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  • #61
    Crossroads Part II

    Nice job on the mulch! Did you have to take away the old mulch or did you add a fresh layer? How long did it take you?
    Hi Steve, been 3 years almost. so much to say!!!! This customer was such a failure to us...but we made some money in the end and walked away...long story

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    • #62
      we made some money in the end and walked away...long story
      When you have some time, I'd really like to hear your reflection on it. I am sure
      there were a lot of great learning experiences you went through.
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      • #63
        How to start, well Its been 2 summers since I last wrote. I looked into US Lawns and they me flew me down to Orlando. Long story short I was not franchise material to them. However I learned that to grow your company you have to get off the mower and in the office and in the field to network. I was able to double my customer base and triple commercial work. Labor is the worst I have ever seen it. No one wants to work for less then 15an hour no matter how much they know, and 00 percent owe child support so I have to deal with all that paper work, thats like another job.

        The customer I was talking about had 2 acres to mow and he promised me 5 other houses, 3 signed up for plowing, not mowing and He got his lawn done for 60 bucks. that got old after a season and no one else signed up on the street, they had there own mowers. these were 2-3 acre lots. So last winter I told him no more service unless he paid double. He said no so I thanked him and said call me if you need a weekend off or take a vacation, and he has, so were cool.

        The business now has to two crews and set ups. We added pressure washing and did some houses. It was ok..

        We added graphics on the trucks and trailers and that has generated lots of calls.

        We use measure my lot.com and can generally quote over the phone mow prices.

        We also just purchased a F550 with a landscaper dump box..getting that lettered up next week..

        Regards
        Last edited by djm2013; 02-24-2016, 07:52 PM.

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        • #64
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          • #65
            That is fascinating! Who would have thought so much inspiration would have come from a visit to the corporate HQ of US lawns!

            Looking back at the time, why do you feel you were looking into getting a franchise? What did you think they were going to be able to do for you that you weren't able to at the time?

            Was there an ah ha moment once you were down that that changed your thinking of how you operated your business? Was there a moment where you felt inspired?

            By the way, your new truck looks fantastic! I am sure it is going to be very helpful.
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            • #66
              Well I knew they had software for billing and scheduling, they had national accts and more cash flow for advertising. so I figured if I was able to schedule better, increase sales call volume and add more crews, why not check it out. the frnachise fee was less because I already was established and had gear.

              During the open house I met and sat with the president of US Lawns. He was an older gentlemen that was educated and could see through BS in two seconds. He asked his questions, gave advice and mentioned, no one grows if your mowing, and fixing gear. You have to be in Sales and service and let the labor force do the labor.

              He asked do you trust other people to mow your accounts and I said no. He said you will never grow. get off the mower and grow.

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              • #67
                He asked do you trust other people to mow your accounts and I said no. He said you will never grow. get off the mower and grow.
                That is a very good point.

                What do you think the difference is between him and the average small lawn care business owner? Do you feel this man knows more on how to hire and manage employees? Does it really come down to letting go control issues and trusting staff to do their job? Or is there more to it that just trust?
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                • #68
                  He I feel has mastered the ability to delegate work. Have some knowledge of every position that is in the company. when he sees the profit margin he will know if its working or not.

                  the difference between him and a basic lco I feel is how the two look at customers. or corporate customers.

                  I have seen small guys walk away from acts that have 60 or 90 day net terms.

                  This president might say well there is a parking lot or a road that 20,000 cars drive on or park and will see the trucks and men working. more then likely a job can be awarded to a resi and the net is 15 or 30.

                  The president will never get the call, I am out of washer fluid, or I lost the fuel tank or there is no more mix....

                  but as I said before, if my guys call me and tell me that I send them home..
                  they will never ever make that call, they will get was her fluid, they will make mix, they won't loose the gas can..

                  the president keeps A employees and just lessen the responsibilities of B employees.

                  LCO have to deal with B and C employees because there a dime a dozen. rarely can you find an A employee and when you do, you need to pay to keep them around and teach them everything you know, and listen them as well.

                  What I also found interesting was the other person that was there for the open house. knew nothing about landscaping...they were in it as a business platform

                  get employees, trucks gear, get accounts and service and make a profit. add services when you can. it was just crazy I was sitting next to someone who turned wrenches and then was going to invest into a franchise. I guess from a business outlook it might work for some people. for others I feel they need to have some basic knowledge of the business to franchise or even grow.

                  The president came into the meeting to talk about a few things doing the presentation. He asked whats is your labor cost. do you job cost, do you have proper insurance, can you measure, how much is your truck to run, trailer, mower. saying yes I know the answers to all of this, and then answering them, I think it appeared to them I was not franchise material. when I showed interested in there software for billing and job costing and discovering how they made there money while I did most of the work it really appeared I was not a good match.

                  but I learned a lot, and I think they learned a lot from someone being a LCO and visiting them. they had some territory issues in my area and I think the timing was just not right.

                  I went back to the hotel and relaxed at the pool. it was a nice hot day in orlando.

                  took a plane back to NY and slowly grew and bid more projects. Moved to a new house and made the new business cards and got the trucks and trailers done.

