Rich Anderson’s retirement lasted about two weeks before he began looking for a new job. In 2015, after 34 years in the Air Force, Anderson retired with his wife Patsy in San Antonio, Texas, but the former flight instructor quickly found he wasn’t suited for a sedentary lifestyle.
“I spent a couple weeks watching all of Breaking Bad,” Rich said. “When I was through with that, my wife told me it was time to find something to do.”
Patsy Anderson, a former marketing professional for Anheuser-Busch, wanted to find something she and her husband could own together, and the couple began looking into franchise brands, hoping to find a business they could get up and running quickly.
“We’d been interested in franchising for a while,” Rich said. “We had looked closely at a quick-service restaurant brand, but that fizzled out, in part because it would likely have required us to move, and we didn’t want to do that. But we were still excited about franchising, and we were eager to find something that would work for us.”
Rich and Patsy got in touch with a franchise broker, who introduced them to four franchise brands that would better suit their lifestyle. One of those four brands was Lawn Doctor, and as the Andersons waded into the vetting process, it quickly moved to the top of their list.
“We were looking closely at each brand, and as we learned more about the pros and cons of each, Lawn Doctor really stood out as the best option for us,” Rich said.
One of Lawn Doctor’s most attractive selling points for Rich was the home-visitation model, which he saw as easier to manage than the other concepts he had explored.
“Because customers don’t have to be home when you treat their lawns, it makes scheduling very easy, which also helps you retain good employees, and that is something we were very concerned with,” Rich said.
Once the Andersons reached out to Lawn Doctor’s development team, any lingering doubts they had about the brand were quickly put to rest.
“We were sold on Lawn Doctor pretty soon after we started talking to them,” Rich said. “We really liked the folks we were talking to, and we started reaching out to franchisees, who all had amazing things to say about the brand. It just looked better and better the more we investigated. Everyone we met was honest and genuinely good-hearted.”
The franchisees that the Andersons spoke to clued the couple into another unique advantage of Lawn Doctor ownership: a built-in incentive for franchisees to support each other.
“Because Lawn Doctor owners are separated by territories, there is no competition like you might see among franchisees for other brands,” Rich said. “Everyone is eager to work together because a successful neighboring Lawn Doctor increases visibility and can raise awareness in your market.”
The Andersons opened their Lawn Doctor business on March 1, 2016, just in time to take advantage of the busy spring and summer months. They found a sizable customer base right away, but Rich and Patsy were still able to run the business by themselves for the first year.
“We decided not to hire anyone during our first year,” Rich said. “We were busy, but we wanted to make sure we understood the business inside and out before delegating work to a technician. I was able to handle all the servicing up through our first 140 regular customers, after that, we decided to bring on a technician.”
The technician the Andersons hired was a friend of theirs, Jared, the adult son-in-law of a neighbor, and he proved capable of taking much more than just the field work off their hands.
“Jared does sales, office work, and services clients,” Rich said. “He’s like a full staff by himself. We could go on vacation for two weeks and he could run the business by himself. He’s an amazing addition to the team, and we’re incredibly lucky to have him, but it also says a lot about how manageable the Lawn Doctor model is that one smart and capable guy can more or less keep things running by himself.”
Jared’s expansive role represents just one change in how Rich and Patsy are managing their business since their first year. Rich says he and his wife have taken full advantage of the flexibility Lawn Doctor offers its owners by shifting their roles and responsibilities to accommodate both their skills and lifestyle.
“For the first couple of seasons, I did all the lawn servicing, Patsy handled the office management, and we would both do sales,” Rich said. “That’s evolved so that she is more focused on marketing, which is something she has a career’s worth of experience in, but she also spends a lot of time with my 99-year-old father. The beauty of this business is that we can make that work without much disruption. Patsy can work remotely to be close to my father when she needs to be, and we can put Jared just about anywhere we need him from day to day.”
The Andersons are planning to bring on another technician in the spring to help with the busy season, and Rich says the hiring won’t stop after that.
“We’re looking to hire a new tech and possibly a sales person in the spring. Eventually, I’d like to get to the point where Jared is running the operations and he has three or four techs under him,” Rich said. “Then I can sit back and concentrate on running the businesses as a whole rather than the day-to-day operations.”
Even now, before Rich can completely step back from the daily operations of his business, he says Lawn Doctor has afforded him and Patsy the freedom to control their time.
“Patsy and I don’t work on the weekends,” Rich said. “That’s a decision we made when we started, and it hasn’t posed any problems. We work hard Monday through Friday, and we stay ahead of our scheduling, and that allows us to be free on weekends and take vacations when we want. And it works for our customers too. They prefer us to service their lawns on weekdays so they can be outside and enjoy their lawns without us around on weekends. That kind of freedom is the reason we looked into franchising in the first place, but to have weekends off is rare in the industry.”
Two years in, Rich and Patsy have found Lawn Doctor to be a lucrative and invigorating alternative to a traditional retirement, and the Andersons are excited to continue growing with the brand.
“For someone who has always wanted to own a business, like me, Lawn Doctor is really an amazing opportunity,” Rich said. “You really own it. Everything is set up for you, and there’s a rock-solid business plan for you to follow, but the operations are not so rigid that you can’t make it your own. You can grow it as big as you want or keep it small. And besides all that, it’s just a lot of fun.”