Franchise: Lawn Doctor or Weedman

Discussion in 'Franchising' started by Military Lawns, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. sclawndr

    sclawndr LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    Well, that's a fair comment since you had direct experience. Any franchisee will tell you it's not everyone's cup of tea. But it simply isn't fair or accurate to pass judgement on franchising in general or a specific franchise without direct knowledge. Lawn Doctor for example, has over 40 years of history and is consistently rated as one of the top 100 franchises in the US. Despite the posts here from those who clearly have had no contact with Lawn Doctor, the only real drawback is the cost of the new franchises.
  2. lawn king

    lawn king LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,379

    I think there are some that you can make a ton of money owning, however, i dont think lawn care is one of them. Just my opinion, im sure there are lawn doctor franchise owners that would disagree?
  3. Rayholio

    Rayholio LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,461

    what's a 'ton' of money? Heh! Think that's different for everyone.. 50k a year may be a ton to one person, and a million might be the goal of another....

    But I think you can make a living either way...
  4. rcreech

    rcreech Sponsor
    Male, from OHIO
    Messages: 6,153

    Ray....I would say a ton of money would be about 2000#. :laugh:
  5. TeamSheep

    TeamSheep LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    As a long term participant in the lawn care industry, as well as a franchise owner. I had an independent operation long before I had a franchise. The bottom line is that franchises are not for everyone. They have serious advantages, but also trade off's - for some the difference is only perspective.
    Personally I resent the assertion that franchises are for people who don't know crap about buisness or lawn care. I knew more than enough to run a successful small-mid sized lawn care company. I also knew more than enough to realize that I was missing a few essential pieces of the puzzle that would take my business to the next level. I knew that being able to increase the quality of the fertilizers that I was applying while simultaniously cutting my overall material cost by more than 50% and by introducing systems that drastically increased my efficiency would be the secret to taking the business to the next step. I'm motivated by numbers. Developing those systems and efficencies on my own would have taken more time, more labor and more mistakes than I was willing to trade. Success takes either time or money - sometimes both. I'm impatient, so I bought a Weed Man.

    Owning a franchise in many ways requires having your own personal ego in check. Do you accept that you don't know everything and that you've got things to learn from the experience and knowledge of others? If you've got to do it your own, way - then hang out your own shingle and do it on your own. If success is your objective, shut your mouth, open your ears - and to a certain degree open your wallet.

    Frankly there are plenty of people who pay tens of thousands of dollars to consultants every year to find out how they can improve their business, reduce waste, gain the success they want. I get the same support and expertise from someone who actually knows my business; along with the branding, purchase power, etc........ for a fraction of the cost. Oh and Rayholio, you couldn't have been listening too closely to the Weed Man rep, because the your 'royalty' number per truck isn't even remotely close. In fact you're nearly triple the actual number...but I digress.

    There are plenty of 'oh I'm such a success' operators in the green industry; frankly they come with varying degrees of success.
    I guess I'd be more interested to listen to what they've got to say when they start to reach the same sales numbers as the Weed Man and other franchise operations. I've been around long enough to notice the stories all start to sound the same. Lots of ego, not a lot of results. Sure, many of them reach a certain size; live comfortably, drive a nice car, have a nice house, but they've got nothing beyond a job. The don't have an asset they can sell, they don't have a business with any value beyond what they can put into it. When it comes time to retire or to get out of the operation they've got next to nothing. On the other hand, it's a well documented fact that franchises command a much higher sale price.

    Point blank - the national franchises offer better overall pricing. There may be individual products where you can beat a price in one region or another, but on the whole, accepting an identical level of quality an individual business cannot beat the pricing of the big boys. That's just the way it is. Not only do they offer better pricing, they also offer other wicked buying power advantages such as 6-12mo pricing forecasts, and delayed payment terms. Imagine the advantage of knowing what your competitors will be paying for products half a year before they do? What would that do for your business?

    Oh, why the franchise rep's won't disclose their product pricing with a prospetcive franchise? The answer is quite simple - pricing agreements in lawncare, as with any industry may be subject to contract/confidentiality agreements. Based on volume purchase, a vendor will negotiate a variety of pricing structures with different purchasers. For obvious reasons, the vendor doesn't want everyone to know the terms that are given to their biggest purchasers.

    The 80% failure rate for small business (four year exit rate) is not a franchise figure. It is not a lawn care figure, it's an overall new business start figure. It is a fact, one that can be easily be verified by doing some independent research, not drinking the Kool-aid being passed around.

    Frankly, if someone is interested in exploring the franchise route - talk to the franchise companies. They can't hypnotize you or lead you down the garden path. All the terms of the agreement and the parameters of the operation are spelled out clearly in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD - what replaces what was once known as a UFOC). Furthermroe, the FDD has to detail any legal/bankruptcy proceedings within the franchise system. These are public disclosrue documents, they'll give you the answers that you're really seeking. Not recycled info from people who may or not have the full story. Any franchise worth it's salt will recomend that you call to speak to existing franchisees and will highlight franchisees that entered the franchise system from a background similar to yours.

    If you like what you see, or don't like it, it's your call. It's an independent decision and I wouldn't give too much credit to so called experts who don't have personal experience owning and running a lawncare franchise.

