Five years ago, after 40 years with the Whirlpool company, Pete Smith decided to leave his job as a sales manager for the appliance brand to retire. His retirement lasted about a week before Smith decided he wasn’t content with a work-free lifestyle. Saddled with a non-compete preventing him from getting back into the appliance industry, Smith began looking for other options.
“Since I couldn’t get back into the appliance business, I started looking at all different types of businesses in a number of different industries,” Smith said. “Eventually, I decided that franchising would be the best route. That would allow me to own something, which was an attractive alternative to a traditional retirement.”
Set on franchising, Smith met with a franchise broker, who introduced him to a number of franchise concepts that the broker thought would work for him. The process moved slowly until the broker introduced Smith to Lawn Doctor.
“I was researching the options and digging into each concept, and then we looked at Lawn Doctor, and it immediately took off,” Smith said. “My son Alex is sort of a lawn guy, he’s always been interested in that. I had very little knowledge of that stuff, but I figured between the two of us, we could make it work. I was excited to find something we could build together and that he could someday take over entirely and keep in our family for a long time.”
In 2012, Pete and Alex opened their first Lawn Doctor territory in Palm Beach County, Florida. Pete took charge of the sales and marketing, and Alex serviced lawns.
“I didn’t know much about lawn care before getting into the business, so that was Alex’s thing, but I learned pretty quickly, certainly enough to talk with clients and help them figure out a plan for their lawns,” Smith said.
That division of labor proved effective for the Smiths, and their business quickly started to grow. Today, their Lawn Doctor employs a team of technicians in addition to Pete and Alex and has grown by roughly 30 percent each year since they started.
“It gets easier every year,” Smith said. “Between Lawn Doctor’s marketing programs and a steady stream of referrals, we get more and more leads every year.”
Smith’s experience is not unique among Lawn Doctor owners. Across the system, Lawn Doctor retains over 80 percent of their customers year to year, so franchisees are able to approach each new year with an established customer base.
Pete and Alex now oversee multiple territories throughout the Palm Beach County area, and according to Pete, each territory has its own unique demands.
“Each territory has different type of homes and yards, so it’s almost like each territory is its own separate little business,” Smith said. “I manage most of the northern part of our business and Alex works the southern part. We both manage our technicians and send them out where they’re needed.”
Even though Smith does not personally service lawns for his clients, he still makes an effort to meet every new customer in person.
“Every new lead I get, I try to go out and see them as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “People are amazed when they call you up and you can be at their door in 20 minutes. There’s a lot of value in showing them that dedication up front, so I will work my day around those calls. We can get a sense of the work a client needs over the phone, but there’s no substitute for getting out there and seeing the yard.”
In addition to the growing stream of referrals, Smith says many of his leads come from a ubiquitous brand awareness in Palm Beach County.
“One of the reasons I was attracted to Lawn Doctor in the first place was that even though I didn’t know much about lawn care and had never been a Lawn Doctor customer myself, I felt like I knew the brand,” Smith said. “You see the trucks, they’ve got a really strong reputation, and anyone who has any interest in lawn care is going to think of Lawn Doctor.”
That steady influx of new customers has helped Smith’s Lawn Doctor grow far beyond his original vision of small retirement project, becoming a lucrative second career.
“I wasn’t sure how profitable this would be when I started,” Smith said. “I thought it might just be a hobby for my retirement, but it quickly became very profitable, and it just keeps getting bigger and better."