Kehn Dickerson opened his first Lawn Doctor franchise in Columbus, Georgia 22 years ago. Since then, the brand veteran has expanded his operation to multiple territories, including three in Atlanta, where he now lives with his family. Having long ago mastered the best practices of the business, Dickerson was eager to find a new way to challenge himself when, this past fall, Lawn Doctor made him a franchisee mentor, tapping into Dickerson’s knowledge of the brand and his long-held passion for mentorship.
Before Dickerson opened his first Lawn Doctor franchise, he worked in a marketing for a ministry program that housed foster children. Dickerson loved the work, which made great use of his skills as a people-person, connecting him with local businesses and organizations as well as the children in the program.
“I loved spending time with the kids,” Dickerson said. “That was the main joy of the job for me, but I also developed skills as a marketer, so when I had to look for another opportunity after that job came to an end, I relied on that marketing skill set.”
After leaving the ministry, Dickerson sought work that would make use of his marketing skills and his enthusiasm for working with people. He found that at an independent lawn-care business in Alabama. It was during his work with that lawn-care business when Dickerson first discovered Lawn Doctor.
“Once I started working with the lawn-care business in Alabama, I started to learn a lot about Lawn Doctor,” Dickerson said. “It became clear pretty quickly that they are a big name in the business. I worked at that job for four years, and in that time, I learned more and more about Lawn Doctor. Eventually, I decided to buy my own.”
Dickerson and his wife moved to Columbus, Georgia to open their first Lawn Doctor franchise, where they worked and grew their business for nearly twenty years until they decided to expand into Atlanta, where their adult children live.
“About four years ago we decided to move to Atlanta to be closer to our kids,” Dickerson said. “We have great employees working our Columbus territories, and they were eager for more responsibility, so we essentially let them run those territories and we opened up three new ones in Atlanta.”
After 18 years with Lawn Doctor, Dickerson was excited for a fresh start with his new territories, but with his wealth of experience and the corporate support offered for all new Lawn Doctor franchise territories, the challenges posed by the new operations were minimal, and Dickerson remained eager to try something new.
“In some ways, we started at square one with the new territories,” Dickerson said. “I’m very particular about hiring the right technicians, so I was out in the field doing applications myself while I was building my staff. But I know this business inside and out, and with the capital from my existing territories and support from corporate, getting the new territories up and running was pretty easy.”
Committed to finding a new challenge, Dickerson began taking stock of his strengths, looking for the most effective way to extend himself.
“I started thinking about what my strengths are, and I realized I had grown my business so effectively and I have all this know-how that I could be sharing, so I reached out to Lawn Doctor and told them that if they ever need any help with training or coaching for franchisees, I could help.”
Lawn Doctor has a mentorship program that connects new franchisees with more experienced ones, and the franchise’s development team knew that Dickerson was a particularly capable franchisee when it came to working with younger team members. Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of franchise development, said he was excited when Dickerson reached out.
“Lawn Doctor has a really well-designed and effective mentorship program, and we were thrilled to get Kehn involved Martin said. “Not only does he know the business as well as any other owner, he’s got a real knack for training people. Not everyone has the kind of patience and compassion required for that. Kehn absolutely does.”
As part of the mentorship program, Lawn Doctor set Dickerson up with a list of franchisees who were new to the system and could use the extra guidance. Dickerson quickly set to work with the corporate team to develop training plans and schedule visits.
“I visited the franchisees and spent a few days with each of them, observing both the office and field work,” Dickerson said. “It wasn’t too much different than work I’d done with new franchisees before, but it was more formalized, and it felt good to build a process and a calendar around it.”
After Dickerson’s work with that initial batch of franchisees proved successful, Lawn Doctor agreed to continue utilizing him as a new-franchisee mentor, offering Dickerson a new batch of franchisees every few months. Dickerson said the most valuable advice he has to offer new franchisees are little things and best practices picked up from years on the job.
“There are all sorts of little touches, like knowing where to park the vehicle or making sure the technicians’ shirts look right and the logo is displayed properly,” Dickerson said. “Those things can make a big difference in the success of a company. Those crucial details extend to the service as well. What do you do if a certain fungus just won’t go away? Things like that.”
Martin said the brand’s corporate team has been thrilled with the work Dickerson has done as a franchisee mentor and plans to continue setting him up with new owners just as long as he remains available.
“We work hard to train our new franchisees and set them up with corporate coaches, field support, and every resource they need to be successful,” Martin said. “Having Kehn’s help in that mission has been invaluable. When you are starting something new in any field, there’s nothing like having a guy who has done that job for over 20 years letting you know the tips and tricks that have made him successful.”
For Dickerson, franchisee mentorship is not only an exciting new facet of a job he had otherwise mastered, it’s a return to his passion for mentorship that, at least professionally, he’d largely left behind so many years ago.
“What I love is encouraging and helping others,” Dickerson said. “That’s my passion in life. There are a lot of different ways to do that, and I’ve found a number of ways in my personal life, but it’s especially exciting to find a way to do that in my professional life again. When I first met with Lawn Doctor back in the early ‘90s, I could tell that the company had integrity and that they genuinely cared about their franchisees, and that was a big part of the reason I got involved. All these years later, that integrity is still evident, and I’m glad to take an active role in helping the company support its franchisees."