In Lawn Doctor’s 50 years of franchising, the brand has expanded to nearly 600 territories across the U.S., cementing its reputation as the leading name in lawn-care. Now, as the franchise continues to expand into new markets, Lawn Doctor is targeting the Detroit suburbs for its biggest development push.
Residential towns throughout Michigan have long proven lucrative markets for Lawn Doctor. Kendall Hines, whose Lawn Doctor operation is one of the fastest growing in the franchise system, purchased his territories from his parents, who had opened the business years ago in South East Grand Rapids.
“I grew up in the business,” Hines said. “My parents did very well with it. It’s an easy thing to manage in a residential area like ours. There is no shortage of lawns, so you always have a steady pool of clients. When I was a kid, I’d go out with my dad and hang flyers on doors while he serviced lawns. Now we have more sophisticated social and digital marketing programs, so I’ve watched the business grow up.”
Like so many communities in the U.S., Michigan’s residential neighborhoods are standardized, often expansive landscapes sectioned by fences, lanes, sidewalks and driveways and characterized most notably by front and back lawns. According to Bryan Sallmen, a Lawn Doctor owner in Kalamazoo, residents in his communities still take an old-fashioned and sometimes competitive pride in the quality of their lawns, making a strong market for the lawn-care business.
“There are so many neighborhoods around here, each of them with cookie cutter lawns,” Sallmen said. “There’s a real pride to home ownership, and your lawn is the most visible aspect of that, so people put a lot of money into keeping their lawns lush and beautiful. No one wants their lawn to be the one brown spot in the neighborhood.”
Lawn Doctor owners throughout Michigan also benefit from the state’s distinct weather patterns, allowing them to take full advantage of the franchise’s seasonal model.
“Much of our growth occurs in the winter,” Hines said. “We spend the season marketing and calling clients. People are signing up now and pre-paying for the spring. We do thousands of dollars in new program sales in December, January and February. So even though we aren’t physically out servicing lawns, we’re getting a ton of work done and growing the business.”
That time off from servicing lawns is also a time for owners to slow down and take stock of their business, even as they are working on sales and marketing.
“We’ve got a lot of work going on in the winter, but it still provides a helpful break,” Sallmen said. “With most businesses, the work doesn’t change throughout the year, so you never get a chance to step back and see how things are doing. With Lawn Doctor, the winter lets us test our equipment, make operational refinements, and work on all of the things we don’t have time for when we are focused on servicing lawns in the Spring, Summer and Fall. I also selfishly love having the downtime during the holidays to spend with my family. There are very few businesses that provide that to an owner.”
Both Sallmen and Hines have found the room, support and clients for substantial growth in their markets. Sallmen said he’s seen an increase in revenue in each of his seven years with the brand, and Hines is on track to double his total revenue in 2018.
Contributing to the success of both owners is the fact that every Lawn Doctor territory is fully exclusive, meaning there is no competition between neighboring owners. Sallmen said that Lawn Doctor owners around his Kalamazoo area have even created a sort of fellowship to share knowledge and increase their buying power.
“I don’t have to figure out anything on my own, ever,” Sallmen said. “Anytime I run into an issue I haven’t encountered before, I just ask my corporate team or a neighbor. It’s an amazing network of information and best practices. Last year I saved 30 percent on fertilizer costs because we teamed up to purchase together and got an enormous discount. I’m even helping two of my current employees start up their own Lawn Doctor businesses in nearby territories.”
Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of franchise development, said the franchise is prepared to build on the success of their existing territories in Michigan by opening new ones in a number of counties surrounding Detroit.
“As a state, Michigan has been extremely productive for Lawn Doctor already,” Martin said. “There are target areas with perfect demographics for what we do where we do not have a franchise yet. We see a nice opportunity for the right type of individual to develop a big business with us. Counties such as Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland and Macomb are a priority. We are also focused on developing areas in Monroe, Lenawee and Jackson Counties. When you can leverage the experience of a 50-year-old brand that has a proven model, along with world-class training, marketing and support systems in place, it makes the start-up process that much easier for a new partner.”
As strong as the state of Michigan has been for Lawn Doctor already, the businesses there are likely to become even more lucrative with continuously improving economic conditions.
“Michigan’s economy is very strong,” said Hines. “New home building is up, which is a huge part of our growth. Many of these suburbs are being listed as the best places to live or even the best place to start a business in America.”
“Detroit, in particular, is a beautiful city, and it’s on a comeback trail,” said Sallmen. “There are more businesses and plants opening back up, and with that comes more jobs and more people, more home and families, and all of that leads to more lawns. All of that folds into what we do. This could be a prime market for someone considering business ownership. We’ve found an enormous opportunity with our Lawn Doctor franchise, and it’s only getting better.”