New Ohio Lawn Doctor franchisee Alan Eggleston doesn’t have much experience searching for jobs. When he was 18, the Eugene, Oregon native was hired in the office of a six-million-dollar food-service-equipment company, and he’d work for that same company for the next 33 years.
That’s not to stay Eggleston did not have an exciting career path. Eggleston rocketed through his company, finding himself in upper management at a young age, and eventually moving to Ohio to run the company’s Cleveland branch.
“When I was hired at 18, I immediately had my hands full with all sorts of work,” said Eggleston. “I was doing bills and routing and handling accounting materials, and soon my work was recognized by the president of the company. By 21 they had essentially put me in charge of the shop. I was just a kid, but I was managing 50 employees. It was an awesome experience.”
A few years after that promotion, the company was sold to a new owner, who asked that Eggleston take over operations at their Cleveland branch. Eggleston moved to Cleveland and the company continued to grow until the owner decided to bring on new management, a move Eggleston did not support.
“I was very happy with the direction that the company was moving in, but they decided to bring in new management, and I didn’t agree with their tactics at all, so after 33 years, I decided to resign,” Eggleston said. “Three years after that management team came on board, the Cleveland branch closed, so I have to say my instincts were right on that one.”
Eggleston was glad to have left the company when he did, but he was still too young to retire, so he began looking at other career options.
“I decided I wanted to own something for myself rather than jump back into another giant company,” Eggleston said, “so I began to look at franchising options.”
Eggleston’s experience in business and operations had prepared him to run a business, but what kind of business he would run was still an open question.
“I worked with a franchise consulting company, and they were helping me shop around different concepts,” Eggleston said. “Some of them made more sense than others, but I was really looking for something that I could be passionate about.”
It wasn’t long before the consulting company introduced Eggleston to Lawn Doctor, and Eggleston immediately took an interest.
“I live in Hambden, Ohio on a big three-acre lot. It’s a huge property, with a giant yard,” Eggleston explained. “I love working in that yard, so when I came across Lawn Doctor, I was excited.”
Eggleston’s consultant put him in touch with Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of franchise development, who saw a great candidate in Eggleston.
“Alan had tremendous business experience,” Martin said, “but what immediately stood out to me was who the guy was as a person. Alan is married to his high school sweetheart. He’s got kids, grandkids, he’s very family-oriented, and that’s something we are always thrilled to find in a prospective owner.”
Moreover, Eggleston is an outdoorsman, a quality Martin sees as an invaluable feature among Lawn Doctor owners.
“Alan fishes, he works on his property, he rides ATVs, he’s exactly the type of person who really takes to the Lawn Doctor model. I knew right away that he was going to have fun with this business.”
Martin and Eggleston would speak on the phone a few times a week while Eggleston was checking out the company, and both were increasingly sensing a strong fit. After a few weeks of research, Eggleston had the opportunity to meet Lawn Doctor’s CEO, Scott Frith.
“I went out for the company’s discovery day, which allowed prospective owners to spend a few hours at both the manufacturing and group headquarters, and I met Scott there,” said Eggleston. We had dinner that evening, and it was basically a two-way interview. I got the idea from that conversation that I could really grow with Lawn Doctor, and I think Scott saw the same thing.”
After that meeting, Eggleston was sold on Lawn Doctor, and he was eager to get his operation up and running quickly.
“I was probably pushing them to get me started faster than most franchisees,” Eggleston said. “I really wanted to get the business up and running in 2017 so I could be fully prepared for the busy seasons in 2018. They helped move the process along quickly, giving me all the information I needed, guiding me on securing a license with the state, and setting me up with all the training I needed.”
Eggleston had vetted a number of other franchise concepts before picking Lawn Doctor, and he found that their initial communication efforts didn’t stand up to Lawn Doctor’s.
“The other franchises I worked with, they could be a little disorganized and slow to respond,” said Eggleston. “That wasn’t at all the case with Lawn Doctor. I could get Eric on the phone whenever I needed him, and anything he didn’t immediately have an answer for, he’d research and get back to me the next day. It was a great experience that really made me feel like I was working with a strong partner.”
As soon as the ink was dry on Eggleston’s contract with Lawn Doctor, he began training.
“The training program is really incredible,” Eggleston said. “They offer in-depth training sessions as well as hands-on experience shadowing existing franchisees. Even now, after getting my business up and running, they’re still offering me training sessions and site visits.”
Eggleston finished up training and received his state license in the fall. He opened his business on September 15. Eggleston had aimed for a fall start so that he could establish his business and do some marketing before the busy spring season, but he was surprised to find a steady stream of business right off the bat.
“I’m saving my advertising budget for 2018 and I’m still receiving great leads every day,” Eggleston said. “Lawn Doctor has very sophisticated online marketing tools, and I get very strong leads just from the Lawn Doctor website alone. And the conversion rate on those leads is extremely high. People don’t go out looking for lawn services and then drop it; if they get in touch, they are likely to follow through.”
Business is coming in faster than expected, but Eggleston feels well prepared to handle it.
“After you’ve seen a few customers, you start to feel very comfortable doing evaluations,” Eggleston said. “Between that on-the-job experience and the training, you have so much knowledge, it’s easy to feel confident.”
With such a strong start even before the spring and summer months, Eggleston is already preparing to grow his operation.
“I am going to bring on my first employee in February so that they are trained and ready to go in March,” Eggleston said. “I’m also going to purchase a trailer before the end of the year. That’s pretty significant growth, but it’s just keeping up with the pace of the business.”
Eggleston does not expect that growth to slow anytime soon.
“When I was looking into Lawn Doctor, I suspected it would be a business that I could grow fairly rapidly,” Eggleston said. “I’ve found success even faster than I anticipated. I fully expect to be a million-dollar company in ten years.”
In ten years, Eggleston will be in his 60s, at which point he plans to take a less hands-on role in the business.
“One of the things that attracted me to this job is that it’s something I can do after a typical retirement age. Right now, I really enjoy being outside and working with my hands, but in a few years, I plan to settle into a management role and let the younger guys do the physical work. After so many years working in a corporate environment, that kind of flexibility is exactly the type of freedom I was adamant about finding in my second career."
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