When Kristin and Bob Eisbrenner decided to open their own Lawn Doctor business in 2015, the married couple wanted to start a business they could grow on their own schedule. Kristin, a career customer service manager, and Bob, a career project- and business-development manager, had both clocked 25 years in the corporate world and were eager to own something for themselves, something that wouldn't take over their calendar. With Lawn Doctor they found just that—a business that not only allowed them to grow at their own pace but offered the additional benefit of a seasonal service model. Now, as Kristin and Bob prepare for their third spring as Lawn Doctor owners, the married couple is taking full advantage of the winter’s downtime to grow their business.
“We’re taking the winter to prepare for the upcoming busy season,” said Bob, who still works at his day job in the corporate world. “Winter gives us a chance to take a step back and look at the business as a whole and see what we can do to improve it. In the summer, we are full bore in the day-to-day operations, so it’s really valuable to have this time to gather ourselves.”
To ensure a strong busy season starting in the spring, Bob and Kristin are focusing most of their efforts on marketing this winter. Kristin says Lawn Doctor’s marketing model is flexible, allowing franchisees to apply the methods that work best for their service areas.
“We do a lot of pay-per-click advertising online,” Kristin said. “Social media, especially Facebook, has been huge. We don’t do much door-to-door or paper advertising because we’ve found it to be less effective, and Lawn Doctor has encouraged us to go with what works. We also do a lot of automatic mailings, which have been great. That allows us to set up marketing now that will automatically be distributed throughout the busy season when we are less focused on marketing.”
Marketing in the winter is especially important because it encourages customers to sign up for services in advance, which Bob says provides a host of benefits to both the business and its clients.
“Lawn Doctor offers a discount to customers who sign up for services in advance, so that’s a big incentive,” Bob said. “We’ve also found that when the spring comes around, our customers who have signed up for services in advance are relieved to have that task taken off their plate. It’s taken care of, and they don’t have to think about it. For us, it’s great to have customers signing up in advance because we get a payment up front, and it helps us measure out our scheduling while we are still more focused on office tasks.”
Bob says about 25–30 percent of their customers sign up for services during the winter, and that has gone a long way to make the business easier to manage. Having a good idea of how many clients the business will be servicing in advance is particularly helpful for operations that grow as fast as Bob and Kristin’s, which Bob says in on pace to double its revenue for the second year in a row.
“We grew by about 150 percent from our first year to our second,” Bob said, “and we expect to double again next year. Taking the winter to focus on administration gives us a chance to look at those numbers and make sure we have everything we need to accommodate all of our new clients.”
To prepare for the influx of new customers, the Eisbrenner’s are looking to grow their operation by adding staff and a new vehicle.
“We currently have two technicians, one year-round and one just in the spring, summer, and fall,” Kristin said. “Our year-round technician helps out with all sorts of marketing and administrative duties throughout the winter. That’s worked well for us, but we’re outgrowing that model, so we’re getting ready to hire both office staff and technicians and bring in another vehicle.”
According to Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of franchise development, the Eisbrenner’s winter workload is reflective of the brand’s operational design, which has been refined to remain profitable while allowing owners to slow their pace for the season.
“Prospective franchise partners always want to know what we do in the off season,” Martin said. “With payments still coming in from late-fall services, early sign-up-incentivized customers coming forward in January and February, and our spring marketing programs kicking off in the late winter months, there is a ton of activity throughout the winter. There isn’t the hustle and bustle of scheduling and servicing this time of year, so our franchisees get to do something most business owners can’t: enjoy the holidays, take a vacation, or just spend some time with their family for a while. Our owners are cranking away with their teams in the busy spring, summer, and fall months, and fortunately this business provides them an opportunity to take a well-earned breather in the winter.”
As the Eisbrenner’s Lawn Doctor business continues to grow, Bob says they are taking full advantage of the support Lawn Doctor’s franchise system provides.
“Corporate set us up with a field marketing rep for our first year, and we still talk to him by phone whenever we have marketing questions,” Bob said. “We also have a consultant from corporate who comes out a few times a year to make sure we have everything we need. We also have good relationships with the other Lawn Doctor owners in the area; they are a great source for any questions we run into.”
That support has helped the Eisbrenner’s grow their business quickly, but at their own pace, allowing them the control they were adamant about achieving when they first looked into Lawn Doctor.
“Lawn Doctor offers so many ways to help you generate customers and income,” Bob said, “and it’s up to us as owners to put those resources to use in a way that works for us. We’ve found a lot of success with Lawn Doctor, but we’re still able to take our foot off the gas a bit in the winter and even take vacations if we like. That’s exactly what we were looking for when we decided we wanted to own a business for ourselves."