    My appologies for the long rant - I've been simmering for a while on this one.

    PSUTURFGEEK LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 579

    As you most likely already know, buying groups sound great but the product you get is almost always older dusty fert and being the vendor is making nothing or losing money on you just to get the volume sales your'e always gonna be last on thier list.
  7. Rayholio

    Rayholio LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,461

    Bravo! Very nice post... It's a shame that it's your 1st ever..

    so, from what I'm gathering, you're VERY impressed with the pricing on materials.. But you also sell at lower prices... and you have other fees (franchise fees)

    are you really making that much more money than a private company with the same number of customers? or are you saying that it's not possible to have as many customers without a franchise behind you? I guess I still don't see how a franchise makes more money than a non-franchise..

    As far as business failure rate, Franchises are more likely to fail, because people often come into them with massive debt (due to franchise fees) and are operating off of credit.. if something goes wrong, they fail over night..

    I'm curious.. when you became a weed man, did you allready have a successful Lawn maintenance business, or did you buy in cold turkey? And when you did, was it a struggle with money at 1st?

    I like to think that I'm a pretty open minded person.. but not having access to any hard numbers makes it awefully hard to be a 'believer'
  8. TeamSheep

    TeamSheep LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    I'll answer the questions as they came - or at least attempt to.

    I don't sell at lower prices. We position ourselves as a premium service provider. The pricing lets me go above and beyond on the service end of things without having to cut corners on price. Locally I'm very price competitive - but no where near the bottom end. Frankly people expect to pay a proper dollar for a proper service....I also don't want bargain shoppers for customers. I want people who are going to be loyal customers year after year. I operate in excess of a 80% renewal rate year after year.

    Am I making more money as a franchise than I was as an independent? - even after paying franchise fees? I assume that's the question you're asking - in a word, yes. Oh and as a real bonus, I'm not married to the company. I'm able to perform the same managment/oversight tasks quicker and more efficiently.

    The big difference in where franchises make more money is in the efficency of operation - the oversight and support. You're either paying for your mistakes or someone else's.

    I flat out reject the statement that more franchises fail. I don't even need to put my opinion into the debate - look up the various franchise FDD's, then look at the various Small business development offices from state to state. Pick an author who's written on starting your own small business. They all give the same numbers.

    I bought a Weed Man after selling my lawn care business. A change in family situation lead to the move. I'm not going to say that money was or wasn't an issue starting out. I probably had a better position from which to start than many, but I'm certainly not a trust fund baby....if anyone has any suggestions on where I can find one.... That said, I wish I'd started out with a franchise years ago. What I spent on the franchise I would have more than saved in little 'missteps' and missed opportunities in the first couple years.

    As far as the fertilizer quality - I recieve higher grade material with better service than I ever have before. Three years ago we had a problem with a pre-em product and its formualtion with our fert. Essentially the prill's were sticking to each other and not spreading properly - end result was lots of streaking. Once we realized what the problem was we contacted the manuf. and they had a rep out almost immediately. The problem inventory was replaced within two days and my fungicide purchases for the year were comp'd.
    Last week I took delivery of about 18000lbs of fert - turns out I was shipped the wrong prill size because of a coding error at the distributor. One phone call had the mauf. rep at my wharehouse within two hours (his office is more than an hour away) Problem solved.
    I'm sure readers have great relationships with their distribution and supply system. I've only got praise for mine.

    Weed Man isn't all roses, but on the supply and support side I'm very satisfied. Occasionally I have computuer issues, but then again, I think that may be a late arriving bibilcal plauge for all modern civilization : )

    Someone somewhere asked what happens to your business if your franchisor goes kaput. The answer is never simple when it comes to the law......but when it comes to these type of things it boils right down to the contract.

    If the franchisor straight up ceases to exist - then what ever you have belongs to you. Their collapse breaches the agreement. You at very least own the hardware, customer lists, client data right to operate. You're also going to have rights to operate under the franchisor name until the conclusion of your originally agreed upon franchise term. At the expiration of the term you may have to discontinue the use of the name - but that all depends on what happens during the dissolution of the franchisor during bankruptcy. Essentially, did someone retain or purchase the trademark/marques.

    It's not like if the franchisor collapses someone can show up and take your business - even if the franchisor is purchased by another group, the purchasor has to abide by the contracts in effect prior to the purchase.
  9. Rayholio

    Rayholio LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,461

    Right on.. Well, you know, you do make a good case for the weed man.. of course we'll have to speculate on who makes more money.. the franchisee, or the independant (assuming they're equally qualified) I'm sure that neither end is going to get down to nitty gritty numbers on here.. so lets just all it a draw on that end.

    and the rest is give and take.. what one person considers a selling piont, another might hate.. (like the 'big brother' franchiser)

    I probably mis-typed.. What I meant to say is that the franchisee is more likely to fail... not the franchise.
  10. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Messages: 5,942

    Okay - if it's personal experience with a franchise you want's mine. I worked five years for a franchise with annual revenues of two million dollars. By boss (owner of the franchise) was paying $200,000 each year (10%) to the home office for "management fees". He later sued, won, and changed the name of his company. He eventually sold his business and now lives in the life of Riley.

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