Lawn Franchises - good or bad?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Zimbo, Aug 23, 2008.

  1. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    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.
  2. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,738

    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.
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    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.
  4. S.I.

    S.I. LawnSite Senior Member
    from west
    Messages: 323

    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.
  5. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,738

    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.
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    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.
  7. soloscaperman

    soloscaperman LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,045

    1.) Location

    2.) Winter work

    3.) Maintenance
  8. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,738

    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.
  9. Cart-Away

    Cart-Away LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29

    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.
  10. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    "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.

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