In January 2019, home services franchise Lawn Doctor graduated its newest class of franchisees and the graduates are gearing up for an exciting opening season.
Spouses and co-owners Gale and Ann Wessling of St. Louis, Dan Amato of Ohio, and Scott Tarkenton of Abilene, Texas are among the graduates of the most recent training class. All four are excited to hit the ground running on their Grand Opening Day, and all feel confident and thankful for the attention and support they’ve received from Lawn Doctor’s corporate leadership team.
The Wesslings said that a business model that utilized their complementary skills made Lawn Doctor particularly attractive to them when they first began looking for opportunities beyond their spreadsheet-heavy jobs.
“We wanted something that we could be in together, and Lawn Doctor really popped,” said Gale Wessling. “The elements of being outside, the machinery, the agriculture and customer orientation… And of course, the business model,” Wessling said, referring to the stability of a business model premised on recurring need. As Wessling put it: “If there’s any one thing that’s constant, it’s that people will have lawns forever.”
Wessling also emphasized the support and insight he and Ann received from other Lawn Doctor franchisees to whom he was connected via the corporate team.
“We’ve really enjoyed the support of the company, and the support of the franchisees has been amazing. I have no doubt we will be successful,” Wessling said.
New franchisees Dan Amato and Scott Tarkenton echo the Wesslings’ belief in Lawn Doctor’s company support.
“Before Lawn Doctor I was in facilities management, and I was putting forth a lot of effort and the realization hit that, if I were putting that much effort into something, there should be more of a direct benefit to myself and my family,” Amato said. “After speaking with Eric [Martin, Vice President of Franchise Development], I knew it was a good fit and good culture—definitely a family feel—and everyone is supportive.”
Tarkenton worked in the corporate world for 17 years, previously working as a minister. After being laid off, he knew he wanted something more people-focused and stable.
“Lawn Doctor was something I could really see myself doing,” Tarkenton said, referring to conversations he had with the franchise consultant he worked with following his departure from the corporate world. “And [Lawn Doctor was] something I could have my sons doing with me and invest in as a family, and then something I could turn over to them at some point and I could do chaplain work in nursing homes and hospitals. The whole family wanted to be a part of it. We sat down as a family and figured out our plan.”
Tarkenton, Amato and the Wesslings met in the training class mid-January and the group immediately hit it off, enjoying the “roundtable” structure of the class and bouncing ideas off one another.
“The aspect of having the new franchisees [in class with you]—that was really valuable. They ask questions you don’t think to ask, and so I got to file those away for my own use down the road,” Gale Wessling said.
All four of the franchisees shared that expectations and a thorough outline of those topics that would be covered in the training class were discussed at each of their Discovery Day meetings with the Lawn Doctor franchise development team. Going into the class, then, all four knew what to expect and just what questions they could benefit from asking.
“Discovery Day was really an introductory process of franchising with Lawn Doctor,” Amato explained. “In class, they started by taking questions, then they review agronomy and go over the business side, the marketing plans, everything. It was all presented in a way where you don’t have to be afraid to ask questions. It promotes that feeling of security to new business owners.”
Amato pointed out that several other exciting offerings come with joining the Lawn Doctor team: the corporate team is switching from an offsite call center to an in-house call center, and franchisees will now enjoy the support of an in-house agronomist available to field any customer questions or concerns.
“Class is really designed to help you with what you’re going to see in the field,” Tarkenton explained. “No one can become an agronomist overnight. But you don’t have to be a specialist because there are 50-some years of people doing this, all behind us.”
Tarkenton also pointed out Lawn Doctor’s focus on their proprietary equipment—equipment that, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, has helped secure Lawn Doctor’s spot on the publication’s Franchise 500 List for 38 of the last 40 years.
“In training, they explain every piece of equipment—how it works, why it works, etc. So when you get to shows and customers want to know how you are better [than the competition], you can sit and answer questions,” Tarkenton said. “The equipment is ground-calibrated so that, no matter how fast or slow you go, you get the right amount of fertilizer over the right amount of surface as quickly as you can. When I explain to a customer how it works, they can understand why it doesn’t take long to treat the lawn. It’s a precise machine, and when you think about lawns and regulations, you want the minimal amount of chemical required to do the job.”
Ann Wessling said that the exposure to the equipment helped her feel more reassured before Opening Day.
“We used the equipment during training, which was nice. As a woman, that just made me feel more comfortable,” Wessling said.
After 10 days of class covering everything from marketing plans and software to weed identification and machinery, Lawn Doctor’s newest franchisees were ready to return home and prepare for their Grand Openings. The Wesslings plan to open in the first half of March; Amato in the first week of March; and Tarkenton has announced a Grand Opening date of February 18, 2019.
When asked how he’s feeling as the approaches Opening Day, Gale Wessling was positive and excited.
“We had a nice business meeting with leadership and they told us what they thought our work in our area should produce. They’ve given us the tools and skills to pursue that. You’re buying a program—let the program work for you,” Wessling said.
“If you follow the plan, you will succeed,” Tarkenton said.