Richard Benbow arrives at his Lawn Doctor business in Southern Wake County, North Carolina bright and early to get his technicians on the road no later than 7:15 a.m.
Benbow, 65, now has a team of employees around him to help meet the service demands of his thriving business. When he opened his Lawn Doctor franchise four years ago, however, he served as salesman, labor technician and whatever else the business needed, all at once.
Nowadays, once he gets his team of field techs on the road, Benbow grabs a cup of coffee before placing focus on customer service and growing his business. Whether it’s providing quotes for new inquiries, or following up with those recently serviced to ensure customer satisfaction, Benbow loves being the point person for his clients.
“Since I started like most as a single-employee business, many of our customers know me by name,” he said. “I’m local, I live in the community and I serve on a number of community committees and boards. I try to personally field any issues and concerns. I tell customers that if something happens, I’m the neck to choke.”
Thankfully for him, that hasn’t had to happen. Personal involvement and responsibility are a big part of why Benbow’s business keeps growing.
“Competitors in my market are either national and regional accounts where there is little to no personal interaction,” he said. “The only person a client might see is a random technician. People find it favorable to have a personal point of contact. Keeping this in mind, I try every day to always bring that connection and personal interaction.”
Despite coming to Lawn Doctor with a background in education and sales rather than technical experience, Benbow built his business from the ground up. He made up the difference to achieve a lot, recently winning the “Best of the Best” award at Lawn Doctor’s annual conference.
“It was truly an honor,” Benbow said. “There are so many outstanding franchise owners that do a great job every year that I was, and still am, in a state of awe.”
While his sales experience more than comes in handy as he works to build his client base, Benbow found that there were some skills he had to learn on the fly when he first opened his business, like budgeting, forecasting and cash flow. “All of that stuff was different on a business basis than a personal one,” he said.
Lawn Doctor’s strong programs, equipment expertise and business acumen have been “a big asset,” Benbow said. He appreciates the brand’s knowledge and willingness to explain the logic behind certain decisions whenever he inquires. “I’m always trying to continue to learn and ask questions to mold my business into the best it can be,” he said.
“The Lawn Doctor brand has great history, tradition and support. As owners we are set up with Regional Business Coaches that help us maximize our potential,” he said. “The new programs we are rolling out are not only effective, they have been systemized for profitability.”
For Benbow, understanding the how and why of the day-to-day is what has helped him become and stay successful as a Lawn Doctor franchisee. The fact that no one day is the same keeps it fun and interesting.
As far as his best piece of advice?
“Know your business in all aspects,” Benbow said. “Work in every part of the business.”
“There are two ways to get a franchise,” he continued. “You can either buy an existing franchise where you're stepping into a functioning business in an ownership role, or you can buy a territory and start from scratch. Build your client base, scout new business, get to know your equipment and become involved in sales process to gain the critical knowledge of your entire business. As I built out my team, I knew I could do the work myself and could train others. That familiarity is the key, plus it provides immense credibility when hiring. The business model is built for scalability, but new owners need to take the time early on to learn and understand it.”