Lawn Doctor finished the second quarter of 2019 with a bang as a fresh group of new partners kicked off their first full Spring seasons and several more wrapped up June training.
Sixteen franchisees hit the grass running in the latest group of the lawn care brand’s RAMP program, which gives new owners all the tools they need to start up. “We feel that this is one of our strongest groups of new franchisees in years,” said Eric Martin, Vice President of Franchise Development at Lawn Doctor.
Jim Coia is one of those impressive new partners. “He opened in February and is breaking all kinds of records, even exceeding 325 active customers before hitting July,” said Martin. “There are quite a few more in their first full Spring with around 200 customers. When you look at our model and our average 82% annual retention rate, many of these newer owners are going to have enormous 2020 Spring seasons as well.”
New programs and tools
Of course, this enormous success isn’t merely a stroke of luck. Lawn Doctor has seriously honed its ground game tactics—from cause-based initiatives to fun local events to other guerilla marketing programs—and gets them rolling as early as possible. The franchise supports owners every step of the way, setting clear expectations for new partners with an accountability model that yields results.
“There is just so much going on during the start-up phase,” said Martin. “Our aggressive media campaign with a mix of digital and direct mail programs during the power window (pre-Spring) is helping owners take full advantage of the selling season. We have beefed up RAMP support through visits from seasoned franchisees in addition to our corporate visits. We want to help owners prioritize their time and focus on providing great service, as this leads to strong retention year-to-year.”
Lawn Doctor has introduced several new programs and tools this year to support franchisees, including those that leverage the power of technology. A new online training portal facilitates communication between franchisees—and between owners and staff—while driving operational improvements. Another new platform provides owners with key performance indicators on sales and service delivery metrics to consistently assess their businesses and stay on pace. Further, new recruiting tools help franchisees meet the demands of their growing customer bases.
On the marketing and sales side, the brand centralized its marketing programs to leverage its buying power, driving down the cost per lead/sale and increasing customer awareness. Lawn Doctor also activated its new in-house call center earlier this year, which helps sell annual programs while allowing new partners to focus on building local relationships and increasing customer retention.
June training for new franchisees
Five new Lawn Doctor owners graduated from the June 2019 training class. One of those franchisees is Cathi DeBurger of Cincinnati, Ohio. She worked for 30 years in banking, starting as a teller and working her way up to manager. She loved the customer service and daily problem-solving skills that the career cultivated in her.
When her company went through a reorganization and her job was eliminated, DeBurger knew she didn’t want to go back to corporate life. “I wanted more control over what I do every day and how much I could earn,” she said. “If I work hard, I want to be rewarded for that.”
In February, DeBurger found Lawn Doctor with the help of a franchise broker. It met all her must-have criteria, so she visited the corporate headquarters in April. “I liked the atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone seems to have fun working at Lawn Doctor. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to where I came from.”
She signed on in May and headed to training the very next month. “They cover everything,” she said. “I’m a visual learner, so seeing the equipment, touching it and talking to the head of operations was invaluable. They covered marketing, which was a big selling point for me. We saw the call center and talked to a representative as well as the manager. We had almost two whole days with the agronomist on staff—we picked his brain about state requirements in each of our locations. It was a lot of information and it really connected some dots.”
Another June graduate, Travis Petrik of Billings, Montana, also came to Lawn Doctor after a long career in customer service. Petrik began working for the local KMart after graduating high school. 35 years later, he retired from his role as a district manager.
“I was looking for a job and after being on the road for KMart and working independently, I didn't really relish the idea of having a boss, per se,” said Petrik. “I also have this thing about green lawns. With every house my wife and I move into, I have a secret battle with my neighbors to have the best lawn. I don't brag or challenge them, I just want the best looking yard in the neighborhood.”
After extensive research, Petrik found the Lawn Doctor brand in February. “The more I heard, the more it felt right,” he said. “I narrowed it down to around five brands, but it really was a no-brainer that Lawn Doctor was my cup of tea.”
Petrik’s visit to Lawn Doctor’s headquarters was a tipping point. “When my wife and I were given the marketing presentation, it was so impressive that it blew my mind,” he said. “Just hanging around the corporate offices, you really pick up on a vibe. The first thing see when you walk in is a putting green. Everyone seems to really, truly enjoy working with each other.”
During the June training, what stood out most to Petrik was the brand’s proprietary equipment. “That definitely gives any Lawn Doctor a distinct advantage over their competition,” he said. “Another thing that stood out was speaking with an agronomist as high-caliber as Chris Sherrington.”
A genuine lover of healthy grass, Petrik is looking forward to transforming a lawn covered in dandelions into one that’s beautifully green—and doing it on his own terms. “I want to be my own boss,” he said. “If I don’t get paid, it’s my own problem.”
Plus, he’s ready to test his methods on the best lawn in his own neighborhood. “I’ve already bought the stuff. I’m just waiting for a dry day to put it on my lawn,” he said. “If you’re a Lawn Doctor, you better not have a weed in your lawn, huh?”
This summer, new partners like DeBurger and Petrik will start raising brand awareness locally as the latest class of RAMP participants continue caring for their neighbors’ lawns. And considering the exponential growth and innovation the system has experienced recently, as the season turns to autumn, even more potential franchisees will certainly find the flexible, rewarding business to be exactly what they’ve been looking for.