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How a Former Franchisee Eased into Retirement with the Help of Lawn Doctor

After running and growing the Lawn Doctor’s successful Knoxville, Tennessee franchise for over a decade, Mike Mary is stepping down and helping a new local owner take over.

When entrepreneurs make the decision to get into business for themselves by signing a franchise agreement, it’s hard for them to imagine the day that their role in that business will end. However, the ability to gracefully and successfully exit a franchise system is one of the key components that candidates should be looking for throughout their due diligence process.

Take Mike Mary, a former franchisee with Lawn Doctor. A lot went into his decision to purchase the brand’s existing location in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 2009—before he was a franchisee, Mary had built a 34-year career in the book and magazine business, working his way up from being a truck driver to vice president of marketing. Mary started to consider a career change when his friend, a franchisee of Lawn Doctor, told him about the brand’s business model. After doing his own research, Mary decided to purchase that same location from his friend, who was looking to sell. 

Ultimately, what inspired Mary to become a franchisee was how he could utilize the skills he had acquired over the course of his career and capitalize on them as the leader of his own business.

“What appealed to me was that I had a lot of experience managing people, training employees and managing budgets. I was used to being the owner and decision maker, and I was comfortable being a leader and setting goals,” said Mary. “But what really stood out to me was that Lawn Doctor provided the opportunity to work with people and help them. I loved the idea of being able to give employees a decent wage while building a company.”

Over the next decade, Mary had a successful run with Lawn Doctor. After buying the Knoxville location and taking over in 2009, Mary grew it from generating about $750,000 in sales to over $2 million. However, as he approached his 69th birthday, he realized that it was time for him to retire. So, he started thinking about selling his location.

The perfect solution then presented itself—Mary wanted to sell the location to a friend, which was the same way that he initially entered the system. He found that new owner in Steve Mitchell.

“I met Steve when I moved to Knoxville. He was a golf course superintendent in the community where we live, and he often helped me with my lawn. He also has a degree in turf management and owns his own landscape company, making him a perfect fit for Lawn Doctor,” Mary said. “When I mentioned that I was looking to sell my franchise, a lightbulb went off. It made perfect sense for Steve to take over because he wanted a business opportunity that was a little more stable.”

Even though Mary is no longer the official owner of Lawn Doctor in Knoxville, he’s still playing a role in the business. ‘Right now, I’m in the process of helping the new owner,” he said. There’s a lot that goes on seasonally, so I’m helping him get acclimated to all of the best practices that worked for me.”

Mary’s also thankful for his time with Lawn Doctor, and is looking forward to seeing the brand thrive in Knoxville for years to come.

“After 10 years, I’ve built a great connection with the Lawn Doctor team,” he said. I’m grateful that this company allowed me to build a strong business in my community, work with really good people along the way, and head into my retirement knowing the business is in great hands and will continue to grow.” 

The startup costs for a Lawn Doctor franchise range from $100,015 to $116,065. The franchise fee ranges from $25,000 to $35,000. To learn more about franchising with Lawn Doctor, visit

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