When looking for a franchise opportunity, potential franchisees spend the most time -- and have the most stress over -- the financial aspect of starting a business. On top of the franchise licensing fee are additional startup costs, ongoing royalty and marketing fees, and other fees depending on the brand and the industry. Finding enough liquid capital to start a business can be prohibitive to some, but certain franchise brands have found a way to help those folks achieve their dream of business ownership.
One of those brands is Lawn Doctor, a lawn care franchise with more than 500 units across the United States. Lawn Doctor’s initial investment of around $100,000 is moderate compared to others in the space, but through its in-house financing program, the brand is able to help franchisees get into business that may not have enough liquid capital to afford other brands.
“Essentially, the corporate office is investing in our new franchise partners to help them get started and manage their cash flow in the first season, and they have six months in business before they are required to pay back anything,” said Eric Martin, Vice President of Development for Lawn Doctor. “Franchisees need to have some liquid capital but Lawn Doctor makes business ownership a reality for a lot of people that didn’t think they could afford it. We’ve proven that we can take people with no industry experience and a limited budget and help them -- on our dime – to get their businesses off the ground.”
One of those franchisees is former Air Force Sgt. Terri Krupp, who purchased two Lawn Doctor territories in 2017 with her husband Curtis, who has a full-time job as an engineer.
“When I initially looked into Lawn Doctor, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to afford the opportunity, but when we got to the stage in the process where we received the FDD and read about the brand’s portion of the financing, that lifted the worry,” said Krupp. “We looked at other franchises, but by far, Lawn Doctor’s financing and approach to the initial investment is the most franchisee-friendly. When we compared the financing options, we saw that nobody else is doing what Lawn Doctor is doing.”
Krupp signed to open two territories in December 2017 and began servicing in March 2018. After securing an SBA loan to provide a cushion, Krupp paid Lawn Doctor back for her loan, but notes her gratitude for the financing help, adding, “Like many people, we were worried about cash flow when starting out. We would have taken a lot longer to decide to buy a franchise, but the financing, six months deferred along with no pre-payment penalty provided by Lawn Doctor made them the clear winner -- and we were able to buy two.”
After financing the business, another worry of prospective franchisees is how to find customers to buy their services. Another key differentiator for Lawn Doctor is its commitment to providing initial and ongoing marketing support to its franchisees, including public relations, digital and direct mail advertising along with local event marketing.
“The corporate office drives lead generation for our franchise owners. We are directing all of their digital marketing, SEO, social media, pay-per-click campaigns, and other ads, as well as direct mail, to get the phone to ring right away,” said Martin. “Most of our competitors are smaller local mom and pop outfits that don’t have a sophisticated marketing program or the relationships we have with vendors. Because of this, we can cut through the clutter and gain market share quickly.”
Brian Mazzone owns five ServPro locations and was looking for another business that was service-based to complement his schedule with ServPro. His marketing savvy led him to Lawn Doctor.
“We’re busy in the winter and slow in the summer, so we started looking at landscaping businesses,” said Mazzone. “Lawn Doctor was the only brand that was actively pursuing digital marketing. Other brands that I talked to were doing door-to-door sales, and that turned me off. When I saw Lawn Doctor’s marketing plan, it resonated because it was in line with what we were doing. We’re very reliant on Google Adwords for ServPro, and we get so much help from the Lawn Doctor team and use similar strategies that we know work.”
Mazzone notes that Lawn Doctor’s marketing team creates a marketing plan and provides franchisees with the funding for it, adding that the financing piece was helpful in his launch with the brand, as well.
“A substantial portion of the $60,000 they finance for owners is allocated toward marketing in the startup phase,” said Mazzone. “If I was doing this without the corporate team’s help, it would be years until I made the amount of money I want out of our business,” said Mazzone. “Lawn Doctor’s marketing plan is easy to follow and helps set your location up for success and capture revenue in the first year. Other brands I looked at didn’t have the digital marketing focus or the resources to put against marketing like Lawn Doctor does. Marketing folks have traveled to my office several times to help me get going.”
Mazzone has grown into multiple Lawn Doctor territories in Connecticut to go along with his five ServPro franchises in Connecticut and Northern New Jersey. He credits Lawn Doctor with providing a detailed marketing plan that he can execute on.
“I’m able to leverage the ads, images, videos and digital footprint created by the corporate team, which allows me to stay focused on the operation, our customers and retention,” said Mazzone. “Since it’s a mobile-based business with limited overhead, no brick and mortar location and I work out of my home office, I’m able to keep growing and that marketing support plays a big role in my success with the brand.”