchise.