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Former Chick-fil-A Franchise Owner Becomes Lawn Doctor Franchisee

Aaron and Mara Dollahite have started to build their empire with Lawn Doctor, creating a legacy the whole family, six kids included, can benefit from.

By Erica InmanStaff Writer
Updated 11:11AM 11/01/23

Aaron Dollahite loves building businesses and has an extensive, successful background in doing so. The accomplishments under his belt include owning a home health agency, CEO of a group of dental practices and Chick-fil-A franchise owner, but Dollahite is not stopping with those. He is keen to continue to build his empire. 

This entrepreneurial trailblazer has been on the hunt for a service-related business that would allow him to improve his community and create a family legacy, and Lawn Doctor is providing him with this opportunity. After opening his new Lawn Doctor location in Boise, Idaho, in 2024, he intends to make it a family affair with contributions from his wife Mara and their six children. 

Aaron and Mara Dollahite recently spoke with 1851 Franchise to share more about their journey into franchising and their plans to grow.

1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Aaron: I started my first business in real estate back when I was in college during my undergraduate degree. With the real estate market crash in 2008, I saw the writing on the wall and transitioned into health care with a job managing multi-specialty dental practices. 

The position turned into me helping to improve their business experience. Their first clinic was struggling with things like customer retention, access to care and patient satisfaction, so I came in and did some work to turn things around for them. Then I started to take on other practices with them, doing the same thing. After a while, I decided to pursue my master's degree in business administration at the University of Idaho.  

I knew I wanted my own businesses, so I focused my MBA on business acquisition and valuation. Afterwards, I made my first major business purchase, which was in the health care industry. That required me to move to Texas, and I had that business for about four years.

It was a really good learning experience. It taught me a lot of things about myself and my strengths in business. I learned that I was not a fan of cold calling types of marketing. I also learned that digital marketing for a small business can be really hard.

I decided that my next business venture would be a franchise because I knew franchising could bring a lot to the table with the systems they have in place. That's when I was offered a franchise opportunity with Chick-fil-A in Utah. I was able to come on as a franchise owner, run it and make a good income and I learned a lot, but I was still looking for something else. 

Ultimately, long story short, I was recruited to be CEO of a group of dental practices that were struggling.  It was a unique challenge and one I enjoyed tackling. I learned a lot, and with time, I was able to get them back on solid ground. 

Now, I'm looking to get back into business ownership. I wasn't interested in just purchasing a business for a job; I was looking for a business investment opportunity that would allow me to grow it into something substantial. I wanted a legacy business opportunity, something I could potentially pass on to my family if my kids so desired it. 

Beyond personal legacy, a key aspect I was looking for was a business that offered scalability, and Lawn Doctor appeared to offer that. There are a lot of not great franchises out there, to be honest. So many of them are basically a business in a bag where you pay all the fees, they give you their business plan, their contacts to their vendors and the right to use their name, then wish you good luck and disappear. They fail to see the importance of joint effort to achieve long-term growth and success.

Lawn Doctor was a quality franchise opportunity like Chick-fil-A, and there were a lot of similarities in how they help you throughout the process.The marketing that they do is more than just a vendor contact; it is something they offered in-house, and it was highly sophisticated and data driven. I knew that that's something I wanted a franchise to bring to the table.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Aaron:  Overall, I would say it was a positive perception but also cautiously positive. I've looked at multiple franchises and there's a lot of franchises out there, but there are very few, in my opinion, quality franchises. 

I was cautiously optimistic that a franchise could lend itself well to my strengths and what I was looking to achieve with that business. It needed to be something of high quality. Chick-fil-A became that standard of high quality for me after my experience there. 

As a franchise, Lawn Doctor allowed me the ability to grow beyond the initial franchise concept.

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

Aaron: I really wanted a franchise that was more than just the rights to a name and a business plan. I wanted a franchise where I felt like I was in a true partnership with the franchise owner, and that they really cared about my success throughout launch and beyond.

I noticed in my due diligence process that Lawn Doctor checks those boxes. It was evident to me that Lawn Doctor makes a concentrated effort to help their franchises grow. 

Marketing is in-house, and they manage it. That was really big. It was obvious to me that there was a plan in place on how I could truly grow this into something significant. Another important thing for me was meeting with the CEO of Lawn Doctor. It was obvious that he was a man that cared deeply about the success of the business. There was a long-term vision and continual growth process. It wasn't just a concept that they're throwing out there to see how many franchisees can get signed up. They were looking for the right fit for their business, and that alone told me that they cared about who they partnered with. 

Mara: Not only is it not stagnant, but it's also not linear, which was really appealing for me. They already have thought processes in place about what to do when you're approaching expansion  in terms of how to expand both one unit and your empire. Lawn Doctor puts no limit on your growth. 

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

Aaron: I really hope to build a business and a brand that connects us and our family to the community. That's something that's important to us.

Lawn Doctor uses the term “empire building.” That level of scalability and diversification is part of my vision. I want to grow my business into something substantial. The pattern of my past experience has given me the opportunity to grow businesses and I'm excited to do that again, but this time for myself. 

I also love how Lawn Doctor is a family business. Mara plans on being active and helping me with the business; that excites me to do something together with her. It affords the opportunity for our children to participate as well, and it's something that I could potentially build and pass on to them. A number of existing Lawn Doctor owners have done this, which to me is a huge indicator of the quality of the business opportunity.

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

Aaron: I have a vision for what I'm wanting to build. Lawn Doctor offers me the foundation for that. The scalability of the opportunity is exciting. 

We’re moving for this opportunity from north Idaho down to southern Idaho.  We wouldn't make that kind of dramatic move if we didn't feel like this was an incredible opportunity.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

Aaron: Franchising is a long-term relationship. It needs to be something that you feel like will fit well with your unique talents. It's really important to talk to other owners and to not gloss over that process. A franchise will present a package to you, and that could be very enticing. But to really find out what it's like, you need to get unedited input from other franchise owners. 

Then another big piece of advice is that you need to really understand what the franchise brings to the table. You're going to be paying a franchise a lot of money throughout the years, and it needs to be more than just for the rights to the name. What you want is somebody looking to partner with their franchisees to grow a sustainable business and understand that success is achieved together. 

About Lawn Doctor: 

Since its first franchise in 1967, Lawn Doctor has established itself as a leader in the lawn care services industry through innovative technology, its ability to satisfy the needs of consumers on a national level, and its development and expansion within the industry. Lawn Doctor specializes in treatment and conditioning services, such as fertilization, weed control, seeding, aeration, and tree and shrub care. The Lawn Doctor brand has hundreds of locally owned and operated franchises, and is the no. 1 ranked lawn care franchise in the United States. Lawn Doctor is a 2023 Franchise 500 brand, ranking no. 79 for its financial strength and stability, unit growth and brand power. 

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.

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