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                  • #69
                    Very fascinating!

                    With all that insight, how do you feel they will do when it comes to expanding? How do you feel it would be to compete with them if they opened a franchise in your area?
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                    • #70
                      Not to steal the thread, but speaking of competition, I just heard that BrightView (Brickmans and ValleyCrest) are coming to Lexington KY. I am not too worried about it, as I am much to small to matter to them, but I have friends who own or are employed at larger landscaping companies, such as Hillenmeyer's Landscaping Services that will be BrightView's target. Anyone else have any experience dealing with a big place like BrightView or US Lawns coming into town? Did you lose customers, gain customers, or it didn't affect you at all?

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                      • #71
                        Very fascinating!

                        With all that insight, how do you feel they will do when it comes to expanding? How do you feel it would be to compete with them if they opened a franchise in your area?
                        They were in my area and failed. we have three counties basically. I asked for all three and was told no. that upset at the open house and I expressed the way I felt about it....

                        If they do find someone. Thats fine. there is plenty of work around, and I know they won't lowball because there trained not to loose money.

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                        • #72
                          What is your thought on that they were in your area and failed? Why do you think they failed?
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                          • #73
                            What is your thought on that they were in your area and failed? Why do you think they failed?
                            They would not tell me the issues with the owner of that franchise, but all I can think off was that the the owner was not giving it 100 percent. I didn't hear any type of advertising. I didn't see signs or trucks.

                            The owner might not have thought about winter months when there is no income from lawns. who knows.

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                            • #74
                              That is a very good point.

                              What do you think the difference is between him and the average small lawn care business owner? Do you feel this man knows more on how to hire and manage employees? Does it really come down to letting go control issues and trusting staff to do their job? Or is there more to it that just trust?
                              Forgot he was in this magazine last month, credit L and L for the story I am not the author

                              Ken Hutcheson // President, U.S. Lawns
                              INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN HORN

                              PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. Lawns
                              From a really young age, Iíve always had a desire to see things grow, whether it be relationships, animals, plants, whatever, and that was from truly a young age. I would say that was probably fueled by my family, my friends, my work.

                              After school and even during school, and to be frank, before school, I was working in the horticulture services industry. I was involved in nurseries. My core business was the interior plant service business and thatís where I got to really know people, customers, commercial customers, employees and route work Ė what it took to really satisfy the needs of the market. So for many years, out of college on up until U.S. Lawns, my core business was interior plant service businesses.

                              Location

                              Orlando, Florida

                              Top 100 Ranking

                              7

                              2014 Revenue

                              $163 million

                              In 1995, I sold my businesses and stepped out for a while. Then I ran into a U.S. Lawns person, and I had already had some involvement off and on actually since they were founded. I actually worked as a consultant to help the founders in í86. So I stayed in touch with them. In í95 when I became free again and had nothing to do, I said it might be a fun ride for a couple of weeks or so. That was in 1995.

                              We strive for 100 percent customer retention. Now understand, thatís a vision. Thatís never going to be reality. But that is our vision. So, if you share that with your manager, just those four words Ė 100 percent customer retention, youíve just given him an idea of what he needs to do.

                              If Iím out on a visit to one of our branches and Iím speaking to a crew leader, Iíll share with him these words: 100 percent employee retention. Put that burden on him and tell me he doesnít treat his newest gardener with maybe a little more care than he would have if he didnít know he needed to hold himself accountable for keeping that guy another day, another day, another day.

                              You donít wait until you need a new customer to look for a new customer. You are marketing all the time. Your best tool to find a new employee is to make sure your current employees are happy, they look good, they speak positively about you and your brand, and theyíre at a place where others would want to work. No different than if youíre recruiting customers. The best way to get a customer is to keep your current jobs looking great and to get referrals.

                              I was at the GIE+EXPO show in October sitting at some round tables and I was sitting with a table with someone who knocked my socks off in a positive way. Heís talking about, with just pride, about what they do. Heís talking about employees and heís using their names, not their titles. He knows their families. This is a big company, by the way. He knows a little about them. And Iím thinking, ďThis is why this guy will take his company into the next generation of success. Itís personal. He is close to his customer. He is close to his employee.Ē

                              Instead of building your business to satisfy your emotional and financial needs, craft your business model to fulfill the needs of the market and the customer.

                              Iíve got to tell you the best days I have are when I have no idea how Iím going to get everything done. The best days I have are when it seems like it canít all be done. Then at the end of the day when youíve crushed it and you got it done and youíve moved the company ahead or youíve moved yourself ahead. The greatest days are stressful days.
                              Last edited by djm2013; 03-07-2016, 06:50 PM.

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                              • #75
                                They would not tell me the issues with the owner of that franchise, but all I can think off was that the the owner was not giving it 100 percent. I didn't hear any type of advertising. I didn't see signs or trucks.

                                The owner might not have thought about winter months when there is no income from lawns. who knows.
                                That is very interesting. I guess with the right people you can do anything, but with the wrong people, things just won't work out.

                                It's kind of surprising that the main company couldn't step in and find someone else to take over from that previous franchise owner. But then, maybe the way they handle it is the best way to do it.